Various Artists – Nikolaevka (Palace of Worms)

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nikolaevka-cover

The Battle of Nikolaevka took place in January 1943 in Western Russia, as part of the larger Battle of Stalingrad. The retreating Italian 8th Army’s Alpini Corps succeeded in driving the Russian forces out of Nikolaevka, thus allowing the Italians to retreat to Axis lines. However this was at a huge cost – only a fraction of the original number of troops survived.

Now Italian label Palace of Worms has produced this compilation album which is loosely themed around the battle. There are eighteen tracks from as many Italian acts running the gamut from neofolk to darkwave to neoclassical and all points in between.

‘Icy Dawns’ by All My Faith Lost is one of the few tracks sung in English, and is almost like an acoustic Joy Division. ‘The Warm Whisper of the Wind’ by Hexperos, with its strings, flute and female vocal, would fit comfortably on a This Mortal Coil album. Das Lange Messer stand out with the coldwave feel of ‘Lie’s Hour’ – sneering, echoed vocals creep over a scrawny rhythm guitar, bass synth, tom-tom heavy drums and Martin Hannett-like electronic smears and handclaps. The Well of Sadness weigh in with ‘Like Before’ – a two-chord slice of moody, noirish darkwave electronica a la Depeche Mode.

This is a fantastic compilation, brimming over with creativity and imagination, showcasing the best in dark Italian sounds. Highly recommended.

Ewan Burke

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