(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Der Weg Einer Freiheit.)
From Dark Fortress and Secrets of The Moon, to Infestus and Agrypnie, via Ascension and Odem Arcarum, Germany seems to have produced an inordinately high number of my favourite Black Metal artists. And yet, despite all dealing firmly in the blackened arts, each band produces such a distinct strain of metallic darkness that, in many ways, this shared nationality seems to be the only common thread linking them in any sort of “scene”.
Well, to this amorphous grouping you can now add Bavarian sensations Der Weg Einer Freiheit, as their new album, Stellar, firmly and unequivocally establishes them as stars in the ascendant, and is already one of my top contenders for 2015’s inevitable End of Year list(s).
It’s not that the band’s previous albums weren’t up to snuff either. Far from it. In fact I’ve actually gone back to their previous album (2012’s Unstille) several times since getting hold of their latest, and finally given it the time it so richly deserves. The issue has simply been that with so much music out there, and so little time, Der Weg Einer Freiheit ended up slipping through the cracks a little. I loved what I’d heard, but never managed to find the time to really get into the band fully.
Because, Stellar is so good, so powerful, so damn… stellar… that I finally made the time. And I don’t regret it. In fact, I regret not doing it sooner.
From the drifting, cosmic chords which open “Repulsion”, to the dying embers of sweeping closer “Letzte Sonne”, the band (now repurposed as a quartet following the departure of original vocalist Tobias Jaschinsky) deliver their savage brand of highly melodic – yet scaldingly aggressive — Black Metal with ruthless aggression, every scything riff and scorching blast-beat bedecked in a gleaming obsidian sheen.
And yet, although they’re variously referred to as “Melodic Black Metal”, “Post-Black Metal”, and “Atmospheric Black Metal”, depending on who you talk to, for me none of these labels seems to fit quite right.
As bleakly and beautifully melodic as their songs can be, they still remain densely, even disarmingly, aggressive, and largely eschew the sort of nimble melodic riffing epitomised by Dissection and Co. They also seem to largely eschew the sort of cross-pollination that underpins much of the Post-Black Metal movement (although they do share a number of common facets with the aforementioned Agrypnie).
And while “Atmospheric” certainly applies to the music of Der Weg Einer Freiheit, calling it something like “Atmospheric Black Metal” still seems like a bit of a misnomer.
No, in truth the band I’m most often reminded of when listening to Stellar are the Swedish Satanizers Dark Funeral, such is the primal focus and ferocity on display. Whether it’s the rampant savagery of “Requiem”, the venomously melodic assault of “Einkehr”, or the sheer uncompromising extremity of “Verbund”, the quartet pour out their wrath and vengeance with merciless, remorseless precision.
That’s not to say the band are a one-note affair. There are more than enough subtle progressive flourishes – a flash of mournful clean vocals, a splash of doom-laden chords, a brush-stroke of sombre strings or flickering ambience — scattered throughout the album to ensure this is never a concern. But still… there’s something undeniably pure about the music on Stellar, something rarefied and refined, capturing the concentrated essence of the genre in stark relief.
This album takes the defining elements of Black Metal – strychnine tremolo melodies, rampaging blast-beats, haunting melancholy, and blinding, spiteful aggression – and burns away all the dross and excess, until only the true soul and spirit of the genre remains.
What Der Weg Einer Freiheit have captured here is a near-perfect snapshot of the genre. Its power and its potential. Both what it is, and what it can be.