CARVED IN STONE is the title of the side project of Swawa alias Ilona Jeschke, keyboard player and vocalist of various German Metal bands such as her label mates TAUNUSHEIM, for example. Far removed from any kind of Heavy Metal, here she delivers about forty minutes of often melancholic, mostly solemn Folk.
As was said, "Hear The Voice" has nothing to do with Metal, at least musically speaking (apart from some distortion on "Ungehorsam"). On here, soft sounds rule; the songs are first and foremost carried by Swawa's vocals and her acoustic guitar. In addition, other instruments that are typical for Folk music are found here: the flute, the harp and keyboards, which are used to create harpsichord sounds, for example.
Only based on the songs' topics can one guess at Swawa's metallic origins. The themes sung about on "Hear The Voice" can often be found in Pagan/Viking Metal as well: "Sohn Der Morgenröte" and "Heldentod", for example, are about going to war in defence of one's homeland or the Germanic creed and, of course, about the eventual glorious warrior's death. As shown by the song title, Germanic/Nordic matters also play a role on "Boten Asgards"; on the other hand, "Die Gärten Der Feen", "The Lady Of The Wood" and "Ungehorsam" speak of mystical and fantastical things. Fairies, maidens pure of mind and demons captivate the listener and thus evoke fairytales of days long past.
Those interested in poetry will appreciate the fact Swawa has set two poems to music. First we have "Das Lied" by the German poet Stefan George, second there is "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. While the former retains the fairytale setting, the latter, probably the more popular of the two, shares its mood and theme with "Last Words", as both deal with the knowledge of impending death which is nevertheless faced without fear. "Jeg Lagde Meg Sa Silde" is unusual in that its lyrics are neither in German nor in English, but in Norwegian. Contrary to the rather joyful melody, it is an extremely sorrowful song about a man who travels to his lover after she urges him to come join her quickly, only to find on his arrival that she has died (hence the line "Ingen har jeg elsket over henne", meaning "I have loved no one as dearly as her").
That's a lot of talk about the lyrics and song contents, you say? Perhaps so; in my opinion, Swawa's great lyrics are very important to unlocking the full potential and power of the album. Her intent was to convey to the listener everything that our modern age is lacking: elements and aspects of the ancient times, the mystical and fantastical etc., so that for a while he may let himself be transported back to these old, magical days of unspent and sometimes enchanted nature, the times of heroes and mystical creatures.
Of course it's an atmospheric and at times rather emotional CD, as it was meant to be. Emotional and melancholy it is, but not truly in a negative, depressing way. Whether it's facing fate defiantly, a hero's glory attained in death or simply the defeat of evil: "Hear The Voice" leaves the listener with a feeling of sweet melancholy. That, I believe, is a fitting description of the fact that besides evil, there also always is good pictured here. A striking example of this entire mood may be found in the last verse of "Sohn Der Morgenröte", which also illustrates the power of the lyrics themselves: "Farewell, noblest warrior/let your hair waft in calmer winds/for here, a storm is raging/in which we are but leaves;/may your noble spirit guide us/until the foes' blood is flowing..." (Note: these lyrics were translated from German and thus do not represent the lyrical qualities of the original text)
The overall picture is rounded off by Swawa's notedly beautiful singing and the instrumental accompaniment which is, thanks to the skilful arrangements, highly effective without being needlessly complicated. If the production of "Hear The Voice" had been a little better it'd have earned the top mark; regardless, it really is a highly recommended Folk album for all those of you who enjoy beautiful, enchanting, gentle music. (Online February 1, 2006)