Death In June are a group which was born out of the post-industrial circle of musicians which came after the first wave in the early 80's, led by English musician Douglas Pearce (better known as Douglas P.). Alongside Current 93, Death In June started by working in lengthy, self-indulgent, experimental forms of folk music with a taste for exploring subversive political ideas and the occult, both acts becoming regular collaborators dwelling in esoteric literary and religious themes to be credited with spearheading the neo-folk genre.
Whilst Current 93 was often fueled by mainman David Tibet's strong Christian beliefs and fascination for all forms of obscure religiosity, Douglas P. and his work is strongly characterised by being influenced by Germanic paganism, featuring a political slant that has brought accusations of crypto-fascism and harboring neo-Nazi sympathies. Whilst there are clear differences distinguishing each artist both share a strong, common belief that the end of the world is coming, giving coin to the term "Apocalyptic Folk". Though this has become a suitable extension to describe the tone of musical output, this was originally a reference by David Tibet to folk as in "people", music produced by those who harbour beliefs of the apocalypse.
is the groups fifth album, released in 1987. A reference to Braunbuch (a Nazi propaganda publication) musically the album follows along similar lines to previous releases Nada!
and The World That Summer
in its blend of crisp acoustic guitars, drum machines, samples, electronic layering and haunting vocals. The reverb saturated deep voice at the beginning of Heilige Tod
feels like a prophetic foreshadow of things to come, the female backing vocals singing "la la la
" lending the track a gloomy, profound curiosity. This feeling only intensifies as Touch Defiles
kicks in, with its simple drum machine pattern and jangly guitar chords Douglas P. and his understated vocals chisel this song into an uneasy, eerily beautiful masterpiece ("But we desecrate at a touch/And touch defiles/Afloat on the evening tide/It's light and it's sadness
"). Hail! The White Grain
continues this trend of drum machine acoustic led moodiness, featuring some of the best lyrics to be found on Brown Book
("Fear is a token/And, in this darkness/It never rests/My body is barren/A horse for a hero/The sun fails to burn/Hail! The White Grain/This life, this pain
"). Strong in their own right, the mans simple, matter of fact delivery gives an air of spooky reverence to his choice of words which is something that does not let up for the entire duration of the album. A lot of strange electronic samples are patched throughout, punctuating the natural acoustic sound of the album with something fiercely strange.
To Drown A Rose
and Fog Of The World
are very similar, but no less incredible. Runes And Men
is differentiated by the use of German military samples at the beginning and layered in a subtle manner throughout, with lyrics that edge on pure brilliance in delivery ("With your hair of flaming Roses/Your kiss, Medusa's touch/Turn me to a pillar of salt/To die now would be perfection/And then my loneliness closes in so I drink a German wine/And drift in dreams of other lives and greater times
"). Red Dog, Black Dog
is the closest Brown Book
gets to an ambient sound collage, dreamy female vocals filling out the background for several voice samples overlapping one another causing a conflicting mess which is quite hypnotic to listen to. David Tibet makes a vocal appearance on two tracks, the synthesiser led Punishment Initiation
and closer Burn Again
both are which are superb, the latter and its relaxed, foreboding guitar part sending off the album off into a dark, introspective place musically.
as a whole is an entirely captivating listen and an essential 80's neo-folk recording. To get a sense of the influence of both Death In June and Current 93 is quite a thrill in its own right, but here Douglas P. and his majestic songwriting presents something unique and understated in its beauty which C93 just could not capture in the same way. If this music is anything to go by there is a sad, beautiful happiness in the coming apocalypse, Brown Book
a suitable soundtrack if there ever was one.