Written by: Dave Cantrell
A teasing mystery attends. In the post a small envelope arrives from Germany. Aside from the ‘to’, an inconclusive ‘from’ and the postmark there is no appreciable data from which to draw a clue. It is too thin and light to contain a CD or even a mini-disk whatever the hell those are anyway and it’s only the square stiffness of the enclosure, evident by touch, that separates it from the impression that this is some strange, transatlantic empty envelope prank. As the Stasi’s no long a concern I hasten for the letter opener and…and…the mystery remains a mystery, if a more attractive one, as inside is a 10cm square card with, on one side, what looks to be a partial shot of an ancient robotic Mayan pyramid and on the other an offer, in English and written in the print equivalent of glue-and-glitter lettering the message “if you would like a copy of this record to listen to…simply email to: (etc etc).” Having no idea what this might entail nor the ability to resist such a thing I sit down at the laptop, tap out the basic ‘yes, please’ missive and proceed to forget all about it until the Rejoice CD (released back in February) arrives some number of weeks later. Ahh, of course, goes the brain, who else would it be but those devilishly playful folk Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand (it should be noted that there was precedent as Wish I Wasn’t Here had arrived at my door like a message from futures past a couple years ago).
The long-running project/legacy of one Albin Julius – 2021 marks a quarter century – known in its original iteration as simply Der Blutharsch with the addendum added a decade ago, there are very few bands that can find themselves in such varied and legendary ‘RIYL’ company, evoking as they do similar feels to the likes of Laibach, Magma, Dagmar Krause, Hawkwind, GY!BE, Einstürzende, Killing Joke and likely a dozen other genre innovators we haven’t yet thought of (might even chuck the, umm, Legendary Pink Dots into that bucket of the doggedly odd but brilliant), the linking characteristic being, of course, a heavy, sometimes trance-y sonic inventiveness that can find no other path to follow but its own. Of late, to these ears, that path, even as it’s clearly laid out according to a Blutharsch blueprint, has strayed a fair piece from its origins, tracking through a decidedly darker forest before emerging into a clearing where one might reasonably expect to find that mythical pyramid mooted above. It is but a small surprise, then, that tucked inside the heart of this otherwise cheerily-named, 6-song, 40-minute outing we find not one but two tracks named “Darkness,” the first asterisk’d with a single ‘+’, the second with two. No way of knowing the band’s exact thinking – no one-sheet do we have – but by the evidence presented it wouldn’t seem too much a stretch to believe that here on Rejoice, in spirit anyway, Joseph Conrad lives.
Beginning insistent of string, cadent and gripping, not a little cinematic, a bit Wagnerian maybe, Morricone in something of a martial mood, the album’s opening track “Coming” indeed brims with portent. Both restrained and hallucinatory in its way – it’s a dream state, it’s all too real, it’s both! – not least due singer Marthynna’s seeress vocals that set out frighteningly calm only to become more desperate the deeper in they get, and with the whole of the track embedded in a a vestigial shroud which isn’t to mention the march of that string movement neverending, always on the brink, well, as announcements of intent go it’s nearly peerless and…we’ve only just begun.
From here “Fear” takes us, if nimbly, that much further in to this inviting Dantean complex, a Wire-like guitar intensity bursting forth out of the gate and never abating, the track hypnotic, trenchant and accessible to such an extent it has me writing down an iteration such as ‘like Velvet Underground finding revelation in metal’ (and again those icy throaty vocals). Dialing it back a tad, “Darkness” the First wanders a more spacious landscape, emanative and bleak with beauty if such a thing is possible [it is – ed.] before “Darkness” the Deuce, climbing atop a far more ominous progression, pulls us siren’s call-like back to the drama and momentousness inherent, the wagons circling the drain or some such mangled metaphor, reminding anew of the skirmish eternal that dogs us every step of the way through this existential delirium. Oh, also? A banger of a track (as anthemic hymns to the endtimes go, that is).
As should be expected on an album named Rejoice there is redemption (we think?) but that’s a surmise that can be but short-lived as the penultimate title track, almost punchy with hope and groove – an impression underscored by an ebullient bassline and the lively flit of a flute – even as the vocal and noisy doomscape of a backdrop suggest a certain pall lingering over its primal danceability (think Black at a house party, maybe), gives way to a moodily relentless finale called “Burn,” its tone and execution carrying forth the spirit of a drone séance seeking out the spirit of Can with the lure of a jungle noir undercurrent.
While what Der Blutharsch do these days could well be termed prog goth or goth prog whatever, the content constituting Rejoice from these gigantors of dark-folked enigma (whose name, by the way, translates to ‘Blood Ass’ in English) casts such genre-grasping inanity into the hellfire of ‘Who cares?’ to burn forever in the cauldron of the righteously unknowing. A genre unto themselves, in short, and long may they fucking reign. [rejoice in Rejoice here]