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After receiving the news that Dies Natalis had parted ways, I was very disappointed.  With the news that they are carrying on with a slightly different lineup I was overjoyed!  The group was originally formed in 1994 by cousins Tobias and Norbert Strahl.  Over the years the lineup and styles will change slightly but we're left with Tobias (guitars, vocals, arrangements, lyrics), Norbert (vocals, percussion, lyrics, graphics), Susanne Shulze (vocals, piano) and Jens Vetter (guitar, drums, percussion, arrangements).

This solid group has released several works with a great folk sound.  Fans of the great dark folk and neo-folk styles should love this band and seek out and purchase all of their releases.  They are well worth the effort!  Each masterpiece is layered with exceptionally thoughtful lyrics and beautiful and solid musical masterpieces.

Over the years, listeners have been treated with selections from this wonderful group on the Gothic Paradise Ethereal radio show.  The music continues with the latest tracks getting the attention they deserve.  Be sure to check them out... you won't be disappointed.

Tristan – Review

After the pleasant surprising news that Dies Natalis was not defunct, I soon found out about this incredible new album.  As a fan, I couldn’t express how pleased I was to get this CD in my hand and in my player where I could hear it.  At first glance at the minimalist sketch on the cover insert and the CD label, it becomes a mere reflection of the simple nature of this album.  The insert also contains some photos, a few thoughts and phrases that accent and add feeling to the songs contained in the audio material.  In all, it forms a complete package of simple beauty.

The album starts off with the sound of the ocean surf softly crashing on a beach you can imagine somewhere in your mind as the spoken word introduces the album with “Prolog (Tristans Abyss)”.  Being in German I have to admit I don’t understand much, so I feel a little bit of the entire theme and message in the album is lost.  But for those that do understand it all, or if you happen to pick up the limited edition book, then you may be able to capture more of this theme and message.  As it stands, just the songs sung in English are enough to captivate and present the message in such a beautiful way.  The classic guitar and piano are the dominant instruments on these tracks, and they move in such a way that are truly mesmerizing.  Susanne’s vocals are a nice additiong from previous releases, adding a slighy dreamy and ethereal feeling to each song.

I could go on and on about many of the tracks, but I just want to touch on a few highlights on this album.  The album moves through melancholic to joyful and folk-oriented atmospheres.  From the beginning, the mood is set slightly nostalgic and with a slight lonely and longing feeling as we drift from “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” and the soft and lilting “Anabell”.  The fun waltz “The Time” picks up as the lyrics just make you smile as you feel like stomping your feet and clapping along as you picture a group of friends having fun dancing this waltz around a fire in an old tavern.  One of the only tracks with notable percussion, this is truly a fun track.  This fun mood gives way to the longing and thoughtful lyrics, vocals and music of “Time Goes On (From Dusk to Dawn)” which is a slightly modified version of “From Dusk to Dawn” contained on the Abyss EP.  This was one of my favorite tracks on the EP and now with Susanne’s vocals and the slightly different arrangement, it is just that much better on this album.

This album is so great I can easily sit for hours listening to it over and over, gathering little bits of insights and elements missed while listening previously.  With thirteen tracks, it’s a great album to have.  Event the 17 second-long track “Tristans Yearning” has it’s place on this album.  With tons of material packed in between, we’re finally left much the way we began, with spoken word and soft waves crashing from the ocean.  Fans of Neo-Folk, and even some of the classic folk music from Germany and other northern European countries can easily fall in love with this work.

Rating: 5/5

Abyss - Review

With the release of this four-track EP I was extremely excited to finally hear something new from this group.  I was extremely pleased with their previous album Vom Gedanken... Und Der Erinnerung.  For me that album is a classic in the realm of Gothic Folk music.  The perfect mixture of electronics, percussion and acoustic guitars with romantic and solid vocals made it a real masterpiece.  Now the tradition continues with this latest work.

While it's only four tracks, in just the short span of just under 20 minutes, the listener is taken on a short, but wonderful musical journey.  Beginning with ambient soundscapes and soft music that slowly builds up to a slow beat and acoustic guitar and a powerful refrain, "The Day" is what starts off this work of art.  With the text "All the days will end, and begin again", the listener knows we've entered the awesome world of Dies Natalis.  The simple vocals and musical arrangements are emotional and full of passion, love and devotion for whatever theme, person or cause they happen to sing about.

"The Past Dies in a Crime" begins with soft, simple vocals that give way to excellent guitar and music that builds to a crescendo of power and the title of the song repeated over and over again.  This is truly a stellar track while simple in style and character.  "From Dusk To Dawn" is probably my favorite selection from this EP if I had to choose one.  Each track is so excellent in their own way, but this song of longing and loyalty really touches my soul.  The excellent music carries the feeling straight to the inner depths of each listener so that you feel the music as much as hear it.

To end this masterpiece we drift off much in the same way the album started.  Spoken word is lightly accentuated by the soft ambient soundscapes that drift off and leave the listener wanting more.  Four tracks is just too short when you're listening to such excellent music.  I can easily give this a perfect rating, the skill that is portrayed in this CD is something few have mastered over years of training and practice.  Well done!

Rating: 5/5

Interview - Mar. 16, 2004

The folks from Dies Natalis took some time out of their very busy schedule to answer a few questions about their past, present and future.  We are very grateful for their time and responses to these questions.  Hopefully you'll enjoy this look into their music and thoughts behind the music.

You really scared a lot of fans with the news that Dies Natalis would no longer be writing and recording more music a while back.  Then we were surprised with "Tristan", which is an excellent album.  Can you tell us about this time and these decisions?

All in all the year 2002 was pretty hard for us. Unserious organizers that caused huge financial problems for us, lots of canceled concerts due to wrong political prejudice were followed by internal stress in the band. At the end of 2002/beginning of 2003 the band was in such a clinch that we were unable to get on with our creative way and we could not imagine a future for Dies Natalis. But finally everything changed and Susi and Jens joined the band. We started again and the result was "Tristan".

In listening to your albums I've noticed that on previous works there was a mix of English and German in the songs, where on "Tristan" only the spoken word is in German.  Can you tell us about your choice of language in your songs and spoken word?

I like the English language and it’s metaphoric aspects. I also love it when people in America and in the whole world are able to understand my music. We share a world in our minds. Over the last years we made less German songs. It does not mean that we do not like them. I like to write poems and prose in German but I love to sing in English. Intuition plays a big roll.

For those of us not able to pick up the entire meaning of the spoken word pieces on Tristan because they are all in German, can you tell us a little bit about these?  What's the overall message or story?

The recordings to "Tristan" were formally orientated towards the "drama form of classic". The protagonist "Tristan", a fictitious person, works as a projection surface as an invitation for identification. Together with the valued listener "Tristan" wants to get closer to the elemental questions, without losing his clearly defined character by the occupation of his personality.

"Tristan" first entered the scene on the release "Abyss". "Tristan" is a close follow up to "Abyss". Right at the beginning of the drama we find "Tristan" on the path through the oceans, sunken in a monolog. The path is his own way, given by the necessity coming along with his life. From both sides the sea is storming onto his path like "...raging, impatient dogs" (Abyss). But "Tristan" is not afraid of drowning; he is conscious that the sea and every wave is a new challenge.

In the same way the ocean reflects the past of "Tristan", his "Abyss", and the endless depths of his memories where the new challenges are emerging out of the waves. Tristan makes his first conclusion, the exposition of the recording "Tristan" in "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti", where he realizes, that whatever will follow, the wheel that surrounds every living and non-living thing is going to turn full circle. But this is not taking off the responsibility to face his "Abyss".

A deep memory of Tristan is Anabell, another fictitious person, the first exciting moment of the drama. Anabell is the personified reflection of Tristan’s peace of mind, the betrayed harmony of the human society, the will of respect. As Tristan is not able to reflect, but only to describe, he gives his ideal the figure of Anabell. To find the human understanding he lets her roam through the times as a female figure. In opposition to the ideal of harmony there exists the decadent society, which is reflected in "The Time", a product of this is the "Killing Fields". Who are, while drinking wine, drowning the last honest one and let him drive down the river to the sea. This decadence of the society is portraying the second exciting moment of the drama.

Furthermore Tristan is reminded of his childhood, which is reflected in "From Dusk to Dawn". Tristan is longing for the time when he was a child. The childhood as the ideal of the society is the third exciting moment.

In "Harvest Rain" the decadence of the society is brought to peak - to war, the war and its consequences. Intentionally Tristan is focusing on the destiny of one family torn apart by the war. In changing perspectives we are following the monolog that gives us the opportunity to be part of the story.

With this fourth exciting moment all main questions and challenges are in opposition to each other. On one hand the decadent society and the war and on the other hand the ideal of harmony and the childhood.

In "Have You Ever" Tristan, acting in front of the human society, is asking:
"What have you done so far to compare to the ideal?" The sarcastic answer of the society is "Angels of Babylon", describing the cloned army of mercenaries of a western form of life, a form of being whose luxury comes to peak by hiring armies of nameless solders fighting behind the mask of humanity.

At the turning point of the drama all these circumstances are in an open conflict to each other. Tristan realizes in "The Clock" that his power will not last to fight the world disaster. He knows the conscious society denies every dictatorial form of reigning, especially in the western "economical dictatorships" because it carries the willingness of the unconditional use of military power. He furthermore realizes that the majority of the society is not suitable for the Ideal, the childhood in mind.

In this moment "Anabell Returns" as the retarding moment of the drama. Anabell appears as the goddess of spring. She reminds Tristan of fact that he is not alone, that he should orientate himself on the reflection of great ideas of nature, of art and love and so he would not have to fear anything.

Empowered by this knowledge Tristan is burning down all his possession in "Tristan" and turns away from the unconscious society. He sacrifices himself to the waves, to the depths of his "Abyss", facing his destiny, where he will find home, carried by the waves, driven by the winds but not to discover new land. Tristan’s journey leads down to the bottom of the ocean.

On the back cover of "Tristan", you include the scripture from Isaiah 49:15-16.  This is a touching scripture and I can see some parallels in the lyrics and music, but how would you say it relates to this album?

Tristan was to try to find the answer to some of the essential questions. The death, faith or destiny for example. The way of Dies Natalis to these questions started with "Abyss". It is a process of self explanation. Between all the uncertainties connected to our certain life it is clear that the loss of things you love is unavoidable. In this way this scripture from the Old Testament means consolation/comfort.
Consolation/comfort is one of the most important requests of Tristan. Tristan should show this clearly by speaking it out.

Would you say you are religious, or that you want to reach a certain spiritual level with your music?

Religion is a burdened word. To say: “We believe!” is much better. Everyone in the band has their own beliefs. I can only speak for myself. The mystery of the creation is an endless joy. I am pantheistic and I believe that god is everything and does not need any idols. And so it does not matter whether Jesus Christ existed or not. Idols are rather suitable to destroy the awareness of the creation then to keep it. Music is important for me as well as reading, writing or spending my time with friends or to spend my time alone in nature. Music is a bridge, a possibility to get in contact with people who you would not meet in any other way. Friendship/partnership and the community of individuals is the greatest challenge of life.

With this latest album, all of your songs are almost 100% acoustic.  Do you have any plans of adding more electronics in the future to add more effects?  Or do you feel the acoustic approach is more true to a real classic folk sound?

No I don't think so. I hope our valued listeners judge the authenticity of our music by the content and not by other formal facts. I love to use natural instruments; it is a wonder to listen to a piano or a violin player.
I love when this magic feeling is brought into our music. Therefore I work together with very different musicians. At the moment we are about to prepare a presentation of our latest work "Tristan" with the chamber choir of our hometown in a church, it is the most wonderful work until now.

Furthermore I am a friend of bombastic sounds, I collect film melodies. These composers work together with orchestras, something that is much too expensive for us, so that we also use synthesizers and keyboards. Our next CD "The Bright and the Pure" which will be released in May 2004 is based upon synthesizers playing orchestral sounds.

I always enjoy finding out the influences and inspiration from the artists I interview.  Where do the influences for your music come from?

We are influenced by a large number of folk-acts. Death in June is one of the classics as well as Pete Seeger or the common Irish folk maybe. As already mentioned I also love film melodies and classic music. Norbert also listens to all styles of metal, gothic and folk.

Are there any groups that you listen to that have become favorites or influences to you now?

Klaus Badelt, a fantastic composer of film melodies, Hans Zimmer, Lisa Gerard, The Dubliners, Johnny Cash are the greatest musical milestone as far as I can judge that.

What do you see in the near future for Dies Natalis?

The work of Dies Natalis will reach a higher level of quality in music and content. Religious-philosophic themes will play a big roll, where the entertainment factor will not be kept away. In my opinion, when the party time of a young band is over, the music becomes an instrument and so the content becomes more in-depth. I hope one day we can do a little tour through the USA, at the moment it is impossible as we do not have enough contacts there.

What have you enjoyed most over the last year as a group?

The work in the studio for the last album "Tristan" as well as the tour through southern Europe in summer 2003, where we experienced so many things and met a large number of new friends.

Website: www.dies-natalis.de
Label: Nielozilla

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