Carved in Stone – Hear the Voice

Written on

August 15, 2011

You know that album from that one band that was recommended to you constantly that you never took the time to listen to and when you finally did you obsessed over it for days afterwards and still you continue to obsess over it? I’d like to think everyone has at least one of those albums. This is mine, “Hear the Voice” by the German neofolk project Carved In Stone. A little over two years ago this was the act that was at the top of my last.fm recommended pile (say what you will about the site, it’s a pretty cool resource). I was skeptical for some reason, I really don’t know why, but when I finally took the time to download her album (it’s a one-woman project, by German multi-instrumentalist Ilona “Swawa” Jeschke who also provides keyboards for the pagan metal band Taunusheim), it was all I listened to for about a two month period. Needless to say, it fast became one of my favorite albums and has remained as such ever since.

The project was formed almost ten years ago, releasing a demo in 2001, which was followed by “Hear the Voice” in 2004 and “Tales of Glory & Tragedy” in 2007. “Hear the Voice” is, in my opinion, the masterpiece of the trio. There’s a beautiful DIY simplicity, the production quality may not be the best, but that’s far surpassed by the instrumentation and overall quality of the vocals and themes present. Melodies from the ever present guitar are layered, along with keyboard, harp, and flute. The beauty is in the perceived simplicity, but everything comes together to form a memorable and classic release from the neofolk genre. The vocals are, however, the main attraction. They compliment the ever present guitar chords, and the reserved delivery and layering of vocal tracks is very beneficial and adds to a feeling of melancholy and contemplation that surrounds the album. It contributes to an almost timeless quality that was unfortunately somewhat lacking from the 2007 followup “Tales of Glory & Tragedy”. But I’ll save my full thoughts on that matter for any future review I may write.

The lyrical themes present on “Hear the Voice” are mainly inspired by folklore and ancient Germanic/Norse lifestyles, sung in German, English, and one in Norwegian. They’ve got a melancholic and poetic quality to them (in fact, lyrics for two of the tracks were originally poems written by Stefan George and William Ernest Henley), some spinning tales of archaic heroism and honor, others of wistful folklore. But rest assured each track is diverse enough to stand alone, there is absolutely no filler to be found here at all. The album consistently delivers, creating a unique experience that will linger on even after the third, fourth, or fifth time in you play this album in a row.

There are those who of course will most likely not see this album for what it is and enjoy it as such. It’s more than a simple novelty, at least in my eyes. There’s emotion conveyed, it seems like  a very personal album, you can’t just gloss over it without further examination. If you have to be constantly entertained and value technical skill over song writing and substance, you will not enjoy this at all. It’s not that kind of album, yes there’s a sort of simplicity to it, but Carved in Stone is a project that masterfully weaves a consistent atmosphere that will hold your attention if you give into it. It’s not meant to be analyzed as something that it’s not, Swawa is a exceptional songwriter and musician, and I say that not because she’s technically efficient (according to her she cannot read music and plays everything by ear, so don’t bother trying to find tabs), but because she molds a creative vision so effectively that it’s at times heart-breakingly beautiful.

When I downloaded it, I played it almost everyday for about three months. I still listen to it a lot, I bought it about eight months ago and I’ve loaned it out several times so people could enjoy it too. In fact, I’ve been listening to it again lately which is what inspired me to write this review. As time goes on, you’ll find that I’ll very rarely review an  album I dislike. I just don’t see the point, other than to send out a warning. And I’d rather spend my time telling you about bands that you shouldn’t avoid, but that you should actually seek out. Take the time to consider and listen to everything in music, because who knows, you might find something you like.

Official Metal Archives. Official Site. Purchase from Schwarzdom Records.