STAGWOUNDER - GERMANY




  
 
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Reviews

STAGWOUNDER – THE SHROUDED MUSE OF THE WORLD’S LAMENT – CRAWLING CHAOS  
Stagwounder has a dismal monicker. One might understand the group’s imagery and metaphor, but also lament the notion that anyone would deliberately wound a stag. It is cruel and unfortunately human. Much more complex is the band’s delivery, compositions and lyrics. The album’s name is a clue. This is a challenging endeavour.
First things first however. The red-orange cover had me pulling out The Sullen Sulcus album by Mourning Beloveth. Well, there is some similarity, but more likely than not they are unalike. Moving forward then and into the digits of the matter.
Indeed Stagwounder - one wonders if the title is from the Lux Interna song - does not make it simple for the listener. The better songs are buried further in the album, but first things first. The CD begins with a tepid instrumental called Du Scheuchst Von Hinnen All Das Gemeine (‘You Drive All Things Vulgar Away’). Several items come to mind. The first and best adjective that comes to the writer is ‘disharmonic,’ a word later discovered in the label’s biography as well. It is quite apt. The second item is the puzzling drum sound, which is quite a mess. It is as if it is taped on a four-track and then played backwards unto the album, but don’t get your hopes up. The four-track recorder was broken. The third thing that came to this reviewer’s mind was that this album is an extreme version of alternative music perhaps a la My Bloody Valentine or such. It is lo-fi, mid-paced, slow, fast, deathly, doomy, rocky and cacophonous. The extreme vocals with the German tongue are quite suitable and appropriate for the music. Good news on this album is that, aside from the voice-over narration, the quartet has given the clean vocals heard in the past the boot. The band and label like to reference ‘black’ as in black metal in reference to the Germans. Are there any satanic lyrics here? Probably not, making the proposition moot and mistaken, but in our world anything esoteric or harmonic is called ‘black metal.’ It has become a catch-all phrase like ‘death metal’ or worse ‘melodic death metal’ (this one is comic) or the biggest offender of all, namely ‘power metal.’ This last one is a description used by the malicious, the ignorant and the amateur to describe any and all keyboard-oriented flowery pomp rock with minimal (preferably none at all) metal content. Anyway, back to Stagwounder whose best description is given above in this paragraph. Der Eindringlichkeit Unversöhnlichster Garotteur is noisy and afflicted with the hissy drum sound described earlier. It is as if a vinyl record is skipping. Otherwise, this one is hard, noisy, extreme, complex and completed with lamenting guitars. Past the voice-over, which has quite a lot to say, the song ends with calm strumming and drums that comes across as being dubbed backwards. Is the band playing with our heads? Das Phantom Zerrinnt (‘The Phantom Dissolves’) goes to interesting places given the progression and tempo changes, which turn into a heavily progressive riff. This will be the last time you will hear a complaint about the drum sound. You get the picture. Ein Gewölbe Für Den Sarkophag Ihres Hoffens (no point in translating this one unless you have read two tomes by Immanuel Kant) picks up the pace and is a sonic typhoon. It does begin slowly and brooding though. The vocals reek of despair and sound parched. Further notable is Der Moder Heiligster Rechte. Probably the favourite of the disc, it is the strongest and heaviest cut present and pounds with power. The harmonic yet extreme proceedings are accompanied by murderous vocals. Singer JR is capable of mixing high pitch evil with lower toned guttural acrimony. Der Erlösung Durch Vernichtetwerden Entrückte Kern Unseres Wesens is an instrumental break that is simultaneously folk-ish and complex. The band has made its last cut a mid-paced and deliberate one before it picks up to sonic chaos with staccato riffing. Petition... has strange riffs, strange chords and deliberate effects. Stagwounder can take you to strange places if you want to go to such places.
It is imperative to mention that the album’s lyrics revolve around the work Pessimistenbrevier by 19th Century German philosopher Bahnsen. It speaks to nihilism and pessimism and the debate on whether to attempt to walk away. All hefty subject-matter and surprising from a band based in the beautiful and serene town of Heidelberg of all places. For that sound and aesthetic the band could be compared to acts like Italy’s Haunted, Agalloch or early Satyricon. Then again, one knows by now, there is more to the album than that. – Ali “The Metallian”


Interviews
Stagwounder Interview
It took a year and a half from the date of the recording, but singer JR, guitarist Kohelet, bassist Nein and drummer DD have issued their full-length debut album The Shrouded Muse Of The World's Lament through Crawling Chaos now. The quartet’s album leans heavily on the complex, the intricate and the philosophical. It garnered a positive reaction here at Metallian Towers and so Ali “The Metallian” invited the group to a conversation. Three of the four artists responsible for the record joined the meeting. – 27.12.2021

METALLIAN: Thank-you for the opportunity to interview you. Having listened to The Shrouded Muse Of The World's Lament album and read the lyrics and titles the obvious first question is whether anyone in the band is a philosophy major. The enthusiasm for the discipline is not in doubt, but has anyone formally studied the subject?
KOHELET: We usually don't discuss our lives apart from music, but we don't deny such a background. However, contributing to philosophical discourse is not a true concern of our music anyway. We contribute to our own art by putting it into this kind of context, adding several more layers for the esoterically inclined listener. Within the artistic framework, adaptations of this kind mainly function as allegories – we do not aim to do justice to possible referenced thinkers in a critical sense, but rather for something of a poetic transfiguration of philosophical themes.

METALLIAN: A follow-up question is what the band wants to convey with its second album, The Shrouded Muse Of The World's Lament. Julius Bahnsen is one of the known thought leaders of pessimism, but his pessimism does not seem to be either pessimistic or final.
KOHELET: What makes a ‘happy life’ impossible for Bahnsen is the contradiction within a subject's will arising from itself and from the outside. At the end of the breviary, which is part of the literary background of the album, there is a stage of successful nihilism where one could become content with being discontent so to speak, but this is not regarded as a fully stable state. The contradiction, on the other hand, is the essence of reality as his central metaphysical claim of the ‘Realdialektik’ goes and that would make his pessimism inescapable and thus final. Schopenhauer, the paradigm of a dark worldview according to cliché, has a rather sunny outlook in comparison. That is he has, alongside the Eastern thought he adores, a doctrine of redemption, which Bahnsen lacks. But with regards to what has been said earlier this might not matter that much for the album. The struggle with nihilism and idealism has been a recurring theme within our music, as abstract as it might be, and Bahnsen happens to manifest this struggle in a curious and most extreme way.

METALLIAN: To clarify, what is meant here by “outside?” Since nothing happens in a void, you may be talking about context of everything as in everything out there under the sun and the moon. Or does “outside” is something more specific such as a force directed deliberately at the will?
KOHELET: Quite generally, for example conflict between people and their interests.

METALLIAN: While we are here what does the title mean to you? What should it mean to us the listeners?
KOHELET: Just like the song titles the album title is a reference taken from Bahnsen, in this case from a passage that appears on the second track. It speaks to ‘Weltschmerz’ as a source of artistic inspiration with prophetic overtones, a sacralisation of suffering.

METALLIAN: Another obvious question then, why an album title in English when the song titles are in German? It lacks a certain authenticity or shall we say steadfastness.
KOHELET: You could call it inconsistent, but that has been our relationship with titles and language. With the song titles for this album we did away with the custom of coining trivial working titles so what we have now is just what they have been called from the beginning. It is their name, like an English speaker might have a Germanic name because the parents deemed it lovely.

METALLIAN: Musically, the band and label like to use the word “black” alongside an insistence that the musical landscape of Stagwounder is diverse. Within the confines of metal and extreme music the latter description makes sense. However, the former seems out of place. Would the band’s philosophy speak to Satan or triumph of evil in any place?
KOHELET: We don't insist on the ‘black;’ however, it is the subgenre we might feel closest to and that is why it is brought up. We prefer to refer to the music as ‘blackened’ rather than outright ‘black’ for we are aware that we are not doing much of the orthodox variety. When it comes to lyrical content, evil and Satan play a role in our music, but this wouldn't right away make it more black metal in our eyes because there is this exoteric version of Satanism that is just an inverted Christianity; like Darth Vader is sexier to you than Yoda, but you're first and foremost just a fan of Star Wars for the sake of narrative and aesthetic value. We can and do quote the bible as well and this does have its place in the veil of artistic expression under which we hide our ugly wounds, but so far we have been more concerned with dichotomies of another kind such as the one mentioned underlying the last releases and then, in general, life and spirit loosely defined in terms of early 20th century ‘Lebensphilosophie,’ which might encompass more ‘enlightened’ versions of Satanism on either side depending on what is meant by it. In conclusion, not that I fully agree with your question's implications, and without going into possible definitions of black metal, Satanism and evil, either way, if there are better suggestions, we wouldn't mind using other terms to describe our genre.

METALLIAN: Thanks for the elaboration, Kohelet. Let us focus on another aspect. Aside from a spoken word or voice-over the band has not returned to the well of clean vocals here. This is a contrast to your last release. Care to explain why?
JR: Well, as I recall our last release Abhold already missed the clean parts. I assume the well has run dry a little by now. Usually the development of the vocal lines is the part of the song writing when the first shape of the song is already given. I try to catch the vibe of the song to see where it takes me - obviously not too clean and well-lit places by now! As Abhold already was a lot rougher than his predecessor, it took that way and we decided to stay on it with the new record. Seemed more fitting in many ways.

METALLIAN: Am I wrong that Council Of Rats from Abhold contained clean vocals?
JR: Oh, you’re right. Didn’t have that one in mind. For me, the part of Council Of Rats you are mentioning is more a hybrid kind of singing that came out rather spontaneously. This time the focus was more on sounding rough in contrast to the melodies. Maybe it is a product of the times it was created in.

METALLIAN: Presumably, it would be as most art is. Either way, banishing clean vocals is rarely, if ever, a bad idea. The current disc is all the better for it. Could we explore two of the album’s tracks? Metallian’s second favourite is the sonic tumult of Ein Gewölbe Für Den Sarkophag Ihres Hoffens.
KOHELET: Of the longer songs this track is the most minimalist composition-wise and thereby comes closest to being ‘atmospheric’ while staying very conventional in structure; a song that wrote itself. The lyrical content is the tragic nature of hope. The title points to the concept of burying hope in a ritualized fashion and thereby commemorating the human tendency to relate positively to the future as something of the past. Apart from Der Erlösung Durch Vernichtetwerden Entrückte Kern Unseres Wesens, it is probably the most darkly reverent track.

METALLIAN: The best one on the album, however, is Der Moder Heiligster Rechte. Great vocals, great music and all in a harmonic setting.
KOHELET: This is the only, in a way, inconsistent song off the record because it contains compositional elements from different eras, i.e. a different time and place of mind than all the other songs and their elements. The bridge was written more than a decade earlier, but it fits over layers of the outro just like a second voicing. The outro, on the other hand, was one of the last segments written for the album in general. On its own, certainly the most diverse track musically as well: soft melodies, some black metal and certain rock elements, quite depressive and somehow wistful; more in the spirit of our earlier work structure-wise. The title reference to Bahnsen captures the concept of being forced to sacrifice what you consider most holy in order to gain some small material benefit, the sad reality of lost dignity and self-hatred with a pop culture-reference for the attentive reader.

METALLIAN: I have a hunch you won’t tell us what the pop culture reference is if I asked, but what did occur to me reading the lyrics was that the band has incorporated further in the way of the annals of philosophy by incorporating a Nietzsche reference. In that regard, is that correct?
JR: Yes. For me the image of the Turin horse sums up Bahnsen’s fatalism in a way. Embrace your misery, accept it.

METALLIAN: Incidentally, how did the band and Crawling Chaos find one another? How many albums have you signed for with the label?
JR: Beside the Stagwounder-cosm there are more ways of creating art for some of us, which resulted in a collaboration with our now label-mates Hexer. Out of this, the first contact with Holger emerged. As we cherish his outcome a lot, he was on our list from the beginning, and so it was a logical step to ask him to collaborate when we started to reach out for labels. It took some time but now the alliance is there. Let's see where the road leads us.

METALLIAN: Is the collaboration a joint concert or is there more of which fans should be cognizant?
NEIN: The collaboration rather refers to how my artwork Die Ewig Währende Rache Der Azteken was used as additional art for the vinyl version of Hexer’s album Realm Of The Feathered Serpent. Having said that, in more predictable times it would be very well imaginable our paths to cross with bands on Crawling Chaos.

METALLIAN: Thanks for the additional information and trivia. Let’s discuss and shake our heads at the band’s monicker, Stagwounder. It is a cruel, brutal, inhumane and human name. Who would be so far gone to wound a stag unless he is the typical arrogant and ignorant American Ted Nugent type? Basically, the band has reached to lows only dreamt of so far by the creativity of the writers at Disney. It is hurting Bambi as a title!
JR: When it first came to mind, we were amazed by the sound and the fury the name implies. And agreed, wounding and not necessarily killing a majestic animal as the stag is seen in general, is a very nasty act. Yet, if you look at the stag as a symbol for vitality and the sanctity of nature then that should clarify what we had in mind. I still think all our output follows the name's agenda in the way we're putting our fingers in the wound.
NEIN: In Bambi, the hunter succeeds in shooting him, but only wounds him and never manages to track the deer down. This may reflect ultimately on nature's strength to overcome trivial human capabilities.

METALLIAN: And that lack of success is a source of joy, but one would not call human’s destructive capabilities “trivial.” With that said, does this mean that you JR came up with the monicker?
JR: Maybe it first gained shape in my thoughts, but Stagwounder can be seen as a symbolic figure for the collective behind it. Stagwounder was brought to life by all of us. It is all of us.

METALLIAN: Given the band’s sounds, titles and monicker the question that needs to be posed is how could you be from Heidelberg and yet have so much roughness and distortion within you? Ruhrgebiet, maybe! Downtown Mannheim? Sure, but Heidelberg?
NEIN: Many former and current members of Stagwounder were neither born nor raised in Heidelberg. Through this mixture we cast our own, as you called it, roughness and distortion in a supposedly exotic environment.
JR: Well, Milton once said the mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven. Let's say Heidelberg appears a lot more attractive to the casual visitor than the steady resident.

METALLIAN: That line won’t do much for making you the spokesperson for Heidelberg Tourism, JR. To end our conversation, everyone and anyone know that Metallian is the single best metal resource here, there or anywhere. Why do you also agree?
KOHELET: Why shouldn't we?

Indeed, simply that. The album of the Germany-based band is available through Crawling Chaos. The band maintains a page at https://stagwounder.bandcamp.com/music .

If you enjoyed this, read Whitemour

Stagwounder