Note: the following review originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of The White People’s Quarterly.
Music for Nations is the debut album from international neo-folk group Überfolk, which contains an expansive 19 tracks performed by the duo of George Burdi and Cat Weiss.
Neo-folk has always been a genre that relied heavily on implicit celebrations of European culture and history, which is interesting considering that most neo-folk artists have remained silent as European culture and history have endured increasingly serious attacks in recent years. Überfolk is part of a new wave of neo-folk artists that addresses these issues head-on—with music that incorporates European themes not as props, but as explicit celebrations of a people.
The accompaniment throughout Music for Nations consists of acoustic guitar, synthesized strings, choirs, and an array of classical instruments. The song structures are straightforward, though more melodically adventurous than your standard neo-folk fare. The vocals are calm but powerful, and at times almost operatic. Both vocalists give strong performances, and the interplay between them is wonderful and without a doubt one of the highlights of the album. Every aspect of the production is professional as well, from the recording and mixing, to the composition and presentation.
Being a folk album, the atmosphere tends to conjure up imagery of a past age. Tracks like “Stardust” would not sound out of place being performed by a renaissance minstrel. And one of the absolute highlights is the ninth track “Away,” which is another modern minstrel song featuring driving percussion and powerful lyrics and vocal work:
Go away from the world
Go away from the world
Let them choose to be slaves
If they’re born to be slaves
Freedom can’t be forced on a people
If they can live in the dark
And believe it is day
The only path left for the sovereign soul
Is to go to the mountains
And forests alone
Flow with the energy
Be what your fathers
and mothers decreed
The music occasionally drifts into neo-classical territory, which works well with Weiss’ soaring vocals, and is best represented in the bombastic tune “Hyperborean Sun.” The album gives the listener only a small taste of neo-classical material. We hope the group will explore this style more going forward. At times the group is reminiscent of Dead Can Dance. It would be interesting to see them develop this aspect of their sound more in the future and compose an entire album in this style.
This is distinctly political music, and as such it is connected to a specific time and place. The lyrics are not abstract poems. They are references to real-world struggles and to calamity to come. Considering the seriousness of the subject matter, Überfolk has succeeded in crafting something that is political, but more art than activism. The lyrics can be dark, but they are written and conveyed in a sober and thought-provoking way. There is a fine line to walk when making reference to ongoing conflict, and one can imagine how easy it might be for an artist to let their outrage get the best of them and descend into unproductive anger. Überfolk manages to avoid that pitfall, and in doing so sets an example for artists of similar leanings.
All in all, Music for Nations is a strong, professionally made album that will appeal to fans of the genre. Check it out now, and keep an eye out for future developments from this group.
Überfolk is anchored by George Burdi, known best for his role in the 1990s iconic metal band RAHOWA, as well as the industrial electronic act NOVACOSM. Cat Weiss is a classically trained vocalist who has contributed to a number of musical acts throughout her career. Follow her on Twitter @Philosophi_Cat.