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Roots, Bloody Roots - 40%

UCTYKAH, December 7th, 2014

I guess one problem facing American race patriotism as a whole is inability to find a true, unifying spiritual theme, other than, you know, complexion and virulent antipathy towards the Z.O.G.. The most obvious surface problem is simply for Christian race groups to be able to figure out what to do with J.H. the old boy in order to reconcile their opinion differences with the neo-Pagan brethren. American NSBM-sters at least sort of manage to bypass that issue. Are there Christian NSBM bands out there? However, NSBM here in the good ol' U.S. of A. fails to escape another pressing shortcoming. That is, the lack of roots under their feet. Not enough roots due to said roots' prior displacement from the mother ground over a number of generations. You live on someone else's soil (those dang ol' injuns!) while fantasizing about thyself being a Germanic warrior and raving about "blut" and "boden" and "stirb" and "werde" and Odin knows what else. It sure is tough to live in the cosmopolitan America and nurture ideals borrowed from the lands your forebears left generations ago. It does build character, I suppose, if, strictly speaking, hardly brings about that much authenticity. You look up to Europe for source inspiration, but things are not all peachy there, what with the long projected and gradually ongoing twilight of the latter. Instead of basking in the blossoming glory of the living, breathing Tradition, you are forced to peruse history books, form study and hobby groups, and dream-dream-dream a little dream (and maybe occasionally shoot some firearms out of sheer desperation).

This brings us to Wotanorden and their games of ideological Dungeons and Dragons. The main fella Jorgen Der Minnasangari (most likely just a fancy, ancient Germanic way of referring to Steve, Bob, Scott, Corey or any other typical Caucasian-American name), who does pretty much everything, aside from drumming, wants us to know that he is a true European at heart, despite his born and bred Yank predisposition. In all fairness, most bands of this ilk fake it continuously but never even make it, whereas Jorgen's transposing of perceived European sensibility on to American ground maintains a small semblance of believability, in terms of the music he is trying to channel. As a true Wotanist, he is not content with the average Oi/WP/RAC format and aspires to paint a wide canvas of preferably epic proportions. Naturally, Jorgen is eager to demonstrate his progressive Heathen mindset as much as possible and, in his liner notes, gives thanks and sends out siegs and heils to just about everyone, from Bathory and Graveland to Nokturnal Mortum, Falkenbach and Temnozor, even adding the goody-two-shoes from Arkona (Rus) to his census. In light of all these signposts to look up to, Jorgen does not really pull off the epic part, although his compositions tend to be pretty long indeed, if still structurally straightforward. In practice, the musical extent of his ambitions wallows somewhere between Menhir, Absurd (not to worry, these two are also on the list!) and the 90's Polish scene (whose war-folk influence is apparent on the scattered intros throughout the disc), designed to bring together threads of Pagan pride, NS consciousness and folk-endowed approximation of raw black metal respectively.

As it is so often the case with skinheads trying to play metal, metal per se turns out to be the weakest, most neglected link of the musical formula. But hey, you gotta have some of this metal around, if you are going to pen blackened Pagan compositions of some kind. That, however, is where the old pedigree is hard to shake off. Hence, an inevitable compromise produces an Oi/RAC bastardizations of metal riffing. Black metal it ain't, but for semi-militant Heathen purposes, and in order to simply hold the songs together, they would have to do. Besides, they are not well heard anyhow. Weak garage production is certainly to blame here. The blown-out sound of the rhythm section, suffocated and fuzz-overdriven guitar tone all but muffle and smear themselves out, whenever the band speed up and put on the distortion, with only snare/cymbal and lead guitar remaining distinctly afloat. But Jorgen is really more concerned with the stately, folk-infused Pagan aspects of his music, which is where some credit is due. While not extraordinary by any means, they sound conventionally authentic (as authentic as any contemporaneous reimagining of this sort) and favorably comparable to the mid-tier European brethren. Which is the only reason to hear "Times of Sorrow (The Outcast)" and its surprisingly emotive, Graveland-inspired leitmotif during the opening and closing parts. Ditto for the eleven-minute-long "Into the Forest Unknown", which borrows its recurring chorus from neo-folk and pairs it up with simplistic, if not unpleasant, lead guitar melody. "The Warrior's Oath" makes for the most consummate Pagan metal track here, boasting a good amount of sustained aggression and drive. Too bad it turns out to be too musically derivative - patently borrowed harmonies and progressions abound - if still rather catchy, with Jorgen throwing a mandolin solo into the fold. Interestingly enough, a short stretch of bonus material from his previous project Farkaskoldus, also featured on this disc, demonstrates (in its own clumsy manner, on the track "Mundilfari") that its author actually used to nurture somewhat greater affinity towards black metal in his younger days. But that was then. Now it is all about the Pagan pride, which Jorgen also attempts to express as vividly as possible via various vocal approaches and lengthy textual narrations. The former are somewhat passable at best and corny at worse, ranging from shrieking to clean singing to plenty of spoken declamations. The latter, withal, are just another contrived recounting of the common scene truisms, full of battles, honor, homeland, ancestors, old Gods, wretched Christendom and such historical reenactments. The idea, if I am not mistaken, was to set up a more spiritual discourse, yet the old habits still inevitably slip through. "Forever I shall secure/The existence of my folk" - Jorgen proclaims on "The Warrior's Oath". Sure we shall, except that another tautological retelling of the 14-word slogan won't exactly get the job done.

Despite the accumulated complaints, I can actually tolerate this disc relatively well, to my own surprise. There is an amount of - how shall I put it? - no, not conviction, some kind of artistic impetus perhaps (I will leave it up to you to exactly decide how much), largely owed to the dynamically palatable neo-Pagan-folk portions. That, in turn, prevents the rendering of "The Hand of Fate" as 100% deplorably hopeless NS record, if maybe because the expected quality of this sort of thing usually stands pretty low to start with. I'd still pick Rahowa's "Cult of the Holy War" over this any day, though. Keeping in mind his mandolin playing skills, Jorgen might want to consider dropping his metal pretensions, start listening to Changes, latter-day Blood Axis, Waldteufel etc. (if he has not done so already) and hitting the völkisch route, given his longing for spiritual expansion and the fact that within the New Right's musical circles, things such as neo-folk and martial industrial always stood as intellectual alternatives to the blue-collar NS skinhead culture. Taking into account the sustained ideological context, this may as well be the only evolutionary path a good skinhead folk could take.