Our martyrium of white roses

DIE WEISSE ROSE: White Roses In Bloom In Kyiv

Release year: 2015/2021
Label: Old Captain

Originally released in 2015, White Roses In Bloom In Kyiv is Danish Die Weisse Rose’s third live album – with only one studio full-length to their name, it might seem a bit excessive. I must admit I haven’t listened to the other two, but if they are of the same quality as this one, they’re entirely vindicated. There is nothing redundant in this release, even though the majority of the tracks are available on the aforementioned sole studio album, A Martyrium Of White Roses.

I guess you could venture a guess, that if you’ve not seen Die Weisse Roses perform live, some of the potency of this album may be lost on you. I was lucky enough to witness them at the Waves Of Darkness On The Baltic Sea II festival cruise some months ago, and to me, unquestionably they stood out as the apex of the whole event. Though largely understated in their performance, performing with just two drums, vocals and backing tape, the sparse theatralics they employed and the way with which main man Thomas Bøjden throws himself into his performance are instantly memorable. Stuff that stays with you. To me, White Roses In Bloom In Kyiv, though recorded at a different event years before, is a journey back to that magical performance.

As far as I can surmise, this re-release of the original album is actually the original disc repackaged in black-and-white covers; for example Discogs lists the exactly same technical and pressing information for both discs. I guess that explains how the label Old Captain could release a pro-CD in an edition as small as 50! I admit it’s been a while, but when I last had CD’s manufactured, nobody went lower than 100 pieces.

Be that as it may. It matters not. This is an album that deserves to be available. Though far from technically perfect, the starkness of the performance – Bøjden’s performance – makes this every bit as essential as the studio album. The two men supporting him, Gary Carey and Kim Larsen remain just that: support; though they themselves are names of note, on this album their job remains to give the dramatic percussive background to Bøjden’s performance. And on some tracks, reduce their role to nothing.

One might be sceptical of the value of a live album where everything except the vocals and the percussion are playback. I admit that the proposition sounds dubious – as it did seem when the band took the stage on the aforementioned cruise. In no time, however, the subtle dramaturgy of the performance, the power of the material and the starkness and gravitas in Bøjden’s performance – then, and on this disc – grab hold of the listener. It matters not that the sound at times suffers from distortion and is not always clear; it matters not that the backing tape plays a significant role; it matters not that most of the album is a reiteration of the sole studio album. This is – as already mentioned – an essential release for anyone into Die Weisse Rose.

Though a lot of the time just as understated as their performance, there’s something undeniably captivating in Die Weisse Rose’s music. Reminding me somewhat of earlier Blood Axis – with the difference that where Blood Axis was belligerent and outward-directed, I find something undeniably introverted and personal in Die Weisse Rose – in how their music is fully neither this nor that, neither pure neofolk nor purely (martial) industrial, Die Weisse Rose position their expression in a way that defies too strict definitions. Dominated by organs, repetitive and effective percussion, laced with violins, synth choirs and whatnot, Die Weisse Rose come across as almost unearthly – I am loath to use the word “spiritual”. But there is a direction transcending the mere corporeal here.

Nowhere is this as eminent as on Treue Um Treue and Immer Weiter Und Weiter – both non-album tracks – which rise from just music to an all-encompassing experience, even when coming from a silver disc and your speakers. I think anyone who puts this on at a decent volume, closes their eyes and allows themselves to experience the music with their heart and spirit, not just their ears, will get a remote sensation of this. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to return in our memories to an actual live performance will get the full brunt of it.

Live albums are always a risky thing. A lot of the time they fail technically and the resulting subpar sound alone makes them iffy investments. Then, if the band are not in top form, or the arrangements have to be scaled down too much, or whatever else happens, the release is quickly rendered into mere padding of fan’s record collections.

White Roses In Bloom In Kyiv is of a different nature. It overcomes the technical ramifications and shortcomings, and despite slighltly distorted, rattling sound becomes a strong release in it’s own right, partly thanks to the strength of the material, partly thanks to the performance.

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