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Seelenlicht - Gods and Devils

With Abraxas emblazoned on the cover and a title Gods and Devils you might be forgiven for expecting a release based around Gnosticism and the warrior ethic from this collaboration between HERR's Troy Southgate and Butow Maler and Herr Twiggs of Kammer Sieben. Instead Gods and Devils offers a selection of disparate songs, coupled with many tracks comprising Troy Southgate's expansive and expressive polemical vision. Besides his considerable musical outlets Troy Southgate it should be noted has been active in various political organisations and is also editor of the Synthesis website.

The best tracks on Gods and Devils are the most song based and generally based on literary sources. The strident orchestral music, acoustic guitars and martial drumming of 'Demian', based on the Hermann Hesse novel, is stirring enough. 'She Walks In Beauty' sets Lord Byron's poem to lilting acoustic guitars, accompanied by some fine string arrangements. It captures a quaint Englishness but its effect is lessened due to Southgate's hesitant delivery which veers between spoken voice and some half-hearted melodies. Much better is 'Herne The Hunter', where over brooding strings Southgate and Eustacia Vye, alternate vocal duties based on passages by Shakespeare and an anonymous Berkshire poet about the ancient antlered spirit said to inhabit Windsor Forest. Backed by strings, martial drumming and his daughter's harmonies, Southgate's vivid descriptions of old London set the scene for the murder ballad 'Love's Final Hour'.

'Valhalla' is a satirical and succinct catalogue of authors, poets and philosophers delivered over snare drum rolls. It's a curious piece as is 'The Modern Saxons'. On 'Herne The Hunter', 'Love's Final Hour' and 'She Walks In Beauty' Seelenlicht prove adept at conjuring up an old England but set against acoustic guitar and strings, 'The Modern Saxons' with its description of suburban pin-striped commuters is like listening to a a neo-folk track penned by a teenage Paul Weller.

It's fairly apparent that Troy Southgate isn't too comfortable with modern day living and the effect on England. The three parts of 'Diary of Desolation' allow Southgate to ruminate at length on capitalism, consumerism and conformity. It's a hard dose of reality amongst the folk tales and literary names. And really it makes for a thoroughly depressing listening as Southgate's draws images of "pin-striped insects" and "cogs in the economic machinery" amidst his commuter-belt philosophising. These tracks, alongside the equally wordy 'Idle Thoughts On The Janus Shore' really should have been confined to a separate release.

On the whole though Gods and Devils is a frustrating release. What could have arguably been a refreshing blend of symphonic and folk music - with occasional use of humour - is instead let down by some the bleak spoken-word polemics that just doesn't gel with the folk songs. For more information go to www.coldspring.co.uk