With their just-released third album, entitled Leere, Germany’s Thorngoth has created an opus of searingly intense but hauntingly beautiful black music.
In English, the German word “leere” means emptiness, and in assorted German-language interviews the band’s principal creative force, Sorath, has explained that the album is intended to reflect aspects of our current time — in which much of human society experiences emotional emptiness in their daily lives and a depressive hollowness, devoid of meaning.
As a reflection of that concept, Leere is indeed filled with melancholy. The music creates an atmosphere that’s dark and brooding. Yet it’s also piercing and impassioned, charged with hammering rhythms and attention-grabbing bursts of technicality. Regardless of the underlying concept, the music itself is anything but empty. Listening to the whole album in a single sitting is a completely enveloping experience that’s both dreamlike and headbangingly intense.
With the exception of a short instrumental track, called “In der leere” (into the void), the songs on the album have no titles other than Roman numerals — “Leere I” through “Leere VIII”. So the titles don’t give many clues about the songs’ meaning. In addition, Thorngoth’s vocalist, Akhorahil, sings in German, and we’re not sure we could make out all the words even if he were singing in English.
But those Sorath interviews do give more clues to what’s going on lyrically. (more after the jump, including a song to hear . . . )
Each song explores different concepts or emotional states of being — including emotional emptiness, inner struggle, purification by destruction, endless wandering in search of meaning, judgment, irrational feelings of oppressiveness or apprehension, a sense of being torn and broken.
Not exactly cheery subjects, and the music isn’t a fun-loving romp either. But that doesn’t mean that listening is a downer — far from it.
All the songs include instrumental work that employs the familiar stylings of black metal — minor-key waves of tremolo-picked chords cascading in shimmering walls of sound, hammering double-kicks and bursts of assaultive blast-beats, and the muffled thrumming of the bass. And those mid-range vocals are of the vicious, jagged-edge variety, occasionally erupting into shrieks or plummeting into deep gutturals.
But despite those recognizable techniques and styles, this isn’t exactly traditional black metal music. The songs employ propulsive, headbanging rhythms. They mix the waves of tremolo chords with emphatic, grinding riffs.
Songs such as “Leere III” and “Leere V” feature howling and serpentine guitar leads, and “Leere VI” includes an acoustic guitar interlude and even clean singing (albeit a gravelly sort of bass vocal). Even the bass guitar is allowed to shine through on songs like “Leere III” and “Leere V”.
The tempos move up and down, with the shifts marked by abrupt changes in the drum patterns and some of the instruments dropping out of or into the mix. The instruments join forces within songs to build the intensity level up into the red zone — and then change to black ‘n roll rhythms or quiet passages that provide an almost welcome relief from the harrowing.
But don’t ever get too comfortable with those quiet interludes, because they’re almost always followed by fucking eruptions of blistering force.
Even though the album was recorded and produced by the band itself (mainly by Sorath), we think it sounds great. It’s not the old school black-metal muddiness. The instrumental playing is so good that it deserved the kind of clarity achieved by the production work.
Leere isn’t the kind of album you’ll go to for a quick-fix of balls-to-the-wall headbanging, but with time and close attention, it provides an immensely rewarding listen. We hope it gets the kind of exposure outside Germany that it deserves.
[We posted this review at Metal Archives with a rating of 93%.]
Here’s a taste of what Leere has to offer. Crank it up loud, and then leave a comment and tell us what you think:
Leere is available for download at Amazon, and you can order a CD from Folter Records here, or by writing the band directly at thorngoth[at]gmx.de.
The band is also offering “Leere IV” — which is a fucking great song — for free download at their Last.fm page (here). And for further investigation, the band’s web page is at this location, and their official MySpace page is here.