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HERR - The Winter of Constantinople

HERR feature a collective of Dutch and English personnel. The Winter of Constantinople appears to be their second full CD release and conceptually at least is concerned with the 1453 Byzantine siege beside the waters of the Bosphorus. The Winter... falls clearly into the bracket of neo-classical but its set apart from others in the field with its use of verse-chorus structure and particularly the vocal work of Troy Southgate who intones many of the lyrics in a London accent. The album features a nice variation in structure ranging from strident orchestral to sorrowful arrangements, appropriated classical music to typical martial / military fare. It's surprisingly accomplished and an assured piece of work from a new group. From what I can gather this has been fashioned out of reworked, re-recorded and remixed previous releases. The orchestration is synthetically produced but any reservations are adequately rebuked through the use of cello, snare and timpani drums.

'The Fall of Constantinople' tells about the capture of Constantinople by the hordes of Eastern Barbarians. The music moves from forlorn strings gradually building in intensity and power into something dramatic and anthemic. It gels evocatively with the lyrics making this somewhat impressive. The stirring sound of 'Tanz Konstantinopel' is proud and majestic, as cello's stab and drums roll in a musical call to arms. 'Requiem', adapted from Beethoven and Scarlatti, is even more impressive. A reflective piano score, with sections of lilting strings. A young girls voice enters to recite a single line - similar to Current 93 - before the piece becomes more melancholic and with a flurry of percussion it undertakes a rebirth to seek past glories with renewed vigour. A definite standout amply demonstrating the musical versatility and maturity of HERR. In contrast to the elegance of 'Requiem' the second track 'Hopes Die In Winter' appears to be a spoken word piece about football tribalry, about the gangs of football hooligans brutally rampaging towns and cities on a Saturday afternoon. Persuasively argued as a localised fight for local identity over industrial atmospherics and muffled sound of chants. The closing track, 'Strife' closes the album in fine fashion with sorrowful strings and male vocals underpinned by martial drumming.

Although conceptually based on Ancient Rome, HERR are seeking to reinvigorate the listener through reviving Europe's ancient heritage in terms of myths, legend and history. Earlier editions of The Winter of Constantinople are highly coveted items and its not really surprising. This is musically and lyrically accomplished, powerful and emotive work. In a genre overflowing with Germanic voices, Norse mythology and samples from both World Wars its refreshing to find a group who can wrestle with themes of conflict, loss and pride yet derive inspiration from an alternate source. Let's hope HERR can continue to plough this singular path on future releases as they appear capable of great(er) things. For more information go to or