From the promo track I listened to before deciding to review the album, I was expecting this to be mellow ethereal black metal full of atmosphere, they are called forest whisperings after all. Well I got the black metal bit right, because while there is plenty of atmosphere they certainly aren’t afraid to kick off their boots and run screaming into the woods. This is the German’s fifth album and second since becoming a band rather than solo project of founder, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Winterherz.
The album starts with its “Einleitung” where the acoustic guitars are accompanied by a humming chant before it all fades to silence, broken by a throaty roar as “Der Steppenwolf” begins. While Thomas Birkmaier keeps the tempo relatively slow, it doesn’t prevent him from hammering the skins soundly or very rapidly stomping on his pedals to keep the guitar riffs moving along nicely. The harsh vocals and tremoloed guitars working well in harmony with the melodic background music.
The mouth harp pings as Dominik Frank and Markus Frey’s heavier guitars fill out “Gipfelstürme” before it ebbs and flows through its many movements during its 12 minutes. The angry vocals are interlaced with soft-spoken refrains and subdued guitars, in much the same way a storm on a hill is varied
The beautiful “Rotgoldene Novemberwälder” is reminiscent of an autumnal day in the forest where you can be struck by the beauty of the colours but then slapped by a bitter cold spell that takes you unaware, as the gentle sweet mandolin is drowned out by the distorted guitars and anguished whispers.
“Und der Wind…” also works its way between delicate aural caresses and cacophony, but somehow never meanders far from the thematic gist of the song regardless of the changes of pace or aggressiveness of the guitars and vocals.
What starts out as a slow gentle stroll becomes a rollicking gallop as Avagr uses his bass to add pop to the rapidly tremeloed guitars on “Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten”, until it all gradually slows down again.
The first two minutes of “Staub in der Lunge” are unhurried acoustic guitars and sweetly sung, and while the harmonious singing does not alter, the guitars become a little heavier with a long languishing lead winding its way through until the end.
My album ends with an acoustic version of “Der Steppenwolf” as a bonus track. And a very welcome one at that, with the way it gently strums to its conclusion without the harsh bite of the full-blooded version.
Thankfully the contrast and length of both the slow and fast pieces work well to make the album an interesting listen and enjoyable. Even though I didn’t understand a single work sung.
(8/10 Marco Gaminara)