“Weiland“ (“Formerly“) is the fourth album by EMPYRIUM, a two-man-band comprised of Schwadorf (acoustic guitar, bass, mellotron, drums, spoken vocals) and Helm (vocals, grand piano), that has split up in the meantime. In the year of 2002 they released this album with the subtitle “Naturmystik in drei Kapiteln” (“Nature mysticism in three chapters”) and as you can already recognize by the instruments, it’s a purely acoustic work. Apart from the two regular band members, four session musicians, who played additional unusual instruments like bassoon and cello, for example, contributed to it. “Weiland” is often compared to ULVER’s “Kveldssanger” album, which I don’t own unfortunately, but you can definitely say that it is reminiscent of the folk passages on “Bergtatt”, the more so since croaking Black Metal vocals are also used here and there.
The album is divided into the three chapters “Heidestimmung (“Heath Mood“), “Waldpoesie” (“Forest Poetry”) and “Wassergeister” (“Water Ghosts”), that differ both lyrically and musically. What is already striking in chapter 1 is the extraordinary singing by Helm which will certainly put off many listeners at first, as it sounds quite operatic and is even reminiscent of ecclesiastical chants (beginning of “Fortgang” (“Departure”)) partly. However I got used to it quite quickly after all, the more so since the music can convince at the first listen already. The second chapter consists of one single, almost 14-minute song, “Waldpoesie”, on which the band presents all their skills and offer the most different atmospheres. It begins cheerfully and describes the forest’s beauty in the evening, but after about two minutes the mood gets more and more uncomfortable and the lyrics are about the fears of a man who got lost in a forest at night. After a depressing instrumental passage hope arises again and lyrics, vocals and instrumentation get more frolicsome and happy, the fear has vanished. Also many different instruments are used on the song, the abovementioned bassoon among others, for example, that was played by one certain Mr. Horst Faust (by the way he’s more than 70 years old), which makes the song even more interesting and contributes surprisingly much to the atmosphere.
For all that my favourite chapter is “Wassergeister“, in which the grand piano plays an important role and creates great melodies. It begins with the ominous song “Die Schwäne Im Schilf” (“The Swans In The Reed”) which is about a woman that is baited into a lake by swans and drowns there, which is accompanied in a very suitable way musically. Furthermore it’s striking that the Black Metal vocals are used very rarely on the whole album, but that their effect is all the bigger because of that, as they break the songs’ silence at the right moment. The tunes that follow now can’t actually be described with words, you just have to listen to them yourselves and let the beautiful piano melodies have their effect on you.
So overall it’s a great album that improves from chapter to chapter but that has no real weak points and ends very magically. (Online October 30, 2004)