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Death In June - Peaceful Snow/Lounge Corps

The previous Death In June album The Rule of Thirds saw a slipping of the mask of Death In June. Gone was the varied instrumentation with a sound reduced to acoustic guitar and voice, amidst a multitude of samples. Peaceful Snow carries on this stripping back of Death In June. On this their thirteenth album, Peaceful Snow features only the voice of Douglas P. and the exemplary piano playing of new recruit Miro Snejdr. It is conversely a continuation of that process and a new direction for Death In June.

The collaboration was borne from Slovakian pianist Miro Snejdr's posting on YouTube of his interpretations of tracks from The Rule of Thirds. Who knows what the impetus for the album was though, Douglas P. had previously indicated that The Rule of Thirds may well be the final Death In June album.

Either way, Peaceful Snow, even more so than The Rule of Thirds, is light years away from apocalyptic folk/neo-folk, the genre birthed by Death In June and then fellow travellers Current 93. Peaceful Snow has been referred to as "Totenpop Torchsongs" and in many ways it is but perhaps not in the accepted sense. By its nature Peaceful Snow is by far the most intimate Death In June release; you can't miss the degree of introspection and resignation that hangs over this. The problem in referring to this as torch songs is in the translation, the lyrics, as open as they are for Death In June, still remain resolutely guarded and ambiguous. It's really hard to decipher; the mask may have slipped but there is still a mask that acts as an obstacle in order to fully interpret these.

What Peaceful Snow does so more so than any other Death In June release is that in its own way it hints at the autumn feel of But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? and the wintery atmosphere of Rose Clouds Of Holocaust. It's in the vocal undercurrents of 'Wolf Rose' and 'Life Under Siege', and the airy melodies of the latter and the rousing hymn-like structure of 'Our Ghosts Gather'. This doesn't hit the heights of those releases - which, I think, most Death In June fanatics now realise will never be recaptured - as a result of the sparse instrumentation. That said, this is a fantastic release from Death In June. Even though it feels Douglas P. is holding back there are some great moments here and certainly nothing that detracts from the overall whole.

Miro Snejdr's piano playing is elegant and varied, and sympathetic to the vocal delivery which slips effortlessly from spoken voice to calm sung baritones. There are no other instruments. The only embellishments concern the voice. It comes in the form of soft cooing, the pleasing harmonies, the voice flitting between speakers on 'Fire Feast', and the treated voice on 'A Nausea'.

An overriding sense of looking back permeates Peaceful Snow; it's in the lyrics of 'Life Under Siege', 'Fire Feast' and 'Wolf Rose'. While the music is calming there is a constant unease around the lyrics delivered in Douglas P.'s typical assured tones. More so than other Death In June releases Peaceful Snow carries a continual sense of discontentment: a life out of balance, with no clarity, and no peace of mind to be attained. On 'Wolf Rose' he sings the telling lines "My rose is fading, it's nearly dark. My rose is fading, you're in the dark". As revealing as they are despite the shedding the mask remains.

And the ambiguities continue: I misheard the title 'The Scents Of Genocide' as the sense of genocide, and on 'Life Under Siege' he sings of "The man who works to be free", a reference to the signs that hung over the entrance to concentration camps. In no way is Peaceful Snow controversial though. Provocative, maybe. Controversial, hardly. This is a distinctly personal album. There's no missing the distinct sadness of 'My Company of Corpses' as he sings of "to fallen comrades, to comrades gone". It makes me think of the numerous Death In June collaborators over the years now considered dead by Douglas P.: "I've been looking through this list of late; some memories not so good, some great. Great moments in our hearts never return, the memory lingers, then crashes and burns". 'Neutralize Decay' even touches upon "Time, Tryeth, Truth" the inscription found engraved on a tomb in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey that appears on the sleeve of Nada and 93 Dead Sun Wheels and subsequently appropriated by David Tibet as a title to a Current 93 track on Earth Covers Earth. And if I'm not mistaken the ultimate "abandoned track" 'The Concrete Fountain'- or at least the tune - at last finds itself revealed as 'Cemetery Cove'. The light gospel tinged 'Our Ghosts Gather' even offers hope in the face of impending death, while 'Neutralize Decay' offers a code for living.

Listening to Peaceful Snow it's apparent that even in his middle aged Douglas P. hasn't slipped into a cosy reverie or achieved a sense of contentment. Peaceful Snow features a surprising change in approach and is a great album that more than holds its own in the canon of Death In June. One can't help but wonder how much better this would have been had Douglas P. ditched his self-imposed "less is more" approach. Either way though Peaceful Snow is an assured release that continually reveals itself with each listen.

Initial copies of the CD version (and the download version and USB version, which includes a further two piano instrumentals) feature an additional album, Lounge Corps, featuring piano interpretations performed by Miro Snejdr, of a selection of Death In June tracks hand-picked by Douglas P. Snejdr adds intricacies and a grandness to the simple melodies with a warmth and dexterity that is truly stunning. What's more remarkable is that Miro Snejdr's first exposure to Death In June was with the 2008 release The Rule of Thirds. Lounge Corps acts as a wonderful standalone release and a more than worthwhile bonus to Peaceful Snow. For more information go to or