[Reviewed by Damiano Lanzi]
This new album by Niemandsvater, the title of which could be translated as “Songs about Suffering and Death”, has been released in an extremely limited edition of 50 handmade copies on the Opus Abscondi web shop, and is an homage to the work of the East Prussian poetess Johanna Ambrosius, who lived at the beginning of the 20th Century. Ambrosius was born from a poor family of peasants, and lived most of her life in a rural context. Nature has a central role in her poetry, and its manifestations are often used as a metaphor for her deep depression and unhappiness. In any of the five poems chosen by Niemandsvater for this album, the lack of fulfillment that the author felt in her life is strikingly evident. She depicts death as a relief from the strain of her living, as a way to find the peace she never had. In “O Wär Ich Tot!” she depicts natural elements such as the sea, the trees, the ground and the birds’ singing from the perspective of a deceased person that passively becomes a part of it, undisturbed for eternity. The song has an evocative video that can be found on Youtube, where the faces of the two members Christoph Lotte and Niklas Schäpsmeier appear from the dark, illuminated from below as if in a darker version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
While their first album, “Zeitenlos”, dated 2012, could be easily classified as German neofolk, this new work steps more towards neoclassical music, with a wide use of piano and strings. The duo take their time in developing the mood of every song, and in giving the right breath to every declamation. For this reason, apart from the short intro “Abschied”, all the other tracks reach seven minutes of length, but you never have the feeling that things are carried on for too long. It’s true that the music is built on repetitive patterns, but elements such as the deep sound of the cellos and the themes played on bells give an entrancing output. The style of the declamations varies following the structure of the poems, so while the ones with short and regular verses as “Still” are interpreted as a psychedelic lullaby, others like the already cited “O Wär Ich Tot!” or “Die Blätter Fallen” are delivered in a sumptuous spoken form. The last track ,“Dahin”, features guest vocals by Willem Witte of Strydwolf, that fits perfectly in the early 20th Century atmosphere that Niemandsvater delineate all through “Lieder Über Schmerz und Tod”. The lyrics are obviously an essential part of this opus, and in fact they’re included in the nice digipak, that I highly recommend, along with a painting by Andreas Schneider titled “Herbst” on the front cover, portraits of Johanna Ambrosius and the quote “Der Schmerz macht lebendig” which means “Pain gives Life”.