German Black Metal Double: Ungfell & Hallig
It’s a travelin’ twofer!
You there! Yes, you! You’ve got a backpack on your shoulder and I can’t read what it says on your shirt. I infer that you like travelling and metal. What say you we book the next flight to central Europe, take a little trip, and listen to the indigenous metal of the region? What? No? *sigh* Fair enough, how about you just stay put on your dead butt while I bring you some metal from over there to listen to? Better? Thought so. Sheesh. Let’s at least pretend we’re travelling, okay?
Ungfell – Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz
Eisenwald | March 23
Switzerland’s Ungfell have come to whisk you away on a tour of their home country. That might sound like you’re in for some trees ‘n shit black metal, but this is not a quaint tour of tourist attractions. You’re not gonna see the same old panoramic vistas of mountainsides, described to you in pondering, epic buildups. You’re not gonna be looking at the same ancient tree trunks, marvelling at the majesty of nature and perhaps shedding a tear at the impermanence of it all. None of that. This album is not like visiting a country as a stranger and seeing the same stuff everyone can see. This is seeing the kinds of intricacies and characters that only knowing a local will make visible. An affinity for nature is certainly there; in fact, it seeps through every composition here, but Ungfell treat it as an eve-present backdrop to life instead of something that is sought out and meditated upon. Thus, the picture painted by the folk instrumentation, both in the interludes and the actual songs, is a fuller one than you might otherwise get; a rustic and earthy one that succsessfully conveys the feeling that this could not have been created with any other cultural background. Using their native Swiss dialect further helps this impression (even if the lyrics are unintelligible), achieving a similar effect as Lunar Aurora on Hoagascht.
Seeing how Ungfell aren’t interested in tourist sites, you can bet they’re not interested in showing you a polished picture, either. You’ll get to see the dark corners of the forest, where the local witches hold their bizarre rituals in summer nights. While not raw in the trve sense of the word, the production has the roughness of gnarled brambles to it. The shrieking vocals, the bubbling and clearly audible bass guitar, and last but not least the fact that they’re not content to just blast their way through this but frequently change the tempo make for a distinctive, home-brewed sound, the likes of which you’re not gonna find at the souvenir store. The aforementioned interludes and quiet parts in the often lengthy compositions make for welcome breaks while actually fleshing out the picture instead of just taking up space. This is a trip you won’t forget any time soon.
Hallig – A Distant Reflection Of The Void
Independent/Talheim Records | May 20
I suppose Der Weg Einer Freiheit would be an obvious comparison here, given that it’s modern-sounding black metal with (some) German lyrics. However, something about this – likely the tight playing and some of the vocals – reminds me of Keep Of Kalessin‘s Armada, so I would say that this is sea-faring black metal. We’re not talking pirates with rum and silly instruments, mind you; if you want that, I think you know where you can hand in your application. No, this is metal that truly knows the hardship of the sea. This metal has bested tumultous, untamed waves. It’s been pelted by hail coming in with murderous precision. It’s wrestled with creatures of the deep. It was forged by the ocean, and it lived to tell the tale, and you will hear it. And thus, after a brief intro, you are cast out to sea, right into the fray. Such excitement! So many new voices! One is a raspy snarl, not unlike the relentless wind and cold water hitting your face. One is a half-clean scream, like a guy shouting down from atop the mast. The third speaks calmly and in a stately voice; probably the captain. All this while drums and guitar hold you in a vice as tight as the stress of coming to grips with your duties on deck.
Once “Straight To The Nines” rolls around, however, the waves die down for a while, and there is time to breathe. Make no mistake, the storm will find you again, but you can take this moment to contemplate. For this metal knows of more than the strains that labour and weather inflict on the seafarer. It knows about the inside, too. It knows the worry about provisions and illness. It knows the yearning for a sliver of land, of people. It also knows the quiet nights under deck spent with drink and dice by lamplight. And lastly, it knows about the melancholy. It knows that it’s a lonely life, one that does not permit growing roots. Yet it knows that it will do it all again, not for the love of gold, nor to boast of its adventures, but purely because it must. Becasue it knows its heart longs for the distance eternally. And now you know its plight.