waldgerflusterIf you’re looking for something lightweight and airy, this is not the place to look. From a black metal base, these forest whisperers from Germany have moved into shady and atmospheric territory here.

“Weltenwanderer” (World Wanderer) is typical – dark, harsh, ferocious, leaden heavy, doomy but with post metal tinklings, and an ascent into an emotive, epic and melancholic world. This is accompanied by inevitable growls and a haunting thread. “Trümmerfestung” (Fortress of Ruins) is another massive block. Pitch dark, it’s hard to find hope in these twelve minutes of weightiness. The lingering contemplation is bleak and overpowering. The chorus could be interpreted as mystical but by comparison with the dominating dark forces, it came across to me as underpowered and weak. This all seems to be an exercise in domination and power. “Und Immer Wieder Schnee” (And Forever Snow) continues the theme of being overwhelmed, this time in a weather sense. The style is the same – crushing and, of course, frosty. The ring of the guitar gives the modicum of respite but the pedestrian pace and heavy mood, while bursting out and expanding at one point, remain the same. Gloom and melancholy prevail. I’m not sure what the point of “Und Immer Wieder Schnee” was, other than to be weighty and depressing.

A bit of acoustic-symphonic melancholia transfers the gloom, and breaks open to reveal a sensitive side to the heaviness. “Ruinenfelder” (Fields of Ruins) reminded me fleetingly of Subway to Sally. “Ich falle” (I am falling), cries out the voice. This track had impact. My hope was that this ray of humanity might prevail, but the thunderous doom and gloom returned with the ten minute “Graustufen Novembertage” (Grey Steps of November Days). The clue is in the title. There is drama however, and I sensed a mood of early Katatonia as fire did not meet fire, but plaintive despair. Ten minutes allows for the mood to develop, and it does musically as it builds up in intensity. The vocalist cries raucously. Another nine minute bombardment follows. “Aschephönix” (Phoenix of Ashes) has pretensions to the epic structures of Enslaved but doesn’t get that far. A break gives rise to a delicate passage but all too quickly there’s a return to black despair and pagan-type vocals where the track title is repeated for no apparent reason. I was relieved that the final track “Sustaival” was a pleasant and colourful acoustic number as I’d had enough of the dark and fathomless assaults. I’m glad it ended well.

I realised quite quickly that I was never going to warm to this album. In fact every effort seems to be made that I didn’t. Instrumentally ”Ruinen” has qualities but this didn’t hang together for me. I didn’t always like the vocals. It’s supposed to be harsh and dark, but ultimately I found most of this album heavy going without compensation.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)