CARVED IN STONE: Wafts Of Mist & The Forgotten Belief
Release year: 2021
Label: Schwarzdorn Production
A long, long time ago, back when I was working with my first webzine, I received for review a compilation called In Wüsten Lohe by the (apparently) short-lived label Lohenfeste. One of the absolute stand-out tracks for me on that compilation was Heldentod by the German one-woman neofolk project Carved In Stone. It was one of the first neofolk songs to hit home with me; revisiting it all these years later, it’s still a good song – although the production leaves much to be desired.
Carved In Stone, then, is now as it was then a single-woman project centered around one Swawa, who handles everything from the compositions to the vocals and all the instruments. The project was most active during the noughties, releasing two albums and one mini-album between 2002 and 2007. Since then Carved In Stone has lain dormant – until now, that is.
Wafts Of Mist & The Forgotten Belief isn’t actually a new album – it’s more like a compilation of two mini-albums. The first seven tracks constitute Wafts Of Mist, new material recorded in 2021, whilst the last six tracks are The Forgotten Belief, Carved In Stone’s debut mini-album from 2002. As such, it represents a circle come full, presenting the origin and the new beginning of the project.
It’s actually easy to miss this if one doesn’t read the liner notes on the disc, as the stylistic progression hasn’t been massive. True, Swawa’s vocals are more confident and fuller on the new material, and the instrumentation is less synthetic, but listening to the CD on shuffle, it’s hard to always know from which release what track is culled. I would assume there’s been at least some remastering done to the 2002 tracks, considering how well the two halves mesh together despite there being almost 20 years between them.
Stylistically, Carved In Stone’s music is a stripped-down, acoustic form of pagan neofolk: at the centre are acoustic guitars, recorder flute and Swawa’s vocals. Considering the overall musical approach and thematics, it’s hard to avoid comparisons with Hagalaz’ Runedance (RIP Andrea Meyer). And true enough, I do think there are many parallells that justify this comparison, but ultimately Carved In Stone’s approach has less tribalistic, ritualistic elements, instead focusing on floating, dreamy atmospheres. More the mysteries of nature and personal introspection, than the concrete pagan, asatru themes of Hagalaz’ Runedance.
For the most part, Carved In Stone manage to impress both in 2021 and 2002. It’s a small victory for Swawa, I think, when I say that most but not all of my favourites are to be found in the new tracks. However, truth be told, at 46 minutes the CD does feel like it drags on maybe for a track or two too long. Despite there being a gap of 20 years between some of the songs, the lack of stylistic breadth and the largely understated arrangements do make for a bit of a samey listen.
Still, Wafts Of Mist & The Forgotten Belief is a worthy release, and as a sign of life from Carved In Stone, most welcome indeed. The seven new tracks prove that the project still has something to come with, and as such make even the possibility of a new full-length album seem welcome.
So if tender, somewhat medievally inflected, acoustic pagan neofolk with female vocals is to your tastes, do give this release a chance.