Der Blutharsch

When Did Wonderland End?(WKN/Tesco)

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

A far cry from the American freak-folk underground and its merry band of hippies, the European subgenre commonly known as neofolk has always had a sulfurous reputation. Purists whine that it often incorporates industrial strains, among other rocking elements. Far worse, proponents such as Death in June and Blood Axis have demonstrated a clear penchant for Nazi imagery, excusing their hard-ons for brownshirted politics and aesthetics with claims that they simply honor the white European heritage or the neo-pagan tradition. Der Blutharsch, led by Austrian-born Albin Julius, stands accused on all these counts, having over the past ten years played decidedly martial music while wearing decidedly creepy uniforms.

And yet like Cline in literature, what a sumptuously dark spell Der Blutharsch can weave. The band’s latest album, When Did Wonderland End?, begins with a snippet from “Lili Marleen” played on what sounds like a toy piano. Then, the band gets as close as it ever has to regular rock, though still rock of a rather unsettling nature. Several of the 12 untitled songs are built on an ultradeep chthonic bass endowed with awesome, sinister menace. But then Julius & Co. go in ever-intriguing directions. Track three, for instance, has the cursed romantic sweep of Nick Cave fronting Dead Can Dance, but then track five sets from-the-grave vox against a lonesome strummed acoustic guitar, and track nine could be the rumbling score for a sauerkraut Western. You don’t want Der Blutharsch to run your country, but its music is too compelling to summarily dismiss.—Elisabeth Vincentelli