Summer is approaching, which means summoning black metal to the front of my listening queue once again. However, I have decided to opt for something a little calmer than the usual screeching and atmosphere of what I usually go for, and that means softer strains of black metal to start. Now, imagine my surprise when I heard that, after seven long years, Dornenreich were returning with their ninth full-length release, Du wilde Liebe sei (“You, wild love, be”), and I was ecstatic. One of neofolk’s long-standing stalwarts, Dornenreich is a band that oozes both mystery and practicality in their music, and that combination pulls the listener in, showing them the sensuality of neofolk.
Unlike past albums, Du wilde is a return to previous form for Dornenreich, as their previous album, Freiheit, showcased more experimentation, leaving behind some of the neofolk that the band was known for. Here, Du wilde showcases a band that thrives on both emotionality and instrumentality, taking their time to focus on how that translates into a record while also making callbacks to both Flammentriebe and In Luft geritzt, in particular. Here, the focus is placed on the music and on Eviga’s precise yet haunting vocals, which can simultaneously send shivers up your spine and lull you to sleep. The vocals only add to the atmosphere Du wilde presents, adding to its inherent allure and serenity, yet pulsing with vitality and melody.
Opening track “So ruf sie wach das Sehnen” starts things off calmly, as if beckoning the listener to take a chance with what they are about to experience. It’s almost romantic – someone you might have known for some time asks you to implicitly trust them so they can show you something. That’s when the second track, “In Strömen aus Verwandlung ein flackerloses Licht” kicks in, rewarding the listener for sticking around. This track shows a flurry of color akin to bright city lights, like when you drive fast through a highway with functioning streetlights, like a moving painting. It asks you to put away your sense of disbelief and let the music flow through you, adding more vibrancy to highlight the emotional aspects of the music. As the album continues, that vibrancy and emotionality become heightened, almost as if you are on fire, bright and high on what is given to you. If we go back to the romance metaphor, it’s almost like yearning, where you want to see that person you have been spending a lot of time with and see what else they have to show you. It almost feels like the music – and, by extension, the band – is courting you to spend more and more time with it, beckoning you to come close and sit in its web.
Du wilde sits with you even after it ends, holding you close and letting you know that you are more than welcome to bask in its vibrancy and sensuality. In fact, closing track “Freiheit erlösen” echoes this, as it pulls off one of the most romantic bridges a third into the song. This is what the album has been moving towards: a track the encompasses everything they have taken the time to build, culminating in a flurry of atmosphere that makes you yearn for something more. This is always the feeling I have been left whenever I listen to a Dornenreich album: there is always something that pulls you back and makes you realize that not everything that you know about a particular genre falls within the boxes we have assigned it to.
Black metal, by its very definition, is anything but romantic and sensual; and yet, Du wilde, with its symphonic undertones and heart-wrenching yet serene melodies, proves to be the exception to the rule.
All in all, Du wilde Liebe sei is an album whose mysterious appeal and excellent instrumentality highlight the talents of a band who have returned to their musical canon with a new dimension that shows off the fruits of their labor. I am excited to see what else the band has in store for future releases, but I like to think that Du wilde Liebe sei sets up a foundation for whatever new territory the band wants to explore. Welcome back, Dornenreich; no one does neofolk like you.
Hasta la proxima!