Dutch label Seja Records graces us with a magnificent new release by Swedish neofolkersFatal Casualties. It’s amazing to thing that Stefan Ljungdahl and Ivan Hirvonen have been performing off and on as Fatal Casualties for 30 years now, as the current release is perhaps the freshest, most vibrant music they’ve put out in more than a decade. It’s hard to even consider this neofolk, because it uses so many other genres as a touchstone. One can hear post-punk, goth, dark electronic music, a bit of a soundscape here and there. Ivan’s vocals top the aural cake off beautifully. Kudos to the engineer who managed to balance the sounds perfectly.
This album was released in 2016, but as I came around to it only recently, I’ll gladly consider this a new-ish release. Well worth your time.
I suppose some would call this The Swans’ ‘Joy Division’ phase. The album, The Burning World, showed a marked change in direction from a band who had previously sounded like the equivalent of a drunken brontosaurus stumbling into his cave after a healthy drinking binge (and yes, that’s a good thing). Since they reformed, their sound continues to adapt and grow. They are as vital a band now as they were in the beginning.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Apocalyptic Folk/Neofolk genre (or Wyrd Music, or whatever it’s called today). Most of the bands sound the same, usually rip off the old masters of the genre like Death In June, Blood Axis or Allerseelen. The music is nice, but not terribly interesting or something I’d come back to for repeated listening.
The first five minutes of the release feel a bit like the scene in the Andrei Tarkovsky, when the pilot flies into Solaris. Hazy, crunchy, like driving right into a cloud. Reminiscent of early Industrial soundtracks and Pink Floyd at their most esoteric. Once things become musical, things become very interesting.
Though it may not have been a conscious act, the band sound like they are channeling The Swans/World of Skin/M. Gira, and mixing it with more progressive folk like the legendary Comus. That was what immediately came to mind. Sure, there are also a few vocal styling which remind me of Douglas Peace in his youth, but the material flows nicely, and by about the 7th minute, I feel like I’m hearing elements of The Byrds in their psychedelic country phase.