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Svarrogh / Défilé des Âmes/ Àrnica - South European Folk Compendium

This split CD brings together three relatively new outfits to the Ahnstern / Steinklang stable. Each in their own way tap into the spiritual ancestry of their homelands. In the case of Svarrogh it is Balkan, for Défilé des Âmes it is Hellenic and for Àrnica it is Catalan. As expected the results are widely diverse.

Svarrogh, the Balkan outfit lead by Dimo Dimov, were once a black metal band and you can still hear traces in the structure of their songs that now carry a strong folk flavour. Just listen to the constant ringing mandolin that plays throughout their tracks, above the bass and woodblock percussion. The voices are earthy and hoarse, often spoken and often raised in massed chants. Svarrogh are steeped in Balkan culture and recent releases have seen them dig deep into their Bulgarian pagan past. Their three contributions, which open and close to crackling woodland fires, offer a good introduction to their unique sound that will interest the more adventurous neo-folk listener and those who tend towards pagan black metal.

If Svarrogh capture the spirit of the woods, Àrnica is the sound of the hills. Their contributions here are all based around thumping and rolling hand drums with words intoned in stern voices and rough hewn chants all seemingly delivered in their Catalonian dialect. Of all the groups on Steinklang and Ahnstern Àrnica are by far the most traditional. This is agrarian folk music, literally the music of the fields. Àrnica capture the sound of the shepherd tending his cattle and sheep. Using traditional instruments such as flutes, pipes and accordion - rarely performed together on tracks - their contributions are raw and organic. Àrnica's singular take on traditional music will only appeal to the most ardent Steinklang devotee.

The wildcard in the pack are Défilé des Âmes. Their first contribution 'The Banner of Vanity' opens with a stretched accordion intro settling into neo-folk with a stop-start strum and war ravaged lyrics sounding like a martial Bad Seeds. 'Ordo ab Chao', their second track, is a sombre instrumental of looped sampled orchestral music with their customary oboe and clarinet improvisations. I've heard better from Défilé des Âmes but these tracks show they are diverse and certainly not a traditional folk outfit.

South European Folk Compendium is worth getting if you are already interested in the acts. Given the diversity of the outfits, however, you might be better off going for the Pagan Folk and Apocalyptic Psychedelia sampler which is much broader in scope (and cheaper too) featuring contributions from all three projects, if you're looking for an entry level insight into the Ahnstern / Steinklang and related labels. For more information go to