Here is our review of Alvenrad by Dutch Pagan Folk band Sowulo. This was first published in the December 2013 edition of the Wyldwood Radio Newsletter (Issue 5).
This is the debut album from the Dutch folk band Sowulo, and it is beautiful. The album is packed with haunting melodies and the flow from one song to the next is magnificent. Opening with the song Winter, it does not disappoint in making you feel as though you are crunching through the snow. Leading from the heart of winter into the darkness of Yule is a wonderful switch. You travel from howling winds and the noise of snow crunching beneath your feet into the drum and piano driven song Yule. You hear the crackling of a fire; through the music you are swept away to a warm fireplace looking out of the darkened window pane to another world blanketed in snow. On the small table next you is a glass of warm mulled wine, and all you can hear is the fire roaring away in the grate. It is a wonderful song which, like the rest of this stunning album, really takes you away to a seasonal journey.
As you journey out of Yule towards Imbolc, the music flows ever upwards like the sun itself being chased higher into the sky. The darkness is slowly making way for the light, yet the weather is still highly changeable and cold. Imbolc is seen as the beginnings of Spring, and this is reflected through the music being ever so slightly lighter, more cheerful but still has that colder edge as do the nights of early spring time. Flowing out of Imbolc into Spring is beautiful. It really is one of the most magical times of the year. The ice has all but melted, the array of birdsong is magnificent and everything is so alive. The grass is such a beautiful shade of green, the birds are forever sing-ing their beautiful song. It is a foreign land in comparison to the snow covered wonderland of just a few months past.
Ostara gives a feeling of life, of the cycle beginning again, of love and the light returning slowly. The land is alive, and so the preparations are made to dance and rejoice upon it once again. This then leads wonderfully into the season of Beltane, of the dance of life. This festival celebrates the fire of life being re lit once again. Through the song you can hear the more upbeat melody as well a the sound of birdsong and crickets. You can almost feel the sun on your shoulders as you travel through Summer. It feels like a walk through a sunny glade with the world alive around you. Litha, or midsummer, is reflected in the music.
The long days and short nights are an excuse to enjoy the time at festivals or events, to make the most of the extra daylight. During this time, the winter feels a world away; the ripe green land you’re dancing on feels like a whole different world from where you were just 6 months previously. The song Litha takes you on a journey through the lands of summer and on into Lammas. This is the song of the harvest, the rejoice in what the year has given. The first of the three harvests of the year, Lammas is a symbol of what you have achieved through your work and deeds. The song itself reflects the gaiety of the season, but also acts as reminder that Winter I back on his way again soon.
This is reflected even more so in Autumn; you can feel the rain on you as the track plays, you are stood just outside your house I the darkness listening to the storm, the rain and the owls in the trees. The darker feeling of Autumn is reflected in the song Mabon. This is the song for the Autumn equinox, the time at which day and night are equal until the light finally gives way into the darkness. The song is haunting with the use of voice as well as music. It is still a time of celebration, as this is seen as he fruit harvest, or the harvest of wine, and so the music still has the feeling of dance.
This is very much in contrast with the next song; my personal favourite not least because it is one of my favourite times of the year, but also because of the wonderful atmosphere it sets. The use of bells, the voice of the crow, it all sets the scene for the hardest part of the year. This is seen as the third and final harvest of the year, and also seen by some as the Pagan new year. It is at this time that we reflect upon the year gone, and decide what needs to stay and go. The composition of the song Samhain perfectly fits the mood for the time of year and perfectly blends into Winter Solstice. The wheel has turned back to the darker side of the year, we are thrown back to the scenes of snow, of frost, of ice. This song reflects that though the time I dark at present, it will not be long before the sun will take its place again for longer in the sky. The earth is sleeping and all is silent, waiting for Spring to return again. The song to end the wonderful album sums it up beautifully with the end of Winter Solstice.
I believe this album to be astonishing. A lot of bands have set out to record an album dedicated to the wheel of the year, and not many achieve it to this standard. Once the album is over, it feels right to just sit in silence and let the journey you’ve been on sink in. I start-ed listening from the beginning of the CD, from Winter, but I also feel that listening from the festival you are celebrating would work as the album is a cycle of life. Listen-ing from Samhain to Mabon, Beltane to Ostara; any combination would work because of how the album has been crafted.
There is a song for every celebration which is wonderful to accompany you as you move through the cycle of the year.
For a debut album, this has blown me away. It is beautifully stunning, and I cannot wait to hear more from Sowulo.
You can find out more about Sowulo on their website: http://www.alvenrad.com/
You can buy Alvenrad at this web address: http://www.alvenrad.com/#shop