A couple of years ago, I reviewed Der Blutharsch's When Did Wonderland End? for TONY. It was a fairly positive review—at least about the music itself, since it's hard not to have qualms about the band's politics. I'm sure the band doesn't get much mainstream attention that actually focuse on its sound, as it plays martial folk and is prone to military uniforms and listing its song titles in Gothic font. In other words, Der Blutharsch causes me real problems because I quite like many of its albums but the reality of what bandleader Albin Julius is about makes me squeamish, to put it mildly.
Anyway out of the blue—or rather out of Austria—landed on my desk a package containing Der Blutharsch's latest album, The Philosopher's Stone. At first I was mildly freaked out because if there's one mailing list I'm not convinced I want to be on, it's that type. But the rock critic in me quickly took over and I listened to the album.
Judging by the one-sheet that came with it, the CD seems to be Der Blutharsch's last: The self-described "inventors of military pop" are "leaving the arena and heading towards new territories, the promised land on the search for the tower of song." (Huh?) The band's current motto further confuses matters: "Uniforms are always changing — Rock ’n’ roll will stay forever!" Yeah, whatever you say. At least we won't read this in Pitchfork anytime soon.
Once again divided in numbered segments, the CD isn't as diverse and compelling as When Did Wonderland End? (and the production sounds a bit muddy to my ears) but it has its moments, like the weird doomy-psych vibe on track 5. Not to mention that when it comes to a certain kind of grandeur, I'd love to see an oil-wrestling match between Der Blutarsch and the grad students in Arcade Fire.
Der Blutarsch "The Philosopher's Stone II" (from The Philosopher's Stone, 2008)