THE PAGAN MUSIC LIST #2
Week #2: Laboratorium Piesni, Volkstrott, Corte di Lunas, Wolves in the Throne Room, Valravn
Laboratorium Piesni (polish: Song Laboratory) is a female-run collective music project, founded in Poland in 2013. The vast majority of their songs are from Polish and Eastern European folk traditions, though they also incorporate other sources. They also host workshops to help people develop their voice and “awaken the human musicality.” Laboratorium Piesni’s primary musical focus is polyphony (multiple voices with little to no musical accompaniment), which is the dominant form of ritual and folk music for animist cultures, also surviving into Europe as a dominant form into the 1500’s. This music is also known as “acapella,” but many groups have moved away from this Christian label (“acapella” literally means, “in the way of the chapel”).
Rozna Livada is a traditional Slavic folk song. Common to innumerable songs from this region, it is a mourning song, in which a woman grieves the loss of her lover to war and invasion. It gained a new popularity during the independence wars against Yugoslavia. The song plays upon the word Rozna, which can mean both “dew” and “pearl,” depending on whether one is speaking Serbian, Croation, or Bosnian.
Dewy meadow, green grass,
dewy meadow, aman! aman!
The girl, she made strings of pearl
strings of pearl, aman! aman!
She wept upon the grass
The oppressors took away her dear one
the oppressors, aman! aman!
took away her dear one…
Also from the same album is Ой ляцелі жураўлі (Oh, the flying cranes), a haunting Belarusian folk song about the cycle of human life::
Oh the flying cranes,
They sat in a field on fertile land, ,
Yes, speaking of fertile fields,
Either better early,
Or better late
in the early planted fields,
There is growing rye, and wheat
And later on the fertile fields,
Are only weeds and bent grass…
(Rock, Punk, Medieval)
Recommended Album: Todeskunst
Volkstrott is what happens when you throw a violin and a bagpipe into a german punk band who’s just found out about the Black Plague. incredibly fun and tragically short-lived, Volkstrott only has two (hard to find) albums and very little internet presence.
Their most fun song deserves to be played really loud whenever you’re worried about the coming collapse of Empire. Wenn der Tot in der Stadt kommt:
Death has arrived in the city,
and we are all invited!
And an equally fun song about being kidnapped by faeries, Reisst die Mauern ein
Let us seduce you, to silliness and dance
Only as long as the violin plays, with passion and elegance
As long as the music plays you are not alone
But when this dance ends, it will be even worse for you…
La Corte di Lunas
Recommended Album: (see note)
La Corte di Lunas (court of the moon) is an Italian medieval rock band who do some rather brilliantly creative covers as well as their own songs. Traditionally quite active in medieval music fests in Europe, they’re currently on hiatus (according to their website).
A great example of what I mean by “brillantly creative covers” is this song, a melange of a Blackmoor’s Night song (which uses the even older medieval French drinking song, Tourdion) with Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”
And perhaps their best original song, Dream:
Once in a dream of a night I stood
Long in the light of a magical moon…
Note: We contacted the band regarding how to find their albums, as they currently do not have distribution. They advised fans to contact them directly either through Facebook or by email (email@example.com) for direct distribution.
Wolves In The Throne Room
Recommended Album: Thrice Woven
Wolves In the Throne Room is a black metal band from the Pacific Northwest of the United States whose lyrics blend grief for the destruction of nature with hope that comes from that very nature itself. While Black Metal is known for misanthropy, Wolves in the Throne Room makes clear their disgust with modern civilization is one of disappointment for what humanity has become.
Heathen gods and themes of return to old ways abound in their songs, as well as other mythic and esoteric ideas. This is not by accident: band members repeatedly make clear in interviews that pagan and esoteric ideas influence their music. (see for example this interview)
The Old Ones Are With Us tells of a ritual feast with elements many of our readers will recognize:
Laughter and song in the night
Bring tears to their eyes
And my soul thaws
In the decadence of night
The dead world stirs
Here In the halls of Anwyn.
The food of the dead lie untouched
And Mother Owl, Father Ocean is a short, dark-ambient track (note: not representative of the rest of their music!)
Look to the sea
To how you feel
Here I walk
Recommended Album: Koder På Snor (or digital available via iTunes)
A valravn in Danish lore is a raven that had consumed the flesh of humans and thus gained their knowledge and consciousness, and sometimes the ability to shapeshift into humans. Valravn’s music evokes this shapeshifting theme, imagining not what would happen if modern people re-interpreted ancient music, but what would happen if it were the other way around. Like Garmarna and other Scandanavian acts, Valravn made heavy use of both traditional and electronic instruments, but produced many more “danceable” tracks than others.
Valravn started as an acoustic folk band (Virelai), and performed from 2005-to 2013. In 2009, they said of their music: “Valravn aims at testing the extremes of Nordic roots music and their application here and now; in that process we are open to outside influences. The point of departure is on the cusp of something very ancient and something brand new.”
My favorite song of theirs is Kelling, a Faroese song about old age, heart-break, and dancing anyway…
Hag lies on the doorstep dead
Cannot eat neither butter nor bread
Love she bears in her breast
Cannot eat for self pity
Stand up and dance
Hag lies on the doorstep dead
Her heart is broken,
take her with you
Stand up and dance
Kroppar is another song in Faroese, a song of resistance:
We have fallen
Again, and again
She searches everywhere
Between light and shadow
The bodies are falling
But the light is coming
ABOUT THE LIST
The Pagan, Heathen, Esoteric & Animist Music List is an attempt to create a comprehensive list of Pagan music all in one place. While it’s utterly impossible to list every single project in existence, we intend to include as many as humanly possible.
By “Pagan, Heathen, Esoteric& Animist music” we mean music that fits one or more of these criteria:
Projects that self-identify as pagan, heathen, estoeric, or animist where these themes are explicit in the music.
Projects that include reconstructions or revivals of pagan, heathen, or animist music forms, even when the artists do not openly self-identify as such.
Music with recognizable esoteric themes.
Music from periods where pagan and heathen forms intermixed with other forms (including monotheistic forms): for instance, Sephardic and Moorish music during the Al-Andalu period, or Christianized medieval folk music in Europe)
Music not included:
Music by bands or individuals demonstrably tied to racist or fascist ideology. We make every effort to filter out this category but reader insight is appreciated!
“New Age” music
“World” music and “tribal beat” music; that is, indigenous music commercially re-packaged for Western audiences for yoga studios, raves, etc.
Music found by the reviewers to have no musical merit or to deeply mis-represent Pagan, Heathen, or animist beliefs (“fluff”).
We intend to include as many genres as possible, and for each project we’ll try to label them as accurately as we can. Of course, genres are very fluid and relative so there will always be disagreement on this. Here is our general list of Genres:
Medieval: Music performed on medieval instruments, with medieval melodies, or reconstructed from medieval elements
Traditional: Music currently traditional to a culture or music that uses primarily traditional lyrics, melodies, or instruments
Folk: Primarily Acoustic, “singer-songwriter” music.
Neo-Folk: Post-industrial/post-rock “folk” forms with very little or no reliance on traditional lyrics or melodies.
Electronic: Industrial, techno, ambient, or other music with heavy reliance on sampling or sythesizers with little or no “organic” instruments.
Rock/Metal: Music with lots of electric guitars, driving drums, etc.
Chant: vocals, often with little or no musical accompaniment.
This Project needs your help!
We are actively looking for submissions to this list. If you are a musician or group that would like us to know about your music, please contact us with links where we can listen to your work. And if you know of a band that we haven’t yet included, feel free to tell us about them through our contact form!