Notwendfeuer is the latest Darkwood album, a project of German Henryk Vogel. As on previous works, the dark side of war is a prevalent theme, in the artwork, but also in some of the lyrics. On the cover is a child, staring sadly into the distance, and from the dark misty background, soldiers come forth. A child that has to participate and bear the consequences of something he did not choose of his own free will.
The first thing that struck me was that Notwendfeuer is wholly acoustic. No more ominous military soundscapes or samples, as on earlier albums, but just songs with vocals, mostly accompanied by acoustic guitar and other instruments, like violin, trumpet, accordeon, violoncello and varied percussion. Because of this, Notwendfeuer is somewhat comparable to Forseti's sound, although the atmosphere is more threatening, and the music more direct and military.
Already upon the first listen, I was severly impressed with the album, and also after repeated plays it keeps on growing on me. The songs are well written and the production is also well taken care of. There is truly not a single bad track on this album, and it is therefore difficult to pick highlights. Nevertheless, here are some of them. The catchy "Lied am Feuer" has atmospheric backing vocals and accordeon by Manuela. Also, the gripping "Verlorenes Heer" touched me, with its military snares, wonderful arrangements on violin and accordeon, and sombre lyrics that evoke images of the war past, of people who are not (and may not be) remembered. "Totenburg" is a gloomy resting place in the middle of the album, and also very worthwhile. "Ostenfeld" is the last song I want to mention, an up-tempo track with electric guitar in the chorus, and something that sounds like a harp (probably a plucked violin) in the background of the verses. Very beautiful and gripping. But all the other tracks are well made, too.
Darkwood has delivered a wonderful release with Notwendfeuer, that doesn't pale next to that of artists like Forseti, Death in June and Sol Invictus. Fans of the band can buy this one blindly, and otherwise, this CD is highly recommended to anyone who likes good and varied (neo)folk.