Review: Totenmesse – To

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Have you ever discovered a new album and upon listening to it thought to yourself, I know this sound, I’ve heard this before? Well the very thing happened to me soon after discovering the debut from my new favorite band Totenmesse! I was already prepared to come here and tell you about this excellent work of art when I stumbled upon the discovery that the band is connected to somebody else who years ago released an absolute monster, but first let me tell you about what makes it so excellent.

Earlier, the Angry Metal Guy posted a review [Very sad Lizard face] of To by Totenmesse. It wasn’t high praise but they pointed out the featured cover of King Crimson‘s “21st Century Schizoid Man”, a song I adore and which caused me to pay close attention. I gave it a chance and fell in love instantly; the album was swiftly added to the BandCamp collection and stayed on rotation for a week. To is a collection of songs so meticulously crafted with riffs so coldly calculated and a mood so warm that it’s extremely difficult to describe. Except every now and then I feel confident enough to compare them to the riffmasters of Bolzer (I’m being completely serious.)

Let’s rewind. Upon hitting play at the beginning of To, we are eased into this Polish band’s cult when a doomy guitar riff helps establish the mood with “Pusty dzwon”. Right now you’re thinking, But McNulty, we didn’t come here for doom. Doom sucks. It does dear reader, but this is one of the few appropriate uses of doom: in establishing mood. Things don’t crawl at this pace long and soon the rhythm switches to the march of an army of cloaked men coming to convert your farming town into followers of something dark and mystical. By the end of the five and a half minute first track we get an idea of what pace to expect from the rest of the record. I hope you’ve been Swelling to the Jammiez and have strong neck muscles because you’re going to need them for when the Bolzer-worship starts up on track two.

The mood and atmosphere presented to us is that of a dark mass, similar to that of progressive black metallers Inferno. Granted I was hooked from the mere mention of King Crimson, but when it became abundantly clear that listening to To evoked vivid feelings of taking part in some [potentially] Satanic Sacrament, my interest shot up even further. The pacing is deliberate, the vocals ritualistic, the mood that of a darkened room with several candles lit. I’m not sure if my vocabulary is advanced enough to describe the feeling so I’ll just say that all of the elements of the recording add up to give a very serious and introspective mood. (If you’re ever listened to Batushka, you’ll know what I mean.) It’s a mood which maintains inertia up until halfway through when they gift us the tongue-in-cheek, speed metal cover of “21st Century Schizoid Man” (the pace of the song matches the rest of the album, but we Crimson fans know it’s a cover.) And when those two minutes (LOL) are over, it’s right back to the mood established in the first half, with their lengthy song “Kaiser Tot” (embedded above). Please listen to that motherfuqqer, because it just might be the best heavy metal song I’ve heard since this blog began.

After the third or fourth listen it dawned on me: I recognize certain elements of this band, like the guitar tone and the raspy vocals. Who is it though? Gotta be somebody from whom I haven’t heard from in a long time… After discovering that the band is from Poland, it came to me: Odraza, with their their 2013 masterpiece Esperalem Tkane! That album stands above everything released in 2013; it’s one of the wackiest, most progressive, pissed-off, meticulously crafted compositions in all of BandCamp history (in my humble opinion; so take that for what it’s worth.) Drummer Priest and vocalist Strawrogin was in Odraza, and so all the confirmation I needed was here. Every gosh darned thing I liked about this album I also liked about Esperalem Tkane.

I know it’s going to sound egregious to declare that every song on here is perfect, but that concerns me not. This serendipitous discovery is one of the best heavy metal records I’ve heard in years! It sets a new bar for metal (at least for a while). It’s a record that I enjoyed thoroughly before learning that some of its members were also in a band which I adored years ago. And though I am at risk of having my Metal Blog License revoked for having done so, it is with utmost humility that I am giving Totenmesse’s To a genuine 5.5 out of 5 flaming Toilets ov Hell. [Editor’s Note: Can he do this? This doesn’t seem right. I don’t think this is OK.]

To was released on Pagan Records, give it listen on BandCamp. And if you like what you hear, go check out Esperalem Tkane on Arachnophobia Records. And if you want to get matching Totenmesse tattoos, hmu!

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