«Adventures of the soul
reflected in images of nature
— a dream sequence.»
It really seems like Noekk danced in obscurity, away from prying eyes, during these almost eleven years of silence, which came to an end only last year with Carol Stones And Elder Rock, an EP that despite some good ideas and a renewed taste for the folk atmospheres tipycal of the debut The Water Sprite, did not foretell a great comeback. But a comeback eventually it was and, even with some delay, it’s worth talking about it.
The background, in 2009, is the meeting between Thomas Helm (for those who don’t know him, a singer in Bayerische Staatsoper) and Peter Wolfgang Kassell, a colleague with whom he shares a music teacher; thanks to this coincidence a friendship was born, despite the different education and interests. Noekk had been on hold for a while and Thomas was not motivated enough to write new music until, in 2017, Kassell (from now on PWK, as he signs himself) sent him a poem he wrote, Pan. This marked the beginning of a collaboration which in a short period of time would bring the aforementioned EP, where PWK’s lyrics acquired a musical form for the first time, and paved the way for Waltzing In Obscurity.
With Waltzing In Obscurity we find ourselves dealing with art, in the broadest sense possible: there’s music, which had been this inspired only on The Water Sprite, there are PWK’s lyrics (modern Romanticism, we would say) and paintings (abstract expressionism works which adorn the beautiful digibook by Prophecy Productions). The cohesion of these talents — it’s worth reminding you that drums, electric guitar and bass are F.F. Yuggoth’s prerogative — emanated such a beauty, one that we can enjoy since the very first notes of the title track, where a synth layer is undermined by a huge drum beat, one of those we like so much. In terms of heaviness, this album finds a place between the soft, progressive rock beginnings and the doom metal character of The Grimalkin and The Minstrel Curse; the limited running time and, therefore, rediscovered synthesis capabilities contributed to making Waltzing In Obscurity an unexpectedly easy listen, in spite of the songs’ complexity and the majestic grace of the arrangements: a whole world, for example, can be found in the five-minute long “Perseus”. Poetry in pills that goes straight to the point, such as the mellow “The Mirror ” and the thicker “The Giant”, where Baldachin’s voice, between baritone and tenor, duels with Yuggoth’s drums and then rides on top of them. “On Summits” reminds us that these gentlemen enjoy handling doom metal, without forgetting some 70’s prog keyboard phrasing, the same ones that prevail on “Mortlach”, “The Windmaker” and “The Secret Beaker” and dialogue with the folk spirit which has been inhabiting the German duo’s music forever (not surprisingly, it’s Empyrium we’re talking about). “The Lily Of Reverence” is entrusted with the closing, where a lively beginning quite soon makes way for more gothic and decadent tempos and atmospheres, also the structure of the very last piece “The Poet’s Curse” (included in the CD version only), where the lyricism takes command until our heart is squeezed out.
I’ll be honest, even though I have always appreciated the mix of histrionicism and rigour tipycal of Baldachin and Yuggoth, I wasn’t expecting such a fine album, because — long story short — it is just beautiful. Noekk have returned, resplendent in their magical radiance, the only thing to do is hop on and let yourself be enchanted by them.