Work cut out with this one. There’s very little information about German band Shrike to be found in English and this disc didn’t even come with a track listing. Still we like a challenge and reviewing things with all the information laid out in front of us is hardly conducive to actually making one’s own mind up about a release in a constructive fashion. Mind you it would have helped if a translate function had made some sense of the track titles rather than mangle them so I had some sense of where the band were coming from. Apart from the fact that there is a ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ number here (and far from a typical intro / outro) I’m pretty much flying in the dark on this the group’s 4th album since their formation in 2006.

What we do get is a form of blackened metal here but highly individual with many other facets going on. This certainly is not traditional black metal in any sense and neither is it a form that you would simply apply a “post” tag too either. We are flung straight in at the deep end here to a clattery and stormy beginning; instant turmoil. This has a thrashy backbone and is pretty damn uncouth, you are left wondering if this lot can even play or if it is all just an uncoordinated mess. As things progress into ‘Im Schatten des Seins’ the senses are taking a battering and the rasping and harsh vocals have certainly made an impression even if I haven’t a clue what they are so stridently barking at us about. There is some versatility to them here with some spoken parts and occasional dictatorial segments and I am intrigued feeling that I am getting a story albeit one completely alien to my understanding. With a sudden down turn into a brief interlude I grab a breath but it only lasts seconds before the whiplashing breakneck speed again flies off the handle.

Some of the tracks start off oddly and even experimentally ‘Die Zet schafft neue Wunden’ has a weird acoustic start with whispered vocals for example and the song has a bit of a groove metal type of flavour to it, all very odd. I am reminded very slightly of arch nutters Die Apokalyptischen Reiter and like them Shrike are certainly a band who like doing things on their own term, mixing and matching genres up and not doing anything in a conventional sense. This does however mean it has taken a fair few listens for the appeal of it all to worm its way into my senses and I am still not sure if I actually like the eclectic nature of the music on offer. Still that isn’t to say that this isn’t interesting at the very least and as the album has begun to get through it is obvious the quartet can play, they just do so in a unique and scattershot way. Some of the experimental interludes remind a little of a band like Lifelover with a strange folk like nuance about them but on the whole the music is vitriolic rather than depressive in any sense. I am lost as to the narrative but do have to wonder if madness is at the heart of it all as the band continue to play with schizophrenic tendencies at the very heart of the music.

At the end of the day though I’m kind of lost for words (for once) and definitely feel like I’m just getting a glimpse into the world of Shrike. Perhaps for native Berliners it will all make sense but for me this is clear as mud and I’m not entirely sure that this will appeal to all but the most forward thinking metal-head outside of Germany.

(6.5/10 Pete Woods)