Having listened to and enjoyed what seems like hundreds of bands with ’Varg’ somewhere in their name over the years, all with similarly monochromatic artwork and icily stern looking band members, I figured I’d probably get a kick out of the debut album of Germany’s Vargnatt. From what I can gather this seems to be pretty much a one man project of multi-instrumentalist Evae, although session members were utilised for the creation of this album. Having not heard any of their previous efforts prior to this (two demos and an EP), I delved headfirst into the frozen waterfall of tremolo picked riffage to discover exactly what Vargnatt were about.
Vargnatt are wrapped in a shroud of icy cold sadness with plenty of the aforementioned grim riffage to be heard, coupled with bags of melody which rings through the lead guitar work. Spates of viola and choir add the occasional twitches of melodrama, but it’s the ever-present and welcoming fuzzy bass which acts as the backbone of the album as a whole. Opening with a gentle acoustic trapping which is reminiscent of Alcest, you’re quickly pulled in to a waspish cloud of dreamy melancholy, rich in atmosphere and enriched by feelings of heartfelt sorrow. There’s a huge Burzum influence in the band’s sound, not only in the similarly harsh vocals, but with generally long pensive tracks all plucking on the heartstrings with an icy hand, reminiscent of Mr Vikernes in his prime. Also, early ‘Nattens Madrigal’ era Ulver is clearly heard in the riff department, although ‘Grausammler’ is a much warmer, welcoming affair overall in comparison to Ulver’s bitterly cold biting effort of the 90s. Acoustic interlude ‘Grauwandler’ actually takes a page from Ulver’s ‘Kveldssanger’ with gentle harmonised vocals cooing over gently strummed guitarwork, it actually made me miss the Ulver of old hearing this – no surprise that they likely lifted their name from Ulver’s demo really.
Overall, this album is another great addition to the number of black metal albums which are supplemented by wistful melancholia rather than attacking with a constant acerbic frostiness. Well worth looking into for fans of shoe-gazing blackness with some added icy old-school zest thrown in for good measure.
(8/10 Lars Christiansen)