Karg is an excellent name for a band, especially for a black metal band from Austria. The word “karg” is German and it is old, something that you can simultaneously hear and see. Karg, when referred to a landscape, means barren, when referring to a meal, sparse. Because of the unusual “rg” cluster at the end, the word is inherently rudimentary, it lacks the common musicality that vowels bring. It therefore sets a certain mood, phonetically and semantically, evoking images of barren and remote landscapes where food is scarce and where hardships are part of everyday life. And you get all of that before you’ve even heard a single note of the band’s music! Well done, I say. Extremely well done.
Karg was founded in the summer of 2006 as a one-man project by Harakiri For The Sky vocalist J.J., and the band essentially remains a one-man project to this day. Here and there, collaborators have been added; on the current record we have Paul Färber on drums. While the band played ambient black metal in their beginnings, today their sound also includes post rock, grunge, shoegaze and post punk.
Whether intended or not, the cover for the new album Traktat (eng.: treatise) looks very much like the cover from the last album of a band that took a similar journey. When I saw the promo material for Traktat, I was immediately reminded of Manes’ Slow Motion Death Sequence (2018). Now that I’ve listened to the album and looked into it, I can say that the lyrical themes, such as broken relationships, lost love, estrangement, drug abuse and depression, are similar as well.
Traktat is a very personal album, written mostly on the road in an attempt to get to grips with a very difficult situation. Like a manic depression, the album is loud and quiet at the same time, it has its ups and downs and is full of different and conflicting emotions. The emotions are primarily audible in the vocals, which range from melancholic and sad, to raging and angry, whereas the music more or less adheres to the same sonic template throughout the album. The black metal can usually be heard in the drumming, the hardcore in the vocals, the shoegaze and post rock in guitar and keyboards, synths and programming.
The lyrics, though apparently of great importance, are mostly unintelligible. Here and there, you can understand a few sentences or short passages, but most of the time you have the impression that there is someone ranting in the background, occasionally only screaming.
Mostly because of its length (roughly 75 minutes playtime), the album overstays its welcome a bit. If you want to give this a chance, you can approach it in this way: Listen, just like you would listen to a friend needing to vent. I listened, and I can relate to what is being expressed, but I don’t want to dwell too long in this place, because it’s making me sad, and like everyone else, I’ve got my own load to carry.