Artist: Various Artists
Title: Samhainwork I
Label (or, rather, publisher): Heathen Harvest
Keywords: Dark Ambient, Downloads, Electro, Experimental, Folk, Industrial, Noise
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Just in time for the next harvest solstice is Heathen Harvest’s compilation Samhainwork I! I wanted to do a review of this for a number of reasons. For one, it’s really good. For two, Heathen Harvest were the webzine that reviewed my first CD-R release several years ago. Ok, so maybe we’re a little biased here at Yeah I Know It Sucks. Third reason? I don’t even need one. This compilation is that damn good. Besides, when I said there were a number of reasons, I was under the impression that two was still a number.
(Two is still a number, right?)
Anyway, moving on, what I really love about this compilation as a whole is that it is a niche but still varied listening experience that feels like a presentation of the state of the post-industrial art. Every piece contained here is original to the compilation, making this an even more worthwhile and desirable album to put on the download queue. The whole thing is split into four sections, thematically: Melena, Baba Yaga’s Hut, Thagirion, and Veriditas.
Melena is dark and filthy, like excrement… when it’s not busy being absolutely gorgeous, anyway. The first track of this part is ‘Deluge’ by Mulm. Negative suggestion is reinforced by dark ambient soundscapes. “No hope / it’s impossible / it will never be”. You will feel as though an entropic void is enclosing you, nullifying all happiness. The music is a self-contained prism / prison from which light is distorted and can never escape. There is a menacing quality to the sound that escalates as it goes on. It is beautiful and depressive, but also oppressing. The urgency of it’s horrible mood is almost similar to this.
‘Vi Er Natten’ by Vemod is next. It begins with beautiful synth string pads before adding orchestral drums and tambourine, as well as highly evocative and somber vocals. Eventually horn pads also join the mix. It is the perfect soundtrack to a Pagan day. There is a sadness to the music, but it is of that strange quality that also seems simultaneously like a worldly joy. Toward the end the track begins to sound more triumphant. Only two tracks in and already you begin to feel as though you have experienced close to a gamut of human emotion!
Suveräna brings us ‘Dembowski’s Duel’ afterward, which starts with a rumble of synthetic bass and vocal murmurs. Martial percussion comes into the mix, along with maleficent choirs and horns. This is amazing! It’s certainly duel music, or perhaps a death march in Hel. It would make a great piece for a film soundtrack.
The last work in the Melena section is Aeldaborn’s ‘The Descent Of Odin’, a lovely neo-folk opus with timpani, acoustic guitar, violin and… what I would consider to be gruff, occasionally distorted vocals that kind of casually stand in opposition sonically to the overall feel of the music, though in an interesting way. There are two vocalists, however, and I think my ears preferred those that come in first in the early-to-mid section.
Baba Yaga’s Hut is a witchy Slavic / Norse section… a little… though there is somewhat of a current of that in other sections as well! It begins with ‘Hexenring (Im Herbst)’ by Apoptose. Bells and bird sounds are soon joined by running water and a feminine duet / incantation. A very nice dark ambient drone comes in as well, and eventually electronic tom tones undulate alongside sparse acoustic guitar creating a sense of mystery in the melody. There is a wilderness and abundant life in the background. It’s almost a touch Buffy Sainte-Marie, but very modernist.
‘Anzam Kušud’ is by Herbst9. It’s an Autumnal ambiance, devised in combination of drones, bells, breath and what sounds like a steel harp. Everything reverberates. It is as though we are listening to shadows in an old graveyard hidden by the overgrowth of ages. There are static waves overhead, traces of technology, but the feel is very eldritch. We are very much away from the civilised world here, entreated by the halls of the dead for our trespass.
The final piece in Baba Yaga’s Hut is Desiderii Marginis’ ‘Equinoxe II’, a rainy noir-scape. The occasional orchestra roils like an undertow beneath the dark ambiance as we stare out into the perpetual grey looking for recognizable shapes, human or otherwise. It is like a soundtrack to abstraction, possessing something like a judgment from the perspective of inculpable amorality.
The Thagirion section is more occult, thematically rooted in Jewish traditions of mysticism; it is even darkly transcendental, perhaps… when it’s not just being materially obsessed or overtly concerned with the realm of the Ruach. It starts off with ‘Groza’, by Gnawed. It’s semi-harsh static electronoise, run through an amplifier and echoing out into the Ain Soph. Ragged electro sound blasts come in, many of them utterly bizarre!
‘Unrepairable’ is the next track, by Iron Fist Of The Sun. More electro weirdness, paired even with doppler-esque mod choirs and harsh vocalizations. The screams of the broken among machines.
After is ‘Human Pony Girl (Samhain Cover)’ by Theologian + Bain Wolfkind. You can listen to the original here, if you’d like, for comparison purposes. This version is darker, almost sludgy, and very lo-fi! It’s a thick dirge for 10:08, with leadfoot drums and what seems like an amalgamation of vocals and choir throughout. This cover I think achieves a better, more interesting sound than the original, and it winds down with distorted feedback!
Veriditas is a section with a certain Pan PanGenitor vibe… an earthy partition, taking us back to a fecund Gaia via sound… when it’s not pursuing the cosmos above, anyway. The first track here is Jerome Deppe’s ‘The Darkened Room’, beginning with a Gregorian chant and strange, otherworldly chimes and percussive sounds. It quickly leaves behind this plane for very sweet, neo-folk music. It has a touch of spaciness in the background. I love the organ work that comes in toward the end of the middle section. It ends as it began, sounding almost like a Kosmiche Dead Can Dance. The whole thing is beautiful, very likely my favourite track on the whole compilation.
After this is ‘Mindhole Candy’, by LeVant… so okay, this might be my other favourite track on the compilation! It’s beautiful and jazzy, with spoken word. It’s also highly abstract, post-IDM (if that means anything!). There’s faint resemblance to some avenues explored by Coil, but it takes on a feel all it’s own. Very hard to find words for it.
Next is ‘The Hangman & The Highwayman’, another neo-folksy piece, but with a little Gothic rock flavour this time… and it’s by The Gild. Timpani, cheap bells, acoustic and electronic guitars make up the sound. I really enjoyed this one, too!
Finally, Inneres Gebirge’s ‘Holy Thursday’ closes this section, as well as this compilation. It is another nice neo-folk song, and I really enjoyed the flutes. Accordian also comes in, along with low synth bass. It has a somewhat stoic feel, and ends with added choirs that are, strangely, a bit off-tune from the rest of the song, but it’s still very well done and an enjoyable listen!
This is absolutely something you’ll want to download to hear for yourself, so here’s the link to do so. Also, in case you miss the password for unlocking this thing, it’s S12012. It can be difficult in one’s excitement to see things like that on a page, I know from personal experience…
… and also, because it is a fun and interesting read that matches the mood of this compilation nicely, you might also wish to check out this great article on the Pagan roots of Samhain:
Happy Hallowe’en everyone!