The spiritual neofolk band Nebelung from Bonn, Germany have long been favourites at Otherworld and one of the earliest bands that opened up the whole esoteric genre. After being swept away by their last release ‘Palingenesis’ they soon became one of the most essential artists to listen to for spiritual meditation when the need to journey into oneself arose. Their acoustic music is minimalistic yet enriched with beautiful and breathtaking melodies and harmonies that weave around the soul. They create trance-like, repetitively spellbinding pieces that connect you to nature wherever you may be located.
A decade ago, their first release, Mistleteinn (German for ‘mistletoe’) came out on the now-defunct Eislicht label who were renowned for their prominent neofolk releases. It has now been released by Temple of Tortuous, a Swedish black metal label, oddly enough, as Nebelung are the polar opposite to black metal. Yet having said this, there is an overwhelming trend of black metal bands veering towards spirituality and infusing folk music into their art. This debut re-release has a new album cover, coming out in both white vinyl and in digital format where the artwork is more in line with Palingenesis, a monochromatic and artistic close-up of what seems to be thistles awashed in sepia.
There are subtle changes to the original release with partial rearrangements and some material re-recorded anew. What is different about this Mistleteinn from Palingenesis, or more notable, is that this album is a collection of unselfconscious songs that are personal and heartfelt.
Mistelteinn features the same line-up as it does today with Stefan Otto and Thomas List combing their beautiful, melancholic acoustic or classical guitars and at times accordion with chimes and nature samples. These two alone create powerful melodies, simplistic yet woven with magic as heard in the short introduction before it leads after a minute and a half into their first song ‘Heimsuchung’ (translated as ‘visitation’).
This song introduces the stunning cello which defines and completes the Nebelung essence of the pairing of beauty and melancholy performed by Katharina Hoffman. The song itself roughly translates into a ballad about falling asleep in the arms of a loved one who provides a nurturing happiness but is yet troubled deeply by the fearful shadows in the dreams alone in torment. The fear of these severe anxieties is enough to waken them back in to the lulling beauty of consciousness – although it is hard to determine whether the dream is being in the loving state of embrace and comfort and the reality is the pain itself.
Either way there is a clear duality of darkness and light which pervades most of their music.
‘Abel und Kain’ is yet again another contrast between pain and peace with the obvious reference to the accursed offspring of Cain in the wilderness ever set to roam the earth in painful exile whereas Abel graciously resides in the light of peace, health and love. Here again there is a delicate balance in contrast in good and evil or dark and light, like a chiaroscuro painting with sound.
‘Regen In Der Dämmerung’ (Rain at Twilight) is a journey through the night, probably metaphoric of the journey through one’s internal darkness where as the night draws in through the rain and the haunting whispering voices of the wind, we travel through to the dawn, unfruitful or unresolved at the end but with the vigour and renewed energy to push ahead regardless.
The next track is the title track Mistelteinn which is an instrumental composition showcasing the cello at the forefront creating its deep melody in yearning evoke images of an Autumnal woodland where the mistletoe thrives upon the oak, perhaps for use in druid magic or celebration of the gifts of nature in their primal state. Their music is similar to Musk Ox, Sangre De Muerdago and Forseti.
The last track ‘Heimatloss’ (Homeless) begins with an almost military drum march with single guitar leading with a shimmering high-end cello. It is hard to tell what the song is about in translation – am uncertain whether it’s a stubborn bird who refuses to migrate in the winter and stays behind and is yet without a home, but it’s more than likely to be a poetic metaphor or translation of some literary classical text.
Mistelteinn is a highly recommended and wonderful collection of melancholic and bittersweet poetic songs of lulling beauty with a brooding undertone where loves shines brightly within the shadows of the fading sun.