Sagittarius - The Kingdom Come [Cold Spring Records - 2012]Prussian poet Stefan George (1868-1933) may have left his mark on the European literary scene of the first half of 20th century with quite a few things, from his extolling of aristocratic values to his translations into German of some of the biggest names (Shakespeare and Dante to name but a few) or his conservative revolutionary leanings even (though he never seemed to like the Nazis much) but not quite for his unbridled sense of humour. Appropriately, German neo-classical folk outfit Sagittarius’ third offering, ‘The Kingdom Come’ (the title of which is based on George’s 1928 swansong collection, ‘Das neue Reich’) seems utterly devoid of irony of any kind.
Built essentially around a stripped backbone of grand piano – courtesy of band founder Cornelius Waldner – and oboe, and featuring guest appearances by Josef K. (Von Thronstahl) and Dev (While Angels Watch) amongst others, the 65-minute, eighteen-song affair manages to conjure up a sense of foregone classicism that can be quite effective at times. Unfortunately, the proverbial road to hell is what it is and while the intent is no doubt laudable (after all, poetry and music do have quite a lot in common), the vocal delivery always seems too formal for its own sake and comes across as painfully pompous at times.
I always thought that what made neo-folk and assorted genres acceptable to people over twenty was precisely their ability to sprinkle the music with a sort of self-conscious second degree that serves to counterbalance the sinister mood usually on offer and, thus doing, give it a potency that it wouldn’t normally have. This in part explains the appeal of albums like ‘The Gospel of Inhumanity’ or ‘Music, Martinis and Misanthropy’. On further reflection, this might just prove to be an Anglo-Saxon trait not held much in regard by our Teutonic cousins (which prompted Satyricon mainman Sigurd Wongraven to exclaim, on a visit to the premises of the Nuremberg rallies, that he understood why power metal was a typically German affair) but it somehow renders the present kingdom a tad hard to take in with a completely straight face this side of the Rhine.