Very rarely do I get an actual vinyl to review these days as Trautonist has seen fit to send their second album as a vinyl copy, and a gold vinyl at that too. The German trio has a self-titled debut that was a solid post-black metal opus when I skimmed through it on their Bandcamp page. With no intro the album starts abruptly with “Fire And Ember” a seven minute atmospheric exploration backed by clean vocal incantations that ethereally breeze around the track. The song isn’t quite in shoe-gaze modus operandi like Alcest and their ilk but the mood is there until the song sharply changes when the vocals acerbically adopt a harsh tone and the pace drops momentarily like holding your breath ready for something to happen which it does with a surge in speed.

This album is about contrasts which it does effortlessly as a bleak riff infests “Vanish” where a blasting foray initiates the song before a blanketing double bass bowls in. The fluxing speed dynamics produce fluent mood changes as an aura of desolation is revealed when the speed decreases peeling off layers of melancholy especially when the song leaves an isolated guitar riff. At times I felt the release had touches of progressivity about it, especially when the clean female vocals were added as on “Hills Of Gold” and dare I say that there was a fusion of jazz to the song at times in the way it leaned towards an off kilter methodology on this track and glimpses on other songs too.

“Smoke And Ember” continues the female vocal inclusions, with a beguiling performance, haunting, eerie even like a distant voice with a repetitive melody coursing through the relatively short tune that has a beautiful guitar hook that isn’t too far off a flamenco style, well to my ears anyway. “Sunwalk” follows with more mesmeric riffing charms and as the female vocals, by Katharina, continue her tones are alluring, hypnotic and magnetic and eventually conjoined by harsher tones as the track intensifies. Abruptly the track descends into a serene, placid phase showcasing those huge contrasts in style and mood I hinted at earlier as the song hits its finale with an all-out blackened onslaught yet still poised with captivating guitar hooks. Closing the release is the strangely titled “Woody Allen” which isn’t about the said actor, but a metaphor used at the end of the lyrics in the song. The song is initially very calm and for a moment it resembles an outro before the track detonates into a ferocious annihilating black metal rampage before returning to the calm section as though it never actually happened.

This is a superbly engaging album by Trautonist, the graceful amalgamation of wrathful black metal with ambient experimentalism is transfixing within seven songs of pristine potency.

(8.5/10 Martin Harris)