Title: Nikolaevka [A Collection of Hymns and Marches from the Italian Army of the Palace]
Genre: Martial Industrial / Neoclassical / Neofolk
01 Albireon – Il Deserto dei Tartari
02 All my Faith Lost... - Icy Dawns
03 Rose Rovine e Amanti – Noi Ritorneremo
04 Der Feuerkreiner – Der Morgen
05 L'Effet C'est Moi – Bellica Virtus in Itinere
06 Das Lange Messer – Lie's Hour
07 Sala Delle Colonne – Un'impresa di Valore
08 Hexperos – The Warm Whisper of the Wind
09 Lia Fail – In this Square (Night Version)
10 The Green Man – The Joys and Toils of Warfare under Tempestuous Reign of ArchidamusII
11 The Well of Sadness – Like Before
12 Calle della Morte – Cartoline Dall'Inferno
13 The Growing Crystals Lab – Death of a Dark Angel
14 Symbiosis – Il Trionfo della Caducita
15 At the Funeral of my Violet Rabbit – Bird of Ill Omen
16 Gregorio Bardini – Hic Manebimus Optime
17 Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum – Un Impero di Pace
18 Sir Logla – Bombardano Cortina
This compilation should be exciting for any fan of neofolk, neoclassical, and martial industrial due to the fact that these 18 tracks are exclusive to the compilation which is a rarity in music today. A point made well known about this compilation is the fact that this is a kind of tribute to the Battle of Nikolayevka in the approaching final days of the battle for Stalingrad. The battle overall is considered a small note in the larger battle, but surely to the Italians it is a meaningful moment as it saw the Italians successfully stand up to the Russians and pull through. There are a couple of reasons that I find this tribute slightly confusing, the first being that this entire battle was based on the fact that the Italians were forced to retreat after the German and Hungarian units fell to the Soviets. The battle wasn't based on the Italians literally standing up to the Soviets, but rather the Italians were trying to clear the last remaining Soviet unit in their way blocking their retreat after they were encircled. The soviets, admirably, held their ground for hours before General Reverberi of the Tridentina division led his 40,000 strong group of soldiers and caused the Soviets to finally dispert and allow the Italians their retreat. The other is a minor issue, the fact that this group wasn't strictly Italians, but rather included Germand and Hungarians in the mix, though they were in far smaller numbers. Regardless, it is a somewhat important battle that the Italians came through on and won.
The compilation opens up unexpectedly docile, with tracks from Albireon and All my Faith Lost... holding a bleak and laid-back, melancholic atmosphere as you could expect from both of these artists. Neither are really too known for their martial tendencies but it makes sense that the compilation would begin with a feeling of solitude and depression as a month before the Soviets had encircled and crushed the Italian 8th army and 2nd and 35th corps. News of that can bring fear to anyone waiting for the same hostile soldiers. All my Faith Lost... also sets the temperature to the battle with “Icy Dawns”, as this battle was fought on frigid lands. Rose Rovine e Amanti are the first to bring some movement to the compilation with “Noi Ritorneremo” or “We will Return” which speaks for itself as far as what point in the battle we're in. Der Feuerkreiner enter with their signature impressive style of martial neoclassical / neofolk and, as usual, really set the standard for quality. All four artists have set the mood of going into battle now and have done it artistically and expertly.
We don't really see the bad cracks start to show until Das Lange Masser shows their face. Reverb vocals and hand claps are all good (although I could have lived without the cheesey hand claps), but the typical drums and poorly recorded guitar and terrible synth really put a strong halt on the compilation. L'effet C'est Moi prepared us well with a nice martial ambient / industrial piece only to fall into this terrible track. There's a reason this band has only released on a netlabel, and I'm sad that it was Zortan's Kaos ex Machina that pushed it forth. There's potential, but a recording and keyboard upgrade is definitely needed.
Thankfully Autumn Wind Productions recording artist Sala Delle Colonne pick us back up with a thick and lush martial industrial piece. Un'impresa Di Valore carried a complex and well-composed melodic line on all fronts and, thankfully, the band utilizes multiple instrumentation from both strings AND brass, a key side of martial composition often missing from artists of their caliber. Hexperos follow up with a gentle and reflective track that could easily fit in war-time documentaries or martial movies when you see the soldiers advance in gallop in slow motion and see many get obliterated by artillery. Lia Fail's “In this Square (Night Version) has lovely music, and well executed female vocals, sadly the male vocals drag the song down into the dirt. They come off sounding uninspired and put there only for the purpose of harmonizing, which if the case probably would have worked better just layering the female's vocals. The upbeat, nearly tribal section saves the track though and even the male vocals kick up some emotion.
The Green Man, as they usually do, pull the compilation into an entirely new direction with an intense and fist-clenching track. Their original neofolk / rock infused style with unique lyrics really fueled up this compilation to where it needed to be mid-through. The Well of Sadness follows bizarrely with a dancey track. Its a good song, just poorly placed. It seems quite a bit out of place with the rest of the music on here but as he has support from Rage in Eden, he's definitely welcome on this compilation. Unfortunately this marks the beginning of the downward spiral of this compilation to the end. Unfortunately not even the incredible ambient track from little known project Symbiosis can save the ending, though if there is one track on this compilation worth the purchase, its this one. An incredible display of might and power with only programming and synth. Luckily its also paired with the biggest shocker of the album, At the Funeral of my Violet Rabbit, which came out being rather incredible based off what little is known or released by the project. It reminds of some of the gothier projects on Eibon Records as well as some Dark Symphonies and Equilibrium Music artists. Exquisite, and I definitely recommend you check out the imagery on their website as well.
Its not that this compilation is bad, that's not the case whatsoever, in fact there was only one track on here that I could call complete “shite”. Compilations have to have some sort of flow, especially when they have a theme like this one, and simply enough, a good deal of the tracks featured here just don't jive well together. They do more to separate the compilation than bring in a feeling of comradeship that should be present in a soldier themed compilation.