Genre: Folk / Industrial
These songs were inspired by the Austrian village of Hallstatt, famous for its painted skulls, which adorn the cover and some ancient Celtic relics. For Gerhard, it is more than a mere archaeological site as it is also his birthplace and thus represents a literal return to roots. The CD arrives in a digipak, with an accompanying booklet.
The lyrics for the majority of songs are not lyrics as such but consist of poetic fragments and aphorisms from a variety of esteemed writers including the renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, author of “The Antichrist”, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and “Beyond Good and Evil” and Goethe, best known for “Faust”. Lesser knowns include Friedrich Holderlin and Hermann von Gilm, but the common thread linking the quotes is that they all relate to the album’s theme of love and death. Considering the effort put into the album design it’s a pity that Allerseelen did not at the very least, state which text these quotes are from. Only two songs out of thirteen are cited as having been written by Gerhard Petak, the sole musician, whilst “But a Spark in the Light” is written and sung by Robert Taylor, of American apocalyptic folk legends Changes and is the sole English track. One of the Petak penned songs is “Ohne das di wer Siagl” which appears to be sung in a German dialect or perhaps an archaic form, as it seems subtly different to these ears than the other songs. (Bearing in mind yours truly is unfamiliar with the German tongue.)
Moving onto the music, it is apparent why Allerseelen are one of the more renowned entities floating around the neofolk realm. Although their songs can be considered rather repetitive internally, they are extremely varied externally, exploring a range of moods and styles. “Der Sehnsucht Adlertrotz” contains a strident martial flavour, whilst "Der Himmel ist Eingesturzt" is a darkly ominous number. Occasionally an electric guitar is used to provide a rhythmic backing, such as on “Dunkelheit”, the sole instrumental and with no relation to the immortal Burzum classic. Vocals are akin to spoken word or incantations than ‘proper’ singing. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as complaint but merely as an observation – it would only be a complaint if it didn’t work!
I found “Flamme” to be more accessible and “Hallstatt” needs a few spins before the listener can truly appreciate this album. I’m unable to say why though; it’s certainly not because of weaker compositions. Perhaps “Flamme’s” melodies were more accessible. At this point the repetition alluded to earlier becomes mesmerising rather than monotonous and “Hallstatt’s 70 odd minutes fly by.
“Hallstatt” will be a must buy for any Allerseelen fan, but those less accustomed to Allerseelen's universe may need a bit of time before they can fully appreciate this album. Even for those not particularly enamoured by Allerseelen this is a ‘must buy’, as no neofolk collection will be complete without this.