"If Inneres Gebirge sounds strikingly familiar to their label mates in Aeldaborn, it is for good reason as both bands share a number of key members in Thomas Lueckewerth and Sepp Funkel — both of which are important vocal and percussive figures for each respective project and are more or less the foundation of each project. Both projects also share S. Dante on guitars, a musician whose structural work in each track also makes him part of this solid foundation. Also considered a full member of Inneres Gebirge while they only took on a “session” position in Aeldaborn is Ron Con Koma, Mari, D. Stein, and Michael Weinstein. With these parallel line-ups, it can’t help but be felt that these appear to be twin bands in a sense. Whereas Aeldaborn seems to focus primarily on the spiritual and legend, Inneres Gebirge is firmly planted in the natural world as is evident through their often nearly Celtic approach to neofolk as well as their project title, “Inneres Gebirge”, which literally translates to “interior highlands” or can be seen as “heart of the mountains” and seems to hint at Germany’s Rhön Mountains region. With the many mountainous landscapes of Germany as well as the many literary influences that are referenced in the project’s lyrics, however, it is impossible to know for sure.
After opening the album, the first thing that should immediately catch your eye, if you can read the German language, is a beautiful quote from the eighteenth century German Romantic philosopher Novalis that speaks of, depending on your perspective, either the individual moving through a dark point in one’s life, or the contemporary human mind, how we’ve lost our way and fallen into shadow, and how this ‘eclipse’ can and will eventually pass revealing the light once more as we have never seen it before. This immediately sets the stage for the rest of the album in terms of the beauty of the compositions which mirror the eloquence of Novalis’ words, as well as the literary influence on the album that finds lyrics being taken from authors and philosophers throughout history, including Augustine of Hippo, William Blake, Uwe Lammla (modern poet), Emanuel Geibel, and Walther von der Vogelweide. If nothing else, this should more or less spell out that the heart of Inneres Gebirge lies within philosophy/early Christian Neoplatonism (with the presence of Augustine of Hippo opening the album), poetry, Germanic literature, nature, and in the truest sense of influence from Blake, the seemingly endless Gnostic search for God in the natural world (written as the “blacksmith” in his poem “The Tyger”), though the Gnostic doctrine appears to exist at odds with Neoplatonism.
As with Aeldaborn, there is a definitive sense of Germanic tribalism with most of the album — from the sweeping stringed arrangements and nostalgic woodflute to the sometimes bombastic, sometimes medieval percussion and accordion. There is also a strong sense of Romanticism that comes out through the delicately performed harp in “Der Dunkel” and the oppressively melancholic “Ludwig im Schnee”. Unlike Aeldaborn, where the stringed arrangements were secondary to the more primitive percussive aesthetic, Michael Weinstein’s impressive violin work comes through strong throughout the entirety of the album, taking center stage in most cases. Vocally, Funkel’s strong melodic work makes a strong return, with Thomas’ more abrasive style only occasionally being heard. “Schlafender König” is filled to the brim with overflowing emotion, especially in tracks like “Do der Sumer komen was” where Funkel ventures into a strong depressive vocal melody that is accompanied by melodic bridging that is almost celebratory in its upbeat rhythms and accordion performance.
American neofolk fans may already be well aware of Nathaniel Ritter and Troy Schafer’s projects Wreathes and Kinit Her which are the closest comparison I can think of to two bands this close with different sounds and parallel line-ups, though I stress that this is where the similarities end. Wreathes, like Inneres Gebirge, is more lush with more focus on production and structural / melodic compositions, whereas Kinit Her is, like Aeldaborn, a bit more abrasive, though because of different reasons. Other than that, while minute, but ultimately flawed comparisons can be made to other projects like the Die Neue Runde projects (specifically Sagittarius and sparse moments of Miel Noir) in the track “Schwarzer Wein” — which obviously reminds one of the “Black Honey” theme on Miel Noir — Inneres Gebirge really stand in a realm of their own. It is the strong influence of harp in some tracks compared with the exceptionally talented moving violin performance that give this album a strong — albeit perhaps unintentional — Celtic flavor. This really seems to make them unique amongst their other neofolk peers, and the production quality of their music, depending on your love for raw / organic music, can put them a step above or behind Aeldaborn. Either way, Inneres Gebirge are right up at the top tier of quality in the neofolk realm, and that said, are criminally overlooked. I rarely say it, but a perfect rating isn’t enough — this is one you have to own."
Sage L. Weatherford / Heathen Harvest
released February 24, 2017
Sepp Funkel, S. Dante, Thomas Lückewerth, Fr. Stein, Mari, Ron Con Coma, Michael W.
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