While Angels Watch is a long-standing project that has continued on in one form or another since the mid-eighties, with a slew of cassettes and EPs under their belt, but to date only two full-length albums: 2002’s brilliant Dark Age, and this newest offering, Interregnum released on FolkWorld. Frontman Michael ‘Dev’ DE Victor has also been active in projects such as Sixth Comm and Joy of Life, and this ensemble has remained one of the earliest bands to play the genre that later became known as neofolk. This band strikes one as a unit who likes to take their time on a release to ensure the listener that what they’re getting is a work crafted of love, dedication, and attention to detail and quality.
What’s on display here in Interregnum is a collective work of beauty that continues more or less on the path we’ve heard in Dark Age, though far more developed, with more contributions from guest musicians such as Sieben’s Matt Howden and Patrick Leagas of Sixth Comm / ex-Death in June. An instantly recognizable facet of the music is the uniquely rich baritone of Dev, bringing to mind some of the better moments of Michael Gira or Jerome Reuter, acting as a charismatic guide through this collection of darkly romantic pagan folk ballads. Rich instrumentation and production are also pervasive qualities of While Angels Watch, enveloping the listener in a lush wave of melancholy. However, in contrast to Dark Age, Interregnum seems far less wistful. The overall approach is more forthright and proud, almost optimistic in approach, but with moments of deeper sadness and tragedy scattered throughout.
The title Interregnum refers to a break during the transition of power, such as during the succession of kings or a changeover in rule, possibly reflecting on the world and its current state of chaos and uncertainty. Lyrically, this album weaves powerful poetic visions with modern social commentary, ranging from cynical tracks like ‘Voices’ and its samples of media snippets, describing the current state of mental abuse and bombardment from mass media, propaganda, the Internet, and social media. Then there are tracks like ‘November’, a love-letter of sorts to the outsiders of society and those who find mutual joy and beauty within darkness.
Here and there you can find diverse eruptions of distorted rock guitar, such as on ‘Obsidian Blade’, and the tragic anger of closer ‘List 99’, starting off as a ballad of deep sorrow describing the loss of a childhood friend before descending into sheer hatred towards the predatory cut-throats of our society, with the song building a crescendo of aggressive post-punk fury, ending with once more a descent into the bombardment of voices and messages assaulting our youth of today.
Some of the brighter moments come with tracks like ‘Symbols in the Snow’, with its sweet melodies and beautiful arrangements, or tracks such as ‘Sound of War’ or ‘Europa Aeterna’ and their cynical glance at the failed promises of our world leaders and politicians, and the uncertainty of our future.
The heart of the album is the dark and powerful slow-builder ‘The Watcher’, a hymn for the turning of the tides and passing on of wisdom and knowledge, along with the ominous presence of an invisible watcher, a possible godlike entity.
Interregnum is a beautifully packaged work that takes you on a journey through refreshing perspectives and a variety of moods and emotions. It’s definitely a nice introduction to an artist whose output has been curiously sparse over the years, but not for want of quality or potency. Recommended for all fans of neofolk, post-punk, or dark and powerful music in general.