If you listened in on our 2015 Bracket discussion, brought to you by Brown Bear on the Air (http://brownbearontheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/change-rotation-guest-episode.html), you heard me proclaim the February Alphabet of Random Records. Not one of my brightest ideas, but I’m on record of saying it, so I’m stuck.
So the idea is this: in the month of February, I give you a Random Record for each letter of the alphabet. We’ve got 29 days of February this year, so I get three days to be lazy. Three strikes and I’m out, if you will. The point of Random Records is to either write about records I love to highlight bands or records that might have escaped your attention. I try to do the latter more with the February Alphabet.
So, without further ado…
E is for Empyrium
Prophecy Productions, 2002
We’ve seen a lot of heavy and chaotic stuff lately, and we will again soon, so let’s take a short, nice, relaxing breather here with Empyrium. The German band started as doom metallers who had a touch for the symphonic and a deep interest in folk music. There are songs on their debut, A Wintersunset…, that are just dripping in symphonic doom, slow and melancholy. They kept getting moodier, resulting in the neofolk record Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays. This was followed by digging deeper into their roots, with the masterful Weiland, a 50-minute neofolk masterpiece, sung entirely in German, and the pinnacle of Empyrium’s career. For the unfamiliar, neofolk is darker than folk music, and often brings in more orchestral instruments. A lot of the imagery focuses on paganism, or, as in the case with Empyirum, nature.
Weiland, despite not being grim and frostbitten black metal, is a perfect album for cold winter nights. Everything about the record whisks you away to a deep, dark, corner of the Schwarzwald (aka, the Black Forest). The acoustic guitars contain so many layers, there’s almost enough guitar work to double the number of songs here. There are flutes, strings, piano, chanting choirs, and the operatic and haunting, voices of Thomas Helm and Markus Stock. Sometimes the vocals are a harsh strain (Stock), other times they are soothing and operatic (Helm). It’s a romantic and melancholic record, and Stock and company create some complex epics, drawn out passages similar to Empyrium’s doomier days. “Die Schwäne im Schilf” features some of the darkest moods, but it also has a sense of quiet calm. “Fortgang” has many different feels, from its choral harmonies to Stock’s harsh growls, while the nearly fourteen minute “Waldpoesie” is epic and grandiose. Going through many different moods, from a relaxing calm, to an unsettling anxiety and back, “Waldpoesie” is both sinister and beautiful.
Weiland is dripping in atmosphere, both soothing and sinister. The wide range of instruments used, and the way they are utilized, and the German lyrics make for something totally unique and special. If you’re reading this site, you likely haven’t heard much, or anything, that sounds like Empyrium on Weiland. It’s a calming record, despite some of the ominous atmospheres, and feels like a trip through all of Germany’s environments. Light some candles and incense, turn off all the lights, and give Weiland a listen.