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Midnight Will - 80%

UCTYKAH, April 3rd, 2009

I always thought of Kim Larsen's pet project as really likable yet almost comically derivative of DEATH IN JUNE. In his defense, he is not the only one by far who can be accused of such travesties, considering how influential DI6 is within the neo-folk realm. It is tough, really. You take a few strums on your guitar, and you already sound like DEATH IN JUNE. I suppose that's why there is no need to even mention them when discussing this type of music, since it has already become a given factor. Among such folk, there are those like Sweden's DOWN IN JUNE or Ukraine's NEKRAINA, who actually want to be DEATH IN JUNE without any remote attempt to hide it. Then there are numerous others working under the neo-folk tag generally, and who are directly influenced by DI6 but claim to be serious artists. And this was Kim Larsen's chosen path ever since leaving SATURNUS, and so far he has not strayed far from it. That calm three-chord acoustic strumming and these detached half sung, half spoken vocals bring nothing to mind but Douglas P's fingerprints all over OTWATM's platelets. One can point out differences here and there. Kim's metal background and a penchant for embellishing his albums with dark ambient pieces, pretty good ones too. Or his vocals being more tranquil and soothing than those of Douglas Pierce, whose dry recitatives exude an almost chilling level of detachment. Unfortunately, it played a cruel joke on ol' Doug, who has been going through serious artistic struggles this decade and has not released anything worth while since his Albin Julius collaboration efforts "Take Care And Control" and "Operation Hummingbird" back in 1998 and 2000 respectively. Whether it was the legal battle against World Serpent that took its tall and projected long-term side effects or relocation to Australia, Doug's latest, long overdue album "The Rule of Thirds" turned out to be a dud. With the same old strumming, same old detached vocal recitations and overwhelmingly dry nature bordering on utter boredom, the album unfortunately became a symbol of DIJ turning into its own pale shadow, an empty carcass stuck in midlife crisis. Too bad.

Anyway, OTFATM's recordings are all very similar to each other, so there is no difference what to pick. You could be listening to either "Emptiness Emptiness Emptiness" or "Sonnenheim" and not notice any major stylistic differences. One good thing about it is that Kim was always able to more or less uphold the qualitative aspect of his creative outlet. "Midnight Will" EP is as good a representative of the project's oeuvre as any of its full-length albums. And in such condensed form, it may even be more appealing to some folks out there, who do not happen to be big fans. "Winter Veil", "A Dirge" and the opening title track are all typical OTWATM neo-folk stuff and pretty typical (but good) neo-folk music overall. The latter's acoustic chords and calm vocalizations hover slowly like a drifting nightly fog above a quietly rustling blanket of darkly solemn keyboard background. "Winter Veil" displays a livelier rhythm and purely acoustic instrumentation. And "A Dirge" emblazons its acoustic strumming with very pleasant, atmospheric, clean electric guitar licks, which turn the song into a great mood piece. Elsewhere, "A Mass" is a spooky dark ambient number. Whispering voices, menacing sound effects, tribal percussion, ritualistic atmosphere - predictable and not too original on the one hand, yet it works fine as a fitting and effective interlude on the other. "Brace Yourself" is the last song on the list. It proudly occupies the middle spot and appears to be EP's culminating point before an acoustic descent that follows afterwards. It unexpectedly reminded me of BLOOD AXIS circa "Gospel of Inhumanity", particularly the song "Storm Of Steel", although it must have been the vocal intonation of the chorus that led me to such conclusion. In any case, an electric guitar and a good dose of distortion are used prominently along with a half-concealed feeling of aggression, as if the preceding song ("A Mass") got a massive sugar rush, grabbed a ritual knife and began its search for a sacrificial lamb. In that regard, "Brace Your Self" is a deviation from the norm, and all the better for it.

One could argue about the formulaic nature of OTWATM's music, and there is much truth to that. After releasing four albums and half a dozen EP's in six years time, Kim might have finally lost interest or exhausted things to say within the neo-folk realm. After all, he has been unusually quiet since 2005. Whatever the case may be, I do have a soft spot for his stuff and hope that he is busy reappraising the values and perhaps brewing something different but good. Just please do not force it if it isn't working out for you. For now, "Midnight Will" works as a fine starting point for those interested.