2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Sol Invictus is the project of Tony Wakeford, former member of neofolk pioneers Death In June and longtime friend of leader Douglas P. having played alongside him in political punk band Crisis way back throughout 1977 to 1980. Asked to leave Death In June due to musical and political differences after the recording of Burial
in 1984 (Wakeford was a member of the fascist, right wing British National Front party at the time) he went on to record one album with white power music collective Above the Ruins whose members are rumored to have included Liz Grey, Ian Read of Fire + Ice, Gary Smith of No Remorse and Ian Stuart Donaldson of neo-nazi band Skrewdriver. This period would leave a stain on his career that exists to this day, Wakeford vehemently denying he has had any interest in these ideas for over 20 years with many accusations of crypto-fascism being slung at not only him but many artists involved in the neofolk scene. The debate can perhaps be summed up in any typical manifesto you can find poking around any of the number of Neofolk Against Racism groups on the web -
"Neofolk music, traditional symbols, alternative pagan religions, and so forth, all have, in principle, nothing to do with racism and neo-nazism. But sadly, many neo-nazis choose to associate themselves with these things. At the same time, symbols used in neofolk and heathen music are interpreted wrongly by outsiders and anti-fascist groups. This gives members of the neofolk scene and heathens an unwanted and unnecessary political stigma.
Whether or not Tony Wakeford is still a racist or not is perhaps irrelevant nowadays, although there seems to be a certain contempt held towards him from some parties (see http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/wakeford.html) most see this as a ridiculous smear campaign. After Above the Ruins disbanded he quickly buried his past and assembled Sol Invictus in 1987, releasing the groups first full length studio LP Lex Talionis
in 1989 in a box set with Current 93 and Nurse With Wound recordings later to be released on it's own in 1990.
The latter part of the 80's would be a crucial time for neofolk, such seminal releases as Current 93's Swatiskas For Noddy
and Death In June's Brown Book
were released which showcased that the British movement was picking up speed into something serious. Sol Invictus could probably be considered the third of the "big three" of the scene, who would all collaborate on each others work at one point or another. Lex Talionis
shares a similar kind of energetic songwriting to Swatiskas For Noddy
and Brown Book
, with Tony Wakeford yet to perfect the neoclassical direction of the group which at its inception leant more towards ambient, post-punk and electronic influences which would become less of a general focus on later albums such as King & Queen
, In The Rain
and The Blade
Much of this album could just be described in terms of post-punk with folk influences, from the opening track Blood And Wine
which is based on a simple, repeating pattern of piano notes (which comes back as a reprise in closer Wine and Blood
) and the title track which follows it becomes evident that this is going to be an album based around plenty of gloomy, repetitive bass hooks. These appear in many of the songs and anchor the rest of the compositions well, which include some electronic noise influences, luscious acoustic guitars, thumping drum machines, basically what you would expect from a new wave group jamming with some guy on an acoustic guitar. Most of the songs are similar in tone, rather drawn out, morose sounding compositions with Wakeford's lyrics delivered in his low, husky voice which is almost certainly a love it or hate it kind of affair (this would be the case with most neofolk singers it would seem). The lyrics are very well written, from the aforementioned title track and its chorus ("The world is full of gods and beasts
"), to Black Easter
("Hear the chants of old powers, the weak fall on their swords/Nature is above all morals, destiny a shameless whore
"), to Amongst The Ruins
("I'll meet you where the moonlight falls/I'll meet you where the statues stand/I'll meet you beneath the falling walls/We await the gods to show their hand amongst the ruins
") Lex Talionis
is concerned with typical esoteric neofolk themes and has that distinct touch of eerie mysticism in delivery that just makes this side of it perfect.
is an essential album from a period in the British neofolk scene where great things were just starting to happen for the genre, when Current 93 and Death In June were starting to focus their songwriting into something much more potent then the earlier hit and miss ambient and post-punk experiments would suggest these groups were capable of. Sol Invictus are by no means a third wheel however, Lex Talionis
proving that Tony Wakeford's act had a lot of potential with their debut studio LP being one exceptionally strong recording. The group went on to release many more LP's over the years, all of which are worth checking out and generally got better and better (around the later part of the 90's was arguably their peak whereas C93 and DiJ started to decline a little around those years).