Eclipse Review: Werkraum - Unsere Feuer Brennen! (2004)


Ori­ginal Cover

2009 Re-release

artist: Werkraum
release: Unsere Feuer Brennen!
format: CD
year of release: 2004, 2009
label: Cold Spring Records
dur­a­tion: 50:02

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

I didn’t care much about this so called “neo­folk” music that flushed like a wave over Europe some years ago. I had my favor­ite albums with Death in June, Sol Invictus and Cur­rent 93. The new bands that star­ted to pop up were noth­ing but pale cop­ies for me. I was totally con­vinced that the exper­i­mental folk era had reached its top long ago. And then I heard Werkraum. I can’t really recall how I first was intro­duced to them or what it was that made me buy their debut album Unsere Feuer Brennen!. It could have been the album’s cover art that first took my atten­tion. I still con­sider this to be one of the most beau­ti­ful album cov­ers out there; pretty simple without any text - it truly puts the lion killing horse­men in the centre. But this album is so much more then just a nice cover. It con­tains 11 of the most true and strong songs that had been released for a very long time.

Werkraum’s main brain is in the head of the Ber­liner Axel Frank. Obvi­ously a very com­pet­ent musi­cian. He is also backed up by some friends from vari­ous bands. Jason Thomp­kins from Har­vest Rain and Nick Nedz­in­sky of Lady Morphia fame. There is also a woman in the col­lect­ive named Antje Hop­pen­rath. I’ll return to these musi­cians later on.

Noc­turne” is the first song out, a very moody neo­clas­sical song with a deep male speech under­neath. It’s the only track with Eng­lish lyr­ics and the lyr­ics are actu­ally adap­ted from a poem by John Dow­land, but who reads them here is not told.
It’s a very nice way to open this album. Bom­bastic and pom­pous intros can often be rather bor­ing. If they aren’t badly com­posed they are usu­ally far too long to be enjoy­able, but “Noc­turne” does not suf­fer from those symp­toms at all.
After the intro fades out, “Die let­zte Jagd” starts, a track writ­ten after all unwrit­ten rules of neo­folk song­writ­ing together with Lady Morphia. Simple gui­tar play­ing, snare and tom drums are joined by a trum­pet in between the verses. But what makes “Die let­zte Jagd” such a remark­able song is both the fact that it has a very catchy melody and Axel Frank who shows that he’s not only a great musi­cian but also a splen­did singer.

Next up is “Chan­son de la plus haute tour”. It’s a much calmer song, some­where between psy­che­delic and medi­eval acous­tic folk. Antje sings a poem by Arthur Rim­baud trans­lated into Ger­man and this woman has to be prop­erly schooled in singing… What a voice! And WHAT a song! I can’t get enough of this. I can play it on repeat for hours and every time the chorus comes, where Antje and Axel sing in duet, I get pleas­ant shivers down my spine.
For the sake of bal­ance, track four (“Ein­samer nie”) is quite unre­mark­able. Swirl­ing organs and twis­ted voices in a futur­istic neo­clas­sical way. The fifth track (“Legion”) on the other side is another mas­ter­piece of neo­folk, a bit slower than “Die let­zte Jagd” but just as good if not even bet­ter. The dis­turbed elec­tric gui­tar in the back­ground fas­cin­ates me. And so does, once again, Alex’s singing.

Now, after five more or less per­fect songs, you might believe that the album loses strength. If you do, you are so wrong. “Steh Auf Nord­wind” is an instant hit. From the bells in the begin­ning to the fade out in the end. A per­fect neo­folk song! If the other songs were catchy I don’t know how to explain this one. It relies more on the elec­tric gui­tar than the acous­tic, which was a com­pletely new, but not in any way unpleas­ant way of play­ing neo­folk for me. You might need some time to melt what you just heard and to do that dur­ing “Dig­nitas Dei” – another of those exper­i­mental ‘in between’ songs without any proper struc­ture and lots of futur­istic sounds, is a good idea. Even though this one is bet­ter than “Ein­samer nie” it still is bet­ter seen as a filling between the songs than an actual song of it own. When the pre­vi­ous song is melted you can start pre­par­ing your­self for the next attack. “Ewig­land” is a col­lab­or­a­tion song with Har­vest Rain and if you have heard Har­vest Rain before you know what to expect. Very des­ol­ate. Makes you feel strange in some way. Jason Thomp­kins’ char­ac­ter­istic gui­tar play­ing is backed up by Alex’s voice and snare drum­ming and all this cre­ates another song to remem­ber.
Yet another neo­folk song fol­lows, “Hei­lige Krieg”, “Hohezeit” – mov­ing more towards the medi­eval sound with Antje behind the micro­phone again, and finally the outro “Civ­itas Dei” with a proud mar­tial feel­ing to begin with and a spacey drone at the end.

So why does Unsere Feuer Brennen! deserve an Eclipse rat­ing? Simple. It’s a mas­ter­piece album. It stays very per­sonal even though the guest artists have left their own traces.
A for­mid­able debut release from a band that can take what turn they want and still have my full sup­port and respect. This is the album that made me real­ize that neo­folk is more than the World Ser­pent oldies and with that opened my eyes to a com­pletely new world of the new wave of dark folk music.
50 minutes and three dif­fer­ent styles of the best neo­folk sounds in one album makes this a must have for every­one. Thank you.

Reviewed by CME

Track­list:

1. Noc­turne (2:17)
2. Die Let­zte Jagd (4:13)
3. Chan­son De La Plus Haute Tour (4:04)
4. Ein­samer Nie (4:23)
5. Legion (5:50)
6. Steh Auf, Nord­wind! (3:33)
7. Dig­nitas Dei (5:34)
8. Ewig­land (4:04)
9. Hei­lige Krieg (4:46)
10. Hohezeit (3:32)
11. Civ­itas Dei (7:46)

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