The Final Hour is a live album by the German neofolk project Darkwood. It contains tracks from three different shows, which are spread across the album. The tracks originate from the albums In the Fields, Heimat & Jugend and Flammende Welt, and it also contains a couple of newer songs, which later appeared in a studio version on Weltenwende. Real fans will already know these songs, of course, but the nice thing about this album is that the songs all are different versions with alternative instrumentation, in which the violin in particular has received a prominent role. The sound quality of the recordings is very good as well, and you can't hear that the tracks are taken from three separate gigs; the album sounds as a whole.
Most tracks on the album are folk songs, which I find somehow appropriate for a live setting. But the industrial side has not been forgotten either, as it returns in the rugged instrumental "Blancs Moussis" and the ominous "Night". The Final Hour has a very intimate atmosphere, especially because of the sober instrumentation (vocals, percussion, acoustic guitar, violin and bass), and the violin which gives the music a warm sound. As if you're sitting round the camp fire in autumn. At the same time, it's all still pretty sombre and dark. I'll highlight a few tracks which display this well. "Im Norden" is just as sober as on the album version - with guitar, bass, chimes and of course Henryk's vocals - but it is also appealing in a live setting. "Lied der Kämpfer" and "Der Falken Flug" are both very calm and introspective tracks, but gain more warmth because of the violin; it's songs like this that give the album so much atmosphere. I like this version of "Stiller Bund" a lot, especially with the violin, which was replaced by flute on the Weltenwende album version, which gives the song a wholly different mood. This is certainly also true of "At the Stake", which is much better with violin. The only downside of the album is that it's over rather quickly.
Because of the unique atmosphere and different instrumentation, The Final Hour is definitely worth checking out for those who already know Darkwood's studio albums. People who are not familiar with the band yet, and who like sombre neofolk with (on this album) a large role for guitar, vocals and violin, should also give this a listen. I hope Darkwood will come by our country some time soon, because I'm very much looking forward to seeing them live.