My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Neo-Folk, Dark Folk - Politics & Recommendation Requests


I really like what I've head of Neo-Folk - it's often dark, Romantic, and has this yearning for times past, and often an interest in Neo-Pagan and Pagan revivalist themes, plus I've got an interest in traditional folk music and in other folk genres, and in Industrial music, as well as obviously Goth, and a lot of it Neo-Folk combines elements of these various musical types. As such, I'm trying to get into more of it. Currently my favourite band in the genre Of The Wand And The Moon - especially their songs that speak of the human condition like "The Lone Descent" - they are bleak in a beautiful way, heart-breaking and yet simultaneously glorious. I got into the genre via Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows - that's some music that really likes to draw from a variety of genres including elements from folk and classical/historical European music alongside a lot of electronic elements - although I'm not exactly sure what genre Sopor Aeternus would be categorised as. I also like songs like Dead Can Dance's 'Severance' or 'The Carnival Is Over' which don't fit neatly into genres, but seem to combine similar elements. 

However, there are a few Neo-Folk bands which like to romanticise the past and European traditions as part of rather right-wing forms of nationalism and an ethnic pride that are more or less racism and jingoism. This is quite similar to the issues that Heathenism and other forms of revivalist Neo-Paganism have had with fascist and racist elements co-opting their faith - obviously revivalist Neo-Paganism isn't inherently about any sort of racial superiority, and forms of ancestor worship and having pride and kinship with 'ancestors' in a more general sense of heritage does in no way mean inherently denigrating anybody else's ancestors, nor does it mean you have to embrace all of your own predecessors and ancestors actions as morally right, but despite this, there are those who wish to use it as religion for their 'ethnic purity'. I guess because there is a lot of overlap between revivalist Neo-Paganism and Neo-Folk, and plenty of historical retrospective yearning in both, there's this pernicious element that are not really interested in culture and heritage for its own sake, but only as the underpinnings for a hateful ideology. There's a huge difference between being proud of our cultural achievements and thinking we're inherently 'better' as a culture than others - also history tells of a lot of atrocities, and every culture has blood in its past. 

Another issue across all dark genres are those bands that like to co-opt Nazi imagery for shock-value nonsense; something I think is distasteful and creatively bankrupt; it's been done to death and in a world where actual far-right politics seem on the rise, is too easily seen as an endorsement of those politics - both by supporters and detractors of such ideologies. I also generally think that if you have to rely on shock value to get attention, then whatever it is your trying to garner that attention for can't be that interesting. Unless you're actually trying to create some kind of commentary on fascism, or authoritarianism or suchlike, or allude to that being something's nature, then that sort of imagery generally seems fairly irrelevant - and even then, it can seem quite heavy-handed (for a pop-culture science-fiction example, General Hux's address of the First Order troops and the pageantry around it was quite obviously based off the Nuremberg Rally - very much painting them as 'space Nazis') 

Unfortunately, it seems that you can't get away from articles about fascist elements in Neo-Folk, about people wary of far-right influences, etc. Here I am, writing another one! I guess some of it is from fans of the genre wanting to dissociate themselves from bands with blatant fascist, Neo-Nazi and far-right messages, and others are people who are very concerned with this element in the culture surrounding the genre - especially when it's quite antithetical to the politics of a lot of other members of the subculture, and therefore there will be quite the clash. However, it's got me rather nervous about the genre as a whole, despite the parts of it I clearly enjoy. In exploring the genre, I get worried that I will unwittingly be enjoying a song that's actually supporting something horrific in veiled terms, or that the song I might be listening to might be about something completely separate from all that, but that the same band might have other songs that are clearly about something more sinister. 

It's a genre I'm not very acquainted with, where I don't know much about the bands, their members and ideologies, or the broader catalogues of musicians. I have Spotify and a handful of recommendations, but really I want to hear from people who know the genre well and can steer me clear of bands with distasteful political messages, but towards bands that blend Romanticism and cynicism,  have haunting atmospherics and blend acoustic folk and classical elements with industrial, Goth and electronic elements. I'm especially interested in music with Neo-Pagan themes (being one myself), and references to English, Scottish, Welsh, Breton and Irish mythologies and folklore.

As such, I would really like to hear suggestions for music like this! I'd love to hear comments about the problem/issue of Neo-Nazi influence on dark subcultures and genres as well as music recommendations, to. 

10 comments:

  1. Have you heard of the Hare and the Moon? They might be of interest, neo-folk, more folk horror than pagan but elements of both

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    1. I have now! Thank-you for the recommendation, I will look them up :)

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  2. Inkubus Sukkubus maybe? It's Wiccan folkish gothic rock, they have beautiful ballads and a lot of lively songs, too. Many of their songs sound very similar to each other, to be honest, but it's a pleasant music nonetheless. I would also suggest Arcana (not to be mistaken with Nox Arcana), which sort of escapes genres like Dead Can Dance, but I think you would enjoy it. Just keep away from their 'Le serpent rouge' album - it's my favourite, but the melodies are Levatine, not European and romantic.

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    1. I know Inkubus Sukkubus - I actually know them from my pre-Goth days, as I got introduced to them by some witchy friends! I know Nox Arcana, but not Arcana, so I will have to look them up. I don't know much about Levantine music, but I'm curious about music regardless of where it's from.

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  3. I'm very fond of Celtic music. In particular, I enjoy the aires and ballards that sing of the supernatural. Songs such as "The Holland Hankerchief" come to mind.

    I wonder though, if any of the above-mentioned racial purists have ever contemplated the fact that everyone except for those of pure African heritage, share a certain amount of neanderthal DNA.

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    1. Most of the racial purists I've come across seem to be quite far removed from the tall, blonde and blue-eyed 'Aryan' or 'Norse' ideal they like to promote... I think a lot of people who latch onto that sort of ideology do it to gloss over a lot of personal insecurities; it's a way to go "well, at least I'm not like /them/" about someone, even if it's from an entirely fictitious perspective. Hatred is usually based in a combination of fear and personal insecurity, regardless of what specific ideology it is attached to. I don't think homophobia, classism, or anything else like that comes from anything much different. Anytime someone latches onto something that raises something as superior, and the other as vile, based on arbitrary characteristics.

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  4. Here's an 'Industrial' one that might be of interest.... I'm currently on a bit of a Kraftwerk thing, back to my pre-Punk Pre-Goth days. But When I heard Man in the Mirror from Trans Europe Express I really thought it was a very interesting introspective piece. Is it Goth? No idea. But thought it was very interesting all the same. And I love DCD, particularly Into the Labyrinth, Wind that shakes the Barley - fantastic.

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    1. Lisa Gerrard has an AMAZING voice, and she is thoroughly haunting singing 'The Wind That Shakes The Barley'.

      I'll look up Trans Europe Express.

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  5. This is perhaps my favorite genre, so I've a few bands to recomend:

    Faun—They lean very heavily on the folk side, with many of their song lyrics and melodies being repurposed from old poems and folk songs, although they make much original music too. Before 2013, their music generally had a much more darker and ambient atmoshpere than they do now, so you may enjoy their older songs more, but I personally like a lot of their newer songs too. Some good songs to try imo: Gaia, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Hymne der Nacht.

    Wardruna—I just found this band recently, so I can't say too much about them. A lot of their songs defintely have a darker atmosphere, and they're all based upon Norse mythology. As far as I can tell, they don't promote any unsavory ideologies...but sadly it seems much of their fanbase does, and I can't tell if they agg this on or not, so perhaps listen with caution. I just find much of what I've heard of their powerful on a musical level, so that's why I put them here. Song recommendations: Helvegen, Raido, Fehu.

    Daemonia Nymphe—This band probably has the darkest sound out of all of these, some of their songs sounding almost scary. Their songs are based upon Greek mythology, and the vast majority of their lyrics come from classical works. They don't seem very popular, but I like them. Some songs: Summoning Divine Selene, To Goddess Mnemosyne, The Calling of Naiades.

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