TodesstossNow, before I get stuck into this – and get stuck in I most certainly will – I need to clarify my position. I am no enemy of the avant-garde and the surreal, the abstract and the inaccessible. I have revelled in numerous experimental works across a spectrum of genres – from Abruptum to Stockhausen to Merzbow, discordant, unconventional challenging music when done well can be a veritable tonic for the mind, can drag the listener into a world of previously unexplored sonic possibilities.

When done badly however… welcome to Hirngemeer. Three tracks spanning 75 minutes. A project intended to act as ‘a trapdoor to weird places beyond our common, boring existences… refusing musical stereotypes in favour of a surreal, lunatic and dark metal language’. Well, quite. Somewhere in here – buried deep beneath all of the nonsense – there are nuggets of inspiration, kernels of ideas that could have germinated into something worthwhile given the space/time to develop.

With this in mind, we occasionally get effective passages of wafting, haunting guitars that bring to mind the ‘howling wind’ effect of classic Blut Aus Nord for example whilst at other times, there are some suitably cavernous clean guitars that are reminiscent of Ruins of Beverast at their more sinister. Indeed, the final piece (and relative pop song of the bunch being only 12 minutes long) ‘Strom Der Augenblicke’ is relatively convincing with subtle layers of sinister synths.

Unfortunately, almost of all of the good work is undone by the frankly amateurish deployment of ‘experimentation’ that splatters across the remaining sixty-five minutes of this record like a backfiring muckspreader. The omens are certainly worrying when two minutes into opener ‘Verwehung’, a harmonica begins to shrilly squawk away in a tuneless fashion, completely at odds with the buzzing, rudimentary clatter going on underneath it. It genuinely sounds as if a toddler has got his hands on the instrument and is puffing merrily away at it in a random fashion.

Things only contrive to go downhill from here.

The drumming sounds as if someone having a seizure has been let loose on an electronic kit from the late 80s. Piercing, mid-gain lead lines spark up at completely inappropriate points – ineptly played, random concoctions of out-of-tune notes that sound like Dwayne Eddie falling down a staircase, it’s as if one of those ‘shreds’ videos from Youtube has crawled its way from the cybersphere to be delivered in sixth-form ‘avant-black metal’ clothing. And we’re only five minutes into the first song.

All the while, vocalist ‘Flesh of L’ shrieks, moans, babbles and yelps across the whole sorry affair. He’s clearly going for the ‘demented’/’tormented’ vibe but doesn’t quite hit the mark. His lungwork is an immediately annoying sound, compounded by the complete lack of structure, theme or developments in the delivery here. It’s an accusation oft-levelled at the extreme metal genre by ‘outsiders’ but here, I’m afraid it’s true – it really is just some bloke yelling.

And so it goes on. And on. And on. I am sure that main instrumentalist and composer Martin Lang envisions a method in this madness, can describe an underlying genius to the apparent ineptitude and randomness that seems to define Hirngemeer. However, bereft of this accompanying insight, all we are left with is a lengthy, impenetrable stew of poorly conceived material delivered rather unconvincingly. It’s a bold exercise, certainly, and for those who revel in the abstract and the outlandish almost by way of principle alone, there may be something of interest here. Not for me though – I’ve already spent enough time wading through this feeble gibberish and my patience has been stretched to breaking point. Time to move on.

(4/10 Frank Allain)