Saturday, May 10, 2014

Terra Fria Retrospective - Allerseelen - Pedra


Good day!

Welcome to the first part of what I hope is a six or seven part series of retrospective essays of the defunct Terra Fria label. The Terra Fria label was an important label to me because many of the bands I listen to and hold in high regard I discovered via their releases on this label. I am hoping to recreate the success I had with my review/essay of the TSIDMZ album Ungern von Sternberg Khan by diving deep into each Terra Fria release, and not only provide my opinion on the aesthetic (the review), but also try to unearth any cultural, historical, or other hidden contexts and subtexts. Much like the TSIDMZ essay, I’d like to capture as much voice and quotations from the artisans as possible to create a “definite” essay. At the same time as trying to accomplish these goals, I’d like to uncover a bit more about the ephemeral nature of many of these labels that specialize in neofolk and martial music. So many have a life span that is barely a blink of an eye, and some may only release a small handful of releases. Terra Fria is certainly one of these labels, and perhaps by digging deep into its catalog, the plight of the indie neofolk label can be surmised.

The first essay for this retrospective is Pedra by Allerseelen. This seems like an obvious choice since chronologically it’s the first Terra Fria CD. However I wanted to use what I learned from this CD to help provide a template or stepping stone into looking into the other Terra Fria CDs. I wanted to showcase the success of this essay to the other artists as well.

This essay proper not only dives deep into the themes of Pedra, but it really has definitive account of the influence of Leni Riefenstahl on Gerhard and his project. I think this is an excellent illustration of how various cultural, historical, and artistic artifacts and concepts have a profound influence on the various neofolk/martial bands. It is these types of connections I’d like to spotlight more and more with the essays on this blog.

Sincere gratitude and thanks go to Gerhard of Allerseelen for providing many of the photographs for this essay along with his lyrics and quotations that I cite that really illustrate all the wonderful facets and background of this release. 

UPDATE - 2014-08-11 - Gerhard has made the tracks for Pedra available for purchase via Bandcamp. The links section and the Final Thoughts section of this essay have been updated to reflect this great news.

Biasness

A tiny fraction of an amount. Pedra was the first Allerseelen CD I ever bought and what got me into the band. Allerseelen is fairly revered in the neofolk scene, however I don’t have the rapport with the project as I do with other bands or artists, so that does limit my biasness.

General Overview and Packaging

One of the attributes of a Terra Fria CD that stands out from other labels is that their packaging and layout are standardized and uniform across all releases. This creates a certain visual canon to the Terra Fria repertoire. Another example of a band that does this is KMFDM – with a few minor exceptions, all of KMFDM’s releases and packaged and laid out the same: Brute! artwork in the center, black background, same typeface, “KMFDM” written at the top and the album’s title (typically five letters) written at the bottom. This gives KMFDM releases a particular identity, a conceptual one. Terra Fria succeeds in this endeavor as well.


Pedra - Case and CD, from my personal collection.

Allerseelen’s Pedra album exhibits these Terra Fria hallmarks perfectly. Instead of a standard jewel case or digipack, the album is packaged in a CD Caddi style case. This is a one-piece black polypropylene case that accommodates a wrap around sleeve. Think of standard black DVD case that is the size of a CD case and you’d have an accurate comparison. The Pedra album is also released to a limited quantity of 500 copies, a trait shared by all other Terra Fria releases as well.

Cover wrap-around - photo courtesy from Gerhard Hallstatt 
The sleeve of Pedra is grey, with picture of a druid standing atop a small megalith on the cover. The linear booklet credits the photograph to Le Doaré taken around 1912. The druid stands atop the Dolmen de Ménez Lié, a site that is on the western-most peninsula in France. The megalith on the cover conveys the theme of stones and mountains of this album succinctly. The Allerseelen name and album title rest atop and below the picture respectively in a slight-italicized serif typeface that has become iconic of the band (see the typeface on albums such as Hallstatt, Rauhe Schale, and others). The reverse side of the cover insert conforms to the same layout, but with a tracklisting and a picture of Gerhard. Per Gerhard, when deciding on what pictures to use, he looked through his personal archive for suitable pictures while the cover image was suggested by Rui Carvalheria.1

Lyrics side of insert - photo courtesy of Gerhard Hallstatt

The insert of Pedra contains the lyrics for all three songs, in both German and in Portuguese. The outer art of the insert depicts brown stone cliffs, coupled with additional photography by Gerhard along with his musings and dedications for each song. The defunct Geocities URL betrays the age of this CD.

Linear notes side of insert - photo courtesy of Gerhard Hallstatt

Even with the CD being many years old, Gerhard recalls the genesis of the album with clarity:

I had been in contact with Rui Carvalheira, the man behind Terra Fria, already in 2001 or 2002. Both of us were not only interested in music but also in love with mountains, so we already had two strong interests in common. When he invited Allerseelen and Sangre Cavallum from Northern Portugal to perform together in the village Odrinhas and to release something special for this event, all of us agreed that we should record and release something that combined both – our passions for songs and stones, for music and megaliths. Sangre Cavallum liked this idea too. Soon we had a title for the release: “Pedra”, the Portuguese word for stone.

Terra Fria organized this event on November 1st, 2003 at the Museo Arqueologico in Odrinhas, close to beautiful Sintra. This Museo was a great place – our performance took place inside the museum, surrounded by prehistoric artefacts and also estelas discoideas, a very beautiful kind of funeral tombstones that one may find only on the Iberian peninsula. Allerseelen then consisted of two drummers of the German group Hekate, Axel and Mario, and me. Actually the MCD Pedra should have been a split release with Allerseelen and Sangre Cavallum - like all later releases on Terra Fria. But for private reasons Sangre Cavallum cancelled their participation in the Pedra release and also in the event at the Museo Arqueologico. I believe that Sangre Cavallum later used some songs on their great and megalithic folklore CD Patria Granitica that originally should have been published on the MCD Pedra.2

Track Analysis

Pedra, though a short release, is a very compact and complex release. The overall theme is in regards to mountains, stones, rocks, monoliths and menhirs. Two of the three tracks receive inspiration from and are dedicated to characters of bergfilme, a distinct genre of films that emerged in Germany in the interbellum period. The songs, texts, musical imagery along with Gerhard’s accompanying photography in a way make Pedra take on aspects of the bergfilme proper. The importance of these films from back then to today – to both popular culture and to Gerhard’s music needs to be highlighted for this essay. Gerhard writes on the subject:

There are definitely several reasons why these beautiful mountain movies from the early twentieth century are important. For example, they may create in the audience a strong passion and love for the beauty of the mountains and may create at the same time an ecological awareness for an endangered nature. One of my favourite mountain movies, The Blue Light / Das blaue Licht by Leni Riefenstahl, is not only a cineastic masterpiece but also a wonderful example for a fairy tale in cinema with a very clear ecological and ethical message: Innocent nature is in danger when a majority of human beings only thinks in terms of materialism - in this movie this endangered nature is symbolized by an idyllic grotto, full of crystals, that is guarded by a young woman.

These films also warn of the risks of adventures in the mountains: Beauty and danger, peak and abyss, idyll and disaster are very close to each other. Most mountain movies are basically alpine tragedies with sometimes kitschy elements, but at the same time they are also psychodramas: The alpine outdoor experiences very often find an equivalent in strong emotions inside the psyche of the actors, love or hate or ambition. I personally am interested in these movies as I love mountains and like to watch well-known and unknown peaks through the eyes or lenses of other artists and film-makers to find out how they express their love for, but also fear of mountains in their art.3

Many of the points Gerhard brings up are definitely addressed in Pedra and will be illustrated in the proceeding analysis. The key phrase about the films, that they “may create in the audience a strong passion and love for the beauty of the mountains”, can certainly be said about the intentions of Pedra as well.

Aside from the cinematic quality, Gerhard’s brings his own personal relationship from the mountains to his music, especially on Pedra. 

I got to know the Austrian mountains as I accompanied my father who spent all his free time in the Alps - and my father fell in love with the mountains because of my grandfather – and probably my grandfather also accompanied his father into the mountains. This passion for alpinism has been quite strong in my family for several generations and still is: With this love I am in a very Austrian tradition of my family and I hope to handle over this flame of tradition one day to my children. I grew up close to beautiful mountains in Upper Austria, and still today I only really feel at home in Austria or also other countries when I am able to see mountain ranges at the horizon or when I know that they are close.4

With this theme firmly established, this essay will look at each track on Pedra and perform the following: provide a personal review on the artistic and aesthetic quality of the song, provide lyrics that have been graciously allowed by Gerhard to be printed here, and then dive into a deep analysis of the cultural and historical tropes of which inspire these songs. While the theme of mountains, rocks, etc. is the grand thematic goal of Pedra, there is actually much more substance that needs to be unearthed.

Steingeburt

Review

An Allerseelen song or album can be tough to review. For Allerseelen, there is a formula that Gerhard sticks to for his releases. The sounds may differ a little but, but the song structures adhere to a repeating formula. In a way, they are like dance or EBM songs, without being “electro”, but instead gravelly, vintage percussion, and distorted guitars. Markus Wolff of the band Waldteufel describes the early music of Allerseelen as “ghostly landscapes that rely on simple yet odd rhythms”5 with the instrumentation “almost all electronic now, resulting in a strong rhythmic attack, overlaid with mostly spoken worlds.”6 This description is pretty apt at describing most of Allerseelen’s work, Pedra included.

This isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The songs in an Allerseelen release, though structurally are very similar, still has enough variety in the sounds and instruments to make each song stand. But it does have the effect that makes an entire album blend together, and Pedra most certainly does that.

Video for “Steingeburt” on Gerhard’s official YouTube page.

The first track on Pedra is the song “Steingeburt”, a grumbly song that makes me think of a rock tumbler polishing stones. It sounds somewhat like a bass, with a minimal synth, repeating over a looped percussion. The percussion isn’t a normal drum, nor is it like “Sheet metal” industrial, but it does make me think of the rhythm one would hear of miners at work, toiling away. On top of the music, the simple lyrics are delivered in an emotive, but spoken word style. In the interview with Markus, Gerhard states that “I like the idea of uniting spoken word and a psycho-acoustic landscape in the background.”7 This quotation seems very apropos for describing this song’s structure and sound (along with the other two songs on this CD).

Reworked version on Gerhard’s official YouTube page (video doesn't want to embed)

The song is rhythmic and has that hypnotic quality one gets from the looped music. It’s catchy, but not as catchy as the next track, “Krieger aus Stein”.

Verdict – Good Track (2nd best track on Pedra)

Lyrics

The lyrics for “Steingeburt” is an original text by Gerhard. His translation is as follows:

Edged
And steep
The holy mountain

Cooler
And Colder
Also the Blood

Stone Birth

Rise
From the stone

Rise
From the stone
Into the light

Stone birth

Clarity
And truth

Hard currency
The holy mountain

Analysis

In the original linear notes to “Steingeburt”, Gerhard dedicates the song to the character of Diotima from the film The Holy Mountain, while elaborating on the song’s corresponding picture of a dolmen at El Pozuelo, Andalucia.

Photo by Gerhard Hallstatt

Gerhard expands on his inspiration for this song:

The song Steingeburt (Stone Birth) is inspired by the mysteries of Mithras in the Roman empire. Mithras was a god without mother, he was not born out of the womb of a woman but grew out of a stone – this rock is called petra genetrix. I like this myth very much and visited probably dozens of Mithras temples in various countries, a lot of them in Italy but also in countries like Germany, Slovenia, Croatia. I wrote about these temples also in a chapter in my book Blutleuchte. In some way each mountain experience makes me think of the petra genetrix. Each successful ascent is in a certain way a kind of birth or also rebirth: The mountain gives birth to me when I reach the peak.8

The chapter Gerhard is referring to in his book is chapter 18. Here Gerhard speaks of visiting a mithras temple in Halberg and being awed by the red stones and masonry in the grotto, along with its general impressiveness.9 But at the same time he writes in a tone of disappointment at finding many facimilies of artifacts instead of the genuine article at the site, and objects – such as the very important bull – coloured in error.10 For Gerhard, the most important things to him where “the cultic sites where Mithras’s followers had celebrated their mysteries while the cultic works of art-chalk-colored relics lit by spotlights in the museums, torn out of their original enviroment” were less so.11

The lyrics for “Steingeburt” certainly pay homage to mithras, with key phrases such as “rise / from the stone / into the light” where the light is a good metaphor for the sun and thus Mithras and the rising from the stone being the concept of descending into the mother rock. However the references to “the holy mountain” may be of even more importance since it probably carries a double meaning. The first meaning must certainly be in regards to these Mithras’ temples as holy places themselves. However the second meaning could be a veiled reference to the 1926 film, The Holy Mountain. This is supported by Gerhard dedicating this song to the protagonist of the film, Diotima, in his linear notes. Diotima is played by Leni Riefenstahl, and “Steingeburt” marks the first instance on Pedra in which Gerhard dedicates a song to a Riefenstahl character. The second instance is in the song “Unverändert” which will be fleshed out in greater detail in its own analysis.

Diotima - screencapture from personal copy of The Holy Mountain

Riefenstahl’s influence on Gerhard is profound and “Steingeburt” sets the stage at demonstrating this. Elaborating on the character of Diotima and The Holy Mountain, Gerhard quips:

Diotima, inspired by the muse in Friedrich Hölderlin´s work Hyperion, is the woman in The Holy Mountain / Der heilige Berg by Arnold Fanck……Recently I re-read in Leni Riefenstahl´s memories about the making of Der heilige Berg / The Holy Mountain. I was again touched very much by a still from the movie showing a couple inside a palace with huge white pillars, like a  symbol of eternal love – but actually this palace had been cut into the ice of a frozen lake in Switzerland, and the ice melted away after the scenes were filmed – so it was only an apparent allegory of this eternity. The creation of this ice palace for the film is a good example for the way how Leni Riefenstahl and other directors worked: They decided to film as much as possible in real nature, to make everything as authentic as possible.12

Dedicating the lyrics to Diotima doesn’t seem quite as apropos though as the lyrics don’t really apply to her character in The Holy Mountain. Her character in the film is a dancer of the sea who falls in love with a master skier. The master’s best friend also falls in love with Diotima and in “drama of errors” of when the master misconstrues an interaction between Diotima and his best friend Vigo, the film ends with both dying on a mountain during dangerous conditions. Diotima has a modicum of transformation as she, either foolishly or bravely, ascends the mountain to seek help to save the master and Vigo, but this “rebirth” is short lived as by the end of the film she returns to the sea.

Krieger aus Stein

Review

“Krieger as Stein” is the 2nd track on Pedra and holds the title as the release’s best song. The Allerseelen formula is still in full play here, with the layered looping music. Instead of the gravelly sounds of “Steingeburt”, “Krieger aus Stein” delivers a more up-tempo song. It sounds like a combination of a repeating guitar but also a repeating violin in the background as well. The violin gives the song an interesting mixture: it sounds wistful but it also straggles sounding “pop”-esque at the same time. But it is a pleasant combination, and it makes it stand out from the other two tracks on Pedra. The vocals are delivered in the same spoken word style that repeats itself along with the music, but become a bit more flourished at the song’s end.

Video for “Krieger as Stein” on Gerhard’s official YouTube page.

Verdict – Good song (best track on Pedra)

Lyrics

The lyrics for “Steingeburt” is an original text by Gerhard. His translation is as follows:

Stone warriors
Stone warriors

The sun
Already stood low

Stone warriors
Stone warriors

The sun
Already stood low

In the shadow
Of the menhirs

I myself became
Entirely stone

Warriors of stone
Warriors of stone

Is also
My shell
Rough enough

Is also
My husk
Raw enough

Analysis

The Pedra linear notes state that “Krieger aus Stein” is about warrior menhirs on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea.

Photo by Gerhard Hallstatt

Gerhard provides additional insight into these stone warriors:

The song “Krieger aus Stein” (Warriors of Stone) refers to an impressive alignment of menhirs that I visited several years ago on the Mediterranean island Korsika. This prehistoric site is called Palaggiu, it consists of dozens of anthropomorphic menhirs, and on some of them one may still notice today stone swords or stone daggers. Unfortunately most of these weapons have become invisible. There are legends that these menhirs were ancient warriors that were turned into megaliths by a curse – and one day another magical charm may wake them up again: This would be another stone birth. I like Korsika, it is an island full of heavy blocks of granite that often has very surreal forms. Granite is a hard rock that is also slightly radioactive – and all these qualities also heavily influence the character of the people living in heroic landscapes, on Korsika as well as in Portugal or some parts in Austria.13

The weapons Gerhard speaks of, no doubt “invisible” today due to the forces of erosion, give vivid imagery of these warriors. The lyrics “I myself become / entirely of stone” contains the hints of petrifaction, no doubt from the curse Gerhard mentions.  The warriors were once alive – brave, formidable – but now not only immortalized in stone, but also in this musical composition as well. A paradoxical honour (from the song) and curse (from the legend).

Unverändert

Review

“Unverändert” is the third and final song on Pedra. Of the three tracks, this is the most minimal in sounds but the most verbose in vocals/lyrics. This doesn’t 100% work as well though, since the previous two tracks, the lyrics are delivered in repetition along with the music, so it flows and merges well together. Since this piece is a quotation from a Herman Hesse fairytale recited over music, it lacks the same flow as the prior two songs. It most certainly is a good track, but it doesn’t quite hold its own in relation to the preceding two Pedra tracks (and other Allerseelen songs) in both its composition and aural experience. In this regard, it is perhaps best relegated to the outro that it is.

Video from Gerhard’s official YouTube channel.

Verdict – Good song (weakest track on Pedra)

Lyrics

The German lyrics of “Unverändert” are adopted from this passage from the fairy tale “Faldum” by German author Hermann Hesse:

Everyone who had been young at that time was now old, and those who had been old were now dead. Only the mountain stood unchanged and ageless, and when the snow on his peak glistened, he seemed to smile and be happy that he was no longer a human being and no longer had to calculate according to standards of human time. The cliffs of the mountain beamed high above the city and the countryside. His tremendous shadow wandered every day over the land. His streams and rivers announced in advance the change of the seasons. The mountain had become the protector and father of all. He generated forests and meadows with waving grass and flowers. He produced springs, snow, ice and stones. Colorful grass grew on the stones, and forget-me-nots alongside the streams. Deep down in the mountain were caves where water dripped like silver threads year after year from stone to stone in eternal rhythm, and in his chasms were secret chambers where crystals grew with a thousand-year patience. Nobody had ever reached the peak of the mountain. But many people claimed to know that there was a small round lake way up on the top, and that nothing but the sun, moon, clouds, and stars had ever been reflected in it. Neither human nor animal had ever looked into this basin of water that the mountain held up toward the heavens, for not even eagles could fly that high.14

Analysis

In the linear notes for “Unverändert”, Gerhard states that he has dedicated the song to the stone witch Junta from Das Blaue Licht, making it the second song dedicated to a character played by Leni Riefenstahl on Pedra. Gerhard’s ardor for Riefenstahl isn’t just confined to these two tracks on Pedra, but also include having the song “Sturmleid” with an accompanying essay appearing on the Riefenstahl compilation put out by VAWS in 1996, various positive references to her in his Blutleuchte book, and the vinyl release Alle Lust Will Ewigkeit/Traumleid.


Alle Lust Will Ewigkeit/Traumleid Riefenstahl compilations - from my personal collection.

In an interview with the now defunct French webzine Noiseist, Gerhard, while talking about the Alle Lust Will Ewigkeit/Traumleid EP, elaborates on his adoration to Riefenstahl:

She was and still is a beautiful and powerful woman. She reminds me of the Tarot card Forza - the woman or goddess with the lion. I recently saw her in a documentary - she is still very charming, very active. I sent some copies of this blue vinyl 7" release to her in Bavaria and got a very friendly answer. She was amazed and surprised by this release. She was a dancer before her career as filmmaker. One of her dances was called Traumblüte - Dream Blossom. I dedicated this 7" to her because Traumlied means Dream Song and “Alle Lust will Ewigkeit” (All Lust Wants Eternity) has for me a deep connection to Leni Riefenstahl's beautiful movie Das blaue Licht (The Blue Light) about a girl living in the mountains, guarding a grotto with blue crystals.15

Gerhard expands further on this anecdote:

Several years ago Allerseelen released a blue vinyl 7“ with the songs “Alle Lust will Ewigkeit” and “Traumlied” – and we decided to put on the front cover a beautiful portrait of Junta from Das blaue Licht. The back cover showed two stills from Der Heilige Berg with [a] beautiful Leni Riefenstahl dancing. We did not ask for permission [to use these images], but when this 7” came out, I sent some copies to Leni Riefenstahl. Somehow I had come across her address. I am not certain if she loved the music – although these were rather smooth Allerseelen songs - but she appreciated the beautiful blue and silver artwork: She briefly wrote back that she was glad that Das blaue Licht still today was an inspiration for young people after all these years. She also sent a beautiful Junta photo with her autograph.

Once I also had the idea to record a new soundtrack for Das blaue Licht and mentioned this to my grandmother Viktoria. She also had liked Das blaue Licht very much in her youth. My grandmother then answered: Why? There is no reason for this - the film already has such a beautiful music. Allerseelen also had plans for another 7“ with some colourful and almost psychedelic photos of corals that Leni Riefenstahl had taken underwater. I mentioned this in a letter to a secretary of Leni Riefenstahl, and both seemed to like the idea. But this 7“ was never published.16

Four years after the release of the Alle List Will Ewigkeit/Traumleit EP and Gerhard’s interactions, Leni Riefenstahl would sadly pass away at the age of 101. Though Gerhard was not able to realize another 7” in honour of Riefenstahl, he was still able to pay respects to her:

Some years ago I also searched for her tomb on a cemetery in München. It was late December, there was some snow, and it was not that easy to find it. When I discovered the tomb, there was on it a small Christmas tree. Nearby I found some matches, lit the candles and thus I celebrated in a very intimate way a belated winter solstice with Leni Riefenstahl. Again, beauty and sadness were very close to each other, in her Das blaue Licht as well as in her real life. Leni Riefenstahl stated various times that she felt treated and persecuted after the war like the female outlaw Junta in her own movie. Her tombstone had a triangular hole with a rock crystal – already before my travel I had seen a photo of this. Obviously the iconography of Das blaue Licht – rock, cave, crystal – still was very important for her in her last years as she could have chosen also completely different symbols for her tombstone. But when I stood in front of her tombstone, this hole, a symbolic grotto, was empty: Someone had stolen the rock crystal - another sacrilege, another desecration had taken place. Inside the empty hole there was a piece of paper complaining about the cold heart of the thieve that had not even hesitated to steal something from a cemetery. I lit a candle inside the hole and promised to return one day with another rock crystal. The candles on the small Christmas tree were burning, and I imagined Leni Riefenstahl in her tomb like Junta sitting inside her magical grotto, praying in front of her beloved precious stones.17

Photo by Gerhard Hallstatt

In this statement, Gerhard begins solidifies his deep personal connection to Riefenstahl. This romanticism also extends Riefenstahl’s film Das Blaue Licht. In Blutleuchte, Gerhard elaborates the profound effect this film had on him:

For many moons I searched for the film. I loved it passionately without ever having seen it. When I finally watched Das Blaue Licht for the first time late one evening in a dark chamber, I was totally enchanted and caught up in the web of its sensual, transcendental aura and sad beauty. I was enchanted by this film, this play of light that seemed to exist entirely under the sign of Selene, under the sign of the moon. The moon – a blue light – a girl that evokes the impression of being a young lunar priestess, elements that transformed the film into a sanctuary in my heart.18

Gerhard then proceeds to talk about the film, its production and possible ties to a Grimms’ fairy in the proceeding pages.

Junta - screencapture from personal copy of The Blue Light

In regards to the text proper, Gerhard elaborates:

The recording “Unverändert” (Unchanged) is inspired by a fairy tale written by  Hermann Hesse named “Faldum”. It takes place in a small village that is visited by a stranger. He asks the villagers for their wishes and fulfills them immediately. Most of the villagers have material wishes, small ones, big ones - but a young man has a surprising desire: He wants to become a mountain. His wish is fulfilled too. On the peak of this mountain there is a lake which never was seen by a human being - just the eagles that fly high in the sky know about its existence. One day the man that fulfilled all the wishes climbs the mountain – and the mountain then has another wish. Hermann Hesse is still one of my favourite writers, he inspired various Allerseelen songs in the last years.19

The choice of using text from a Herman Hesse fairy tale, and not the Brothers Grimm as hinted in Blutleuchte, for this song which is dedicated to Riefenstahl/Junta is an interesting choice. Comparing and contrasting between the original story of “Faldum” to Das Blaue Licht generates some surprising similarities, which may add an additional dimension to this song.

“Faldum” is a short fairy tale about a small town visited by a stranger who grants each citizen one wish. One of the persons wishes to become a mountain that spends eons providing resources to the town. Das blaue Licht is about a mountain that glows blue in the light of the full moon. Only Junta can negotiate the mountain to the hidden grotto full of crystals within. All the men of the town who attempt ultimately fall to their death, causing the town to blame and shun her. A traveler to the town falls in love with Junta, and reveals the secret path to the grotto to the townsfolk who proceed to loot it. Grief-stricken, Junta commits suicide by plummeting from the mountain.

The mountain in “Faldum” is created at the moment when one of the townsfolk, a young man who appreciates the music of a violin being played by another, wishes to become a mountain, to be able to listen and observe the town, and think of things immortal.20 The mountain he becomes, as the text “Unverändert” borrows from indicates, cannot be climbed, and thus has its own hidden secrets, such as the lake on its peak that no man or animal has seen. The mountain also is a source of wealth, not just from the streams and snow it provides, but deep inside the mountain is a hidden cache of crystals.

The mountain in Das blaue Licht, called Monte Cristallo, wasn’t formed overnight like its counterpart in “Faldum”, but it shares the same secrets. Monte Cristallo is also untraverseable – the only person being able to is Junta. Everyone else who attempts fatally fails. Monte Cristallo also has a hidden cache of crystals, located in the grotto near the mountain’s top.

The towns in both tales, Faldum in “Faldum” and Santa Maria in Das Blaue Licht, share a very unique event together. Both towns come into a sudden burst of wealth almost instantaneously. The stranger in “Faldum” visits the town and each person is granted one wish. Some of the wishes are wasted on petty or silly things, (such as a fountain full of wine), but many are used for new houses, fortunes, carriages, new clothes, money, etc. The denizens in Santa Maria in Das blaue Licht come into instant wealth when Monte Cristallo is hastily mined of all the crystals in its grotto. So eager are the villagers to rape the grotto they leave their tools and some discarded crystals behind. In essence, both towns have the same event (instant wealth) happen to them. And to further clarify, both have “finite” wealth happen to them. The townsfolk in “Faldum” only gain one wish, while the townfolks in Das Blaue Licht only take from the grotto.

Though both towns experience the same event of the sudden acquisition of wealth, the outcomes of both towns post this event are drastically different. In “Faldum” the town gradually reverts back to its state before to the visitor granted everyone wishes. Hesse’s poetry illustrates this return to normality for the town as “everything passes away in time, and everything new grows old. The annual fair had long ago become history, and many people who wished themselves rich on that occasion had become poor again.”21 Hesse then proceeds to illustrate this by showing the reflections of a young woman who in her youth has wished for beautiful hands. At the time of her reflection, she is older, caring for children, which shows that a few years have passed, but not many since the town’s event. 

In Das blaue Licht, however, the townsfolk do not return to normality. The presence of the 1929 Chrysler 75 at the film’s beginning and the film’s release date being in 1932 puts the time period of Das blaue Licht in the three year period of 1929 to 1932. The date on the gigantic book about Junta and her story gives her date of death at 1866. Simple math shows the time between the present and the time of the flashback (Junta’s story) to be 63 to 66 years. So after the equivalent of two or three generations, the town is still prosperous due to the gems mined from the grotto. Junta, though immortalized in their local legends and lore via a giant codex, as dramatically died in vein. In this town, the ruthless and the cutthroat are rewarded for their ostracizing of Junta.

It is in these regards that perhaps having the text from “Faldum” re-appropriated to Junta gives her an alternative fate. The mountain, beautifully realized by Hesse’s words, which nurtures the town while maintaining its own secrets, would have been heaven for Junta.

Final Thoughts

By itself, Pedra is a good Allerseelen release. The songs are all canonical to the Allerseelen sound, so one knows what they are getting into when they listen. If there is any real demerit against this release is that at three tracks, it is extremely short. It’s not quite a single, it’s not quite an EP, it’s definitely not an album, but taken into context with the other Terra Fria CDs, it is most certainly presented that way. Taken into context with other Allerseelen albums, it’s another complimentary piece with the themes and motiffs Gerhard explores in his music, especially in his successor albums after Pedra. In describing his mountain photography, Gerhard illustrates this point:

In the last years I took a lot of photographs in the mountains of Austria, Switzerland, Italy but also other countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece. Some of these photos I also used in the booklet of the last two Allerseelen CDs, Hallstatt and Rauhe Schale. Mountains frequently appear in my lyrics as metaphors for various things – challenges, dangers, realms close to death.22

As stated in the introduction, Pedra was the very first Allerseelen CD I bought and these were the first Allerseelen songs I had ever heard. The songs certainly did have an impact on me, as I was able to identify with the bergfilme, (having studied much of Weimer and German cinema years ago), but most importantly being able to equate the images of mountains and rocks form the songs to my youth, growing up in the forests and mountains in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens.

Despite being limited to 500 copies, copies of Pedra are still readily available (as of this writing) via various online mailorders and Discogs.com shops. The tracks still find their way into setlists of some Allerseelen performances and one track has already been re-worked and re-released under an already out of print limited release, so their longevity is very much set in stone (pun intended).

On the subject of re-releasing Pedra and other plans, Gerhard muses:

There are no real plans. But it is true - a grey vinyl re-release could one day be a fine idea for a limited edition. The song “Steingeburt” was published in 2013 in a new version on a limited release named Pera Ascognüda. Pera Ascognüda means “Unknown Stone” in the Ladin language that is spoken only in some remote valleys in South Tyrol. This limited edition was sold out within a couple of days - it was a beautifully printed book, full of illustrations of petroglyphs, and also contained a CD with four compositions, two are ambient recordings by artists from South Tyrol, two recordings are by Allerseelen - one is the new version of “Steingeburt”, the other one is “Bergspiegel” (Mountain Mirror), a kind of spoken word performance. It was published by Tera Salvaria in South Tyrol who also organize each year on 1700 m an open air concerts. Tera Salvaria also printed various Allerseelen T-shirts. My text “Mountain Mirror” I also read in 2013 in the Festival Tera Salvaria, accompanied on stage by musicians of the folk group Sangre de Muerdago.

Sometimes with Allerseelen we also play the songs “Steingeburt” and “Krieger aus Stein” live – so in some way Pedra – although published and sold out a long time ago – is still a work in progress. And very probably we will play these songs again live in Portugal as we have been invited to perform in summer 2014 at the Festival Entremuralhas in Leiria. Our line-up is now different from our first concert in Portugal: Bassist Noreia is fascinated by prehistory, archaeology, woods, drummer Christien H is in love with sports and mountains whereas I am fascinated by all these realms - thus all of us are looking forward very much to another magical mystery tour into this magical country.23

Closure in regards to a re-release, Gerhard has made all the Pedra tracks, along with the two Pera Ascognüda tracks, available to listen and purchase at his Bandcamp page which can be found here: https://allerseelen.bandcamp.com/album/pedra .

Cultural References

The Blue Light, bergfilme, Das Blaue Licht, Herman Hesse, The Holy Mountain, Leni Riefenstahl, menhirs, mithras, monoliths, mountains, stones

Official Links

https://www.facebook.com/allerseelen.allerseelen - Official Facebook page for Allerseelen
https://www.facebook.com/gerhard.hallstatt - Official Facebook page for Gerhard
https://www.facebook.com/aorta.mailorder.aorta - Official Facebook page for Aorta Mailorder
https://www.facebook.com/gerhard.hallstatt.blutleuchte – Official Facebook page for Gerhard’s book, Blutleuchte
https://allerseelen.bandcamp.com/album/pedra - Official Bandcamp page to download and listen to Pedra

Other Resources

http://www.discogs.com/artist/24241-Allerseelen - Discogs.com entry for Allerseelen
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.509026932485393.1073741827.324653024256119&type=3 – Gallery @ Tera Salvaria, includes pictures of the book that “Steingeburt” was re-released in

End Notes

1. Gerhard Hallstatt, e-mail message to Nicholas Diak, May 2014, 07.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Markus Wolff, “Allerseelen,” in Esoterra: The Journal of Extreme Culture, ed. Chad Hensley (Washington D.C.: Creation Books, 2010), 103.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., 106.
8. Hallstatt, email.
9. Gerhard Hallstatt, Blutleuchte (Jacksonville: :AJNA:, 2010), 172.
10. Ibid., 173.
11. Ibid., 171.
12. Hallstatt, email.
13. Ibid.
14. Hermann Hesse, “Faldum,” in The Fairytales of Hermann Hesse, trans. Jack Zipes (New York: Bantam, 1995), 164.
15. “Allerseelen,” The Noiseist, accessed February 22, 2014; http://noiseist.free.fr/interview_ALLERSEELEN.html
16. Hallstatt, email.
17. Ibid.
18. Hallstatt, Blutleuchte, 86.
19. Hallstatt, email.
20. Hesse, “Faldum”, 162.
21. Ibid., 163.
22. Hallstatt, email.
23. Ibid.

Bibliography

Allerseelen. Pedra. 2003 by Terra Fria. tf001. Compact disc.

Blue Light, The. DVD. Directed by Leni Riefenstahl. 1932; Venice: Pathfinder Home Entertainment, 2006.

Hallstatt, Gerhard. Blutleuchte. Jacksonville: :AJNA:, 2010. 

Hesse, Herman. “Faldum,” in The Fairytales of Hermann Hesse. Translated by Jack Zipes, 147-170. New York: Bantam, 1995.

Holy Mountain, The. DVD. Directed by Arnold Fanck. 1926; New York City: Kino Video, 2003.


The Noiseist. “Allerseelen.” Accessed February 22, 2014. http://noiseist.free.fr/interview_ALLERSEELEN.html.

Wolff, Markus. “Allerseelen.” In Esoterra: The Journal of Extreme Culture, edited by Chad Hensley, 103-106. Washington D.C.: Creation Books, 2010.