Der Blutharsch
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Der Sieg des Lichtes Ist des Lebens Heil (1998) , 5/10
The Pleasures Received In Pain (1999), 6.5/10
The Track Of The Hunted (2000), 6/10
When All Else Fails (2002), 6.5/10
Time Is Thee Enemy (2004), 5/10
When Did Wonderland End? (2006), 6/10
The Philosopher's Stone (2008), 5/10

Der Blutharsch, the project of Austrian-born Albin Julius, following in the footsteps of Autopsia and Laibach, envisioned a music of symphonic intensity (if not proportion) and Wagnerian drama, propelled by martial rhythms and funereal melodies. It is not a coincidence that in 1998 Julius became a full member of Douglas Pearce's Death In June.

Der Blutharsch's first release was an untitled picture LP of december 1996 (reissued in 2001 by Tesco), but the moniker became familiar only with the release of the album Der Sieg des Lichtes Ist des Lebens Heil (Ouroubouros, 1998 - World Serpent, 1998) that contains 16 untitled pieces. After a traditional German song, a simple droning organ instrumental, another German song, and another crytic droning piece, the an exotic dance of 6 sounds positively invigorating. There is so little in this album that anything sounds eventful, but the truth is that 10, a hybrid of industrial music and musique concrete, and the esoteric chant of 13 disguise a facile concept of sensational music. There is little or no development in these songs.

This was followed by the four-song The Moment Of Truth (1998), the EP Der Gott (Wnk, 1999) and the live album Gold Gab Ich Fur Eisen (1999).

Julius then crafted three gothic milestones: The Pleasures Received In Pain (1999), The Track Of The Hunted (Tesco, 2000), and When All Else Fails (Tesco, 2002), all of them divided in untitled pieces.

The Pleasures Received In Pain begins with the funereal procession of 1, followed by the street fanfare of 2, the folkish singalong 3, the magniloquent march of 5, the sinister solemn chant of 6, and so forth. It is difficult to find a cohesive musical element. The songs are as cryptic as their (non) titles. To some extent, this is an exercise in contrast: for example, the driving medieval jig of 8 segue into the mournful and anemic dirge 9. The peaks of pathos are achieved by the infernal nightmare of 7 (pounding drums, distorted organ, symphonic and choral effects) and by the circular rigmarole of 12.

The Track Of The Hunted has the ghostly lied of 2 the zombie-like crescendo of 3 and especially the tribal shamanic dance of 5. The last three songs are united in a 16-minute track for no apparent reason. The last one could be an interesting case of avantgarde music but lasts too little and simply repeats itself to the end.

When All Else Fails is Julius' best study in contrast. It begins as a religious hymn but immediately turns into a circus-like fanfare. The tragic collage of 4 is followed by the grotesquely militaristic singalong of 5 (one of his musical peaks). The folkish choral lullaby of 6 segue into the cosmic ambient slumber of 7. The singing has vastly improved, especially in the songs that present multiple voices, such as the syncopated electronic dance music of 8 and the esoteric ceremonial music of 9. The thundering dissonant operatic skit of 10 constitutes the most Wagner-ian moment of his career. The last song is a comic cover of a Russian folk song.

Time Is Thee Enemy (WKN, 2004) is even less cohesive than the previous ones, and relies too much on guest musicians.

The eclectic and elegant When Did Wonderland End? (Tesco, 2006) marked a return to form, with Julius capable of grafting all sorts of stylistic detours onto his stately sound. When Did Wonderland End begins with a music-box playing the melody of Lili Marleen and the militaristic march (with a female voice) of 2, drowned in a dense fanfare of horns. The tragic overtones are somehow downplayed by the madcap pow-wow dance 3, with a western melody, guitar twang and wordless operatic female singing that are reminiscent of Ennio Morricone's soundtracks. These three songs would make the album the musical peak of the trilogy, except that the other songs constitute a major let-down: 8 is a childish imitation of Nick Cave's emphatic parables; 9 is another Morricone-ian theme, dressed up with trotting drums and solemn bass lines.

The influence of Death In June was a bit too obvious on The Philosopher's Stone (WKN, 2008), and Albin Julius's rants were a bit too annoying, but the music was still highly evocative.

Werkschau: 1997-2010 (Handmade Birds, 2011) is a career retrospective.

Albin Julius died in 2022.

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