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Under Rauhnåcht’s Summit Throne

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I have previously made the argument that music can be a place — evocative of a locale so vividly that the music and place it represents are one and the same. Think about it: the early Norwegian scene oozes the frigidity of Nordic winters just as much as the Slavonic Ukrainian scene sweeps across the Steppe.

To Stefan Traunmüller, the Rauhnåcht project is an escape to places once experienced. As a touring musician with Wallachia, Traunmüller — otherwise known as “Dreamlord” in his Golden Dawn project — finds himself lost in his surroundings, so moved by nature that he fully internalizes the experience, only to summon them once more in the studio. On his new album Unterm Gipfelthron, which can be streamed in its entirety below, Traunmüller embraces the automatism of memory and the suddenness of recollection.

Undeniably folk-driven, the romantic and energetic Unterm Gipfelthron is picturesque, painting the places which Traunmüller loves and remembers with passion and majesty. As a black metal album, it is beautiful and magical — sentimentalizing nature and individual locations in shades of fury and memory. This is not evil, just as it is not dark — Unterm Gipfelthron is a work of affection and intensity.

Unterm Gipfelthron is out Friday, December 7th, on Debemur Morti Productions. Read an exclusive interview with Stefan “Dreamlord” Traunmüller below.

As you have referenced in a previous interview, there is a shamanistic, otherworldly element to Rauhnåcht which drags the listener into lore. What piece of lore specifically characterizes Unterm Gipfelthron?

I would say, the new album starts more “down to earth” with the first two songs, the “dragging away” starts with the instrumental song, which is the journey of a river from the source in the mountains until the sea. Then, “Ein Raunen aus vergess’ner Zeit” has the most amount of this lore probably, the lyrics are very metaphoric, about eternal patterns in nature and life that repeat themselves throughout the ages. Everyone can think for himself/herself, which kind of patterns could be meant. When I include samples or play synths, I try to visualize places in nature. I feel the wind, the loneliness, I see the haze climbing through the trees and then I try to perceive like you would perceive when you would see all this for the first time. Then you no longer know where the path goes, if the wind is just the wind or something else, if the shadow is just the shadow or an otherworldly creature. This is the feeling of the old tales and sagas and when I am able to capture this feeling while writing music, then I usually get the best atmosphere for Rauhnåcht.

Do you feel nature is innately lonely?

Good question: no, of course not. Actually, I never feel really lonely in nature, you can always feel a connection, being part of something greater. In German you have the word “allein” (which also makes a good word game “all-ein”, so one with all), which is not “einsam.” So in English I would say, you can be sole in nature, but not in solitude. I hope that makes sense for you.

So it’s more of a oneness with everything in a solitary sense?

I think that is the point, yes. You can feel very small but also very big at the same time.

Are there specific places from your life which you try to visualize in your music? Maybe places which are sentimental and mean something grander to you personally?

On my tours I always find places that enhance certain emotions. Or I reach an emotional depth that is stored in this place and when I get there again, I can “download” this emotion again if I want. I can always remember a certain place where I listened to the mix of the song “Geist” and another place, where I wrote the choir part of “Ein Raunen aus vergess’ner Zeit,” in both situations I had such deep emotions that I only have to think about either the place or the song and I can dive into this emotion again. This is very helpful when I sit in the studio and want to make music but haven’t got the right mood.

So Rauhnåcht is like a collection of visceral recollections?

Let’s put it another way: I want to focus more on atmosphere and intuitive composing rather than the academic way of producing I have also gone through. I could certainly also do some brainfuck progressive tunes with demanding chord progressions and scales, I also have an affinity for polyrhythms (which can be heard sometimes also in Rauhnåcht), but the older I get, the more interested I am in a more archaic and reduced way of making music. The reduction of speed and amount of notes is part of it. As a result, every note should be played with the right attitude and expression, this is very interesting and demanding in a much different way.

Does it take time to find those right levels of attitude and expression, or is it something more intuitive?

It is intuitive, as soon as you don’t have to think too much about the patterns and the playing technique. I think we are talking about improvising right now, something that often happens to little in metal. For sure almost every musician will know this, the best ideas come spontaneously, too much rational thinking about which tones could fit will not support the atmosphere.

Is there a lot of improvisation in Rauhnåcht?

Well, not in the sense of Jazz musicians that record full improvisations — I really have respect for that. But I often use ideas that come to me without trying, just as “first take.” Best things really happen when I just let it flow. In the next step I work on it in detail and arrange, but the first step is quite direct and intuitive.

Why do you feel this kind of improvising isn’t as present in metal overall?

In my experience, most metal is quite rational, brain-and pattern-dominated music. Of course there are exceptions and these days, the borders vanish more and more. But when you think of a 100% opposite to improvised jazz, well, that could be some totally quantized and structured metal.

Do you prefer Rauhnåcht to be less rational and structured?

I prefer to find the right balance between both worlds. First comes the pure soulful creativity, then the brain puts it into structures.

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