It’s been a busy year for the Austrian post-black metal scene. After a brilliant album by Harakiri for the Sky in February and a recent EP by Anomalie, now it’s Karg’s turn to unleash its misery upon the word. All these artists (and more) are related and Karg is actually the solo effort of HftS singer JJ. Karg has been around since 2006, releasing five full-length albums, as well as a bunch of singles, splits and EPs, before the new output called “Dornenvögel” (Thornbirds).

Compared to Harakiri for the Sky, Karg’s music is equally somber, yet less hectic and aggressive with more of a post-rock/metal approach. The music is rich in contrast, occasionally putting Alcest and Amesoeurs in mind, naturally varying from gentle post-rock vibes to black metal outbursts. The songs are well-crafted and fluidly move into each other, although 75 minutes of this kind of music can be quite a long ride.

Now to the main problem of “Dornenvögel”: vocal delivery can be a fickle bitch. While JJs desolate shouts work really well with Harakiri for the Sky, with Karg they sound totally misplaced. Since there is a wide range of guest vocals mentioned, I was hoping this is not a big deal, but JJ still does the bulk of the vocal work himself, while the guest vocals don’t bring the variation that is desperately needed here. Some gentle female vocals sweeten the deal every now and then, but for me the vocals totally ruin the entire experience, bringing an album that I could consider for my end of year list down to mediocrity.
If you truly love this kind of music and you don’t consider vocals to be that important, you should definitely give Karg a chance, but for me “Dornenvögel” is an album that doesn’t deliver its great promise and that is quite disappointing.

(6/10 Lykle Thijssen)