Monday, March 11, 2013

Der Blutharsch - Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil (1998)

Der Blutharsch is the primary musical project of Austrian musician Albin Julius. Named after a Swiss mercenary company, the project is about as martial industrial as you can get. Using various voice recordings, usually in German, as well as varied samples of instrumentations, Der Blutharsch distances it self from more poppy martial industrial projects (sometimes called Military Pop) like Derniére Volonté by being more abstract in its aim and certainly more industrial in its sound. For me, the appeal of Der Blutharsch is Julius' ability to mix various sounds and samples to create a very special atmosphere, one that is very well represented by the cover of their sophomore album, Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil. While it has its dull moments, Der Sieg manages to successfully create a gritty feeling of war and conflict.

Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil, like all Der Blutharsch albums, has untitled tracks, so I will be referring to them by roman numerals. "I" begins in probably the most unexpected way a martial industrial album can: with a happy, poppy vintage folk song, probably sung in German. Personally, I enjoy this "out of place" track as a first track. Even though its mood is different from the rest of the album, "I" puts you in Europe. If that track doesn't get you ready for the album, "II" definitely will, with its slow organ and German voice samples in the background, which give way to martial drumming  and horns that introduce the military themes that until now had been mostly absent. Julius wastes no time in "III", blasting off with sound clips of a German army officer yelling with some nice instrumentation in the background. After a few moments, the voice clip is used repetitively as pseudo percussion, with the martial drumming in the background, giving the very rigid marching sound the genre is known for. Other sound samples are used, including one with a bagpipe in the background, which sound kind of annoying, but overall the track is strong. "VI", the strongest track in the album, combines melancholic violins with voice clips seamlessly for a bit, but then surprises the listener by changing to what sounds like Eastern-influenced instrumentation and sounds. It's very strange to hear something like that in a martial industrial album, but it works perfectly in this case. This Eastern theme stretches to the fifth track, but unfortunately the quality of the album reaches its high point by this time.

My problem with this album is that it feels bloated. Tracks like "VIII", "IX", "XI", and "XII" are not bad, but they seem useless and go nowhere. You don't necessarily want to skip them, but they feel like a waste of time as they do not fit the themes the first half set, at least not entirely. Violins, "ambient"-like parts, and even just silence ruins them. Most of them start really boring and at the very end have a nice martial sound, but at other times its ruined by the dreaded cheesy singing/voices that can ruin any martial industrial release. "X" is the strong track in the middle of these duds, with again stront martial drumming and instruments returning, and a very well done voice sample,  which unfortunately loses its charm for me because it's in English and drag on for a bit too long. Nevertheless, the tenth track saves the second half of the album.

Overall, Julius put out a solid release with Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil. I just feel like it could had been cut short, track-wise and length of track-wise. Definitely not the best introduction to martial industrial as an album, but the strong tracks make for good samples of the genre.

They said the war is over but I don't believe it.

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