Review: Seelenlicht - Gods and Devils (2008)


artist: Seelen­licht
release: Gods and Dev­ils
format: CD
year of release: 2008
label: Cold Spring
dur­a­tion: 55:15

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com.

Seelen­licht is a col­lab­or­a­tion between Butow Maler (Kam­mer Sieben) and Troy Southg­ate (HERR). Gods and Dev­ils is their first album, released by Cold Spring, where lush neo­clas­sical com­pos­i­tions - with the odd neo­folk and mar­tial indus­trial touch - are com­bined with extens­ive spoken word and vocal parts where Southg­ate presents his views on vari­ous cul­tural phe­nom­ena.

Let’s start with the musical part, which is simply quite good. The neo­clas­sical com­pos­i­tions are layered, var­ied, and very smoothly executed, and for once I don’t really mind the fact that most of it is gen­er­ated elec­tron­ic­ally. Would that syn­thes­ised instru­ments always soun­ded this good! It is clear how­ever that all these pieces are meant to func­tion as accom­pa­ny­ing music to songs and text, and that is how they are best taken in: in the back­ground while pay­ing atten­tion to the texts.

As said, the lyr­ics are a mix­ture of song and prose, and the sub­ject mat­ter also var­ies from song to song. On the one hand, we have a com­bin­a­tion of myth­ical and poetic themes, of which “Herne the Hunter” and the two parts of “Idle Thoughts on the Janus Shore” are my favoruites. The other part of the lyr­ics has a more con­crete ref­er­ence to cul­tural and his­tor­ical sub­ject mat­ter. Of these, the witty “Val­halla” - accom­pan­ied by an excel­lent mar­tial music theme - is my favour­ite. In this track, Southg­ate presents a list describ­ing some of his (I pre­sume) cul­tural her­oes in an unortho­dox way. Other pieces, like “The Mod­ern Sax­ons” and “Diary of Des­ol­a­tion” seem more ser­i­ous though, and con­tain a scath­ing cri­ti­cism of the super­fi­ci­al­it­ies of our mod­ern con­sumer cul­ture and 9 to 5 drudgery work ethic. On the one hand, I share many aspects of the views Southg­ate presents here, but I don’t feel that this music is the most appro­pri­ate ves­sel for these cul­tural essays. In them­selves, the these texts are legit­im­ate pieces of cri­ti­cism, but they are hardly ori­ginal, in par­tic­u­lar in this music scene. I can see that this might not bother many other listen­ers, but for me, it drags down the listen­ing exper­i­ence at times, when a more abstract or mys­tical theme might have had a dif­fer­ent effect. The same goes for the murder bal­lad “Love’s Final Hour”, which for some reason seems in dubi­ous taste to me, while I nor­mally love most tra­di­tional murder bal­lads.

Taken as a whole, there­fore, this is an album that con­tains parts that suc­ceed in grip­ping me with rich com­pos­i­tions and inspir­ing texts, but also those that lack in ori­gin­al­ity or fin­nesse. The end res­ult is then an above aver­age release that will be prac­tic­ally essen­tial for fans of related pro­jects like HERR and Kam­mer Sieben, and inter­est­ing if you like neo­clas­sical music in gen­eral. Oth­er­wise, I’m not sure if Gods and Dev­ils will do it for you.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Pre­lude (4:14)
2. Demian (3:38)
3. Diary Of Des­ol­a­tion (Part One) (3:56)
4. She Walks In Beauty (3:55)
5. Flamme (3:52)
6. Diary Of Des­ol­a­tion (Part Two) (3:08)
7. Herne The Hunter (4:59)
8. Val­halla (3:33)
9. Idle Thoughts On The Janus Shore (Part One) (3:45)
10. Idle Thoughts On The Janus Shore (Part Two) (2:49)
11. The Mod­ern Sax­ons (4:31)
12. Love’s Final Hour (4:40)
13. Diary Of Des­ol­a­tion (Part Three) (4:32)
14. Seelen­licht (3:43)

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