(Andy Synn returns with another trio of reviews for new albums by German bands, this time focusing on releases by Fäulnis, Hexer, and Maat.)
I’m in a bit of a rush, so today’s preamble is going to be short, sweet, and snappy.
Go buy these albums.
FÄULNIS – ANTIKULT
No matter how you like your Black Metal – sullen and groovy, panzerblasty, totally hi-tech or utterly low-fi – there’s always going to be something new out there for you to discover. Whether it’s a fresh face or an established underground underdog, the sheer wealth of talent and torment on offer in the scene today is unsurpassed.
Hamburg hatemongers Fäulnis are now on their third album, which mixes the simmering nihilism of the DSBM scene with some seriously shameless Punk Rock vibes, resulting in nine tracks of bullish, strutting grooves and angst-ridden riffs that sound like Tsjuder in the midst of a serious existential crisis, or Shining on better (and stronger) medication.
In fact fans of either of the aforementioned bands, plus those who worship at the altar of Bethlehem, will definitely find a lot to love here.
“Metropolis”, for example, is all spine-tingling tremolo melodies and swaggering punk-infused riffery, while “Block 19, Mahlstrom” is a slower paced, hypnotic headbanger of a track which incorporates some gorgeously bleak lead guitar melodies and harsh, hook-filled vocals over the course of its 05:44 run-time.
“Galgen, kein Humor” picks up the pace significantly from its predecessor, with its twining, barbed-wire tremolo runs and sputtering, spitfire drum work laying down a series of searing strafing runs of pure blackened venom, leading into the glass-cutting melodies and keen hooks of “MS Fäulnis”, with the band cranking out an intense array of growling riffs and anxiety-inducing blastbeats as the track builds towards its unexpectedly dark and poignant conclusion.
Interestingly, while the guitars on Antikult have some real grit and grime to them, the darkly depressive melodies which infuse these songs — including the surprisingly heart-rending “Im Auge des Sturms” and the album’s grim and grandiose finale “Der König” – ring out with crystal-clear clarity, allowing for some great contrast between the darker, dirtier rhythm work and the soaring solemnity of the leads/clean guitars.
Of course when the band want to go hard, they go hard – as the blasturbatory orgy of “Kadaver” and the unrepentant intensity of “Arroganz von unten” can attest – meaning that there’s more than enough filth and fury on offer here to please even the most jaded of kvltists.
Ultimately Antikult proves that Fäulnis have been drifting under the radar for far too long, so if you’re a fan of Black Metal on the more dour and depressive end of the spectrum, or really any form of music that’s delivered with real emotion and conviction, why not check this out the next time you have 40-ish minutes to spare?
HEXER – COSMIC DOOM RITUAL
Has there ever been an album title more apropos than this? I don’t think so.
Seriously, what we have here are three utterly gargantuan tracks of gloomy, ritualistic Doom and cold, cosmic ambience, absolutely heaving with miserable melody and haunting atmosphere… so what else could the band call this album except Cosmic Doom Ritual?
Opener “Merkaba” drifts into view on the back of some slow, pulsing drums, low, rippling bass lines, and eerie, effects-drenched guitars, the band dragging out the intro for several torturous minutes before the song finally coalesces into a morbid, sludge-soaked stomp of heavy, oppressive riffage and howling vocals, which in turn eventually gives way to an almost absolute auditory vacuum of chilling semi-silence… before building once more, slowly but surely, towards a truly thunderous, utterly cataclysmic conclusion.
The beginning of “Pearl Snake” is all atmospheric, red-shifted ambience and shimmering, irradiated noise that soon gives birth to a sloth-like lurch of grinding, melody-tinted guitars and gruff, echoing vocals, ebbing and flowing between restrained power and reflective emptiness over the course of the track’s twelve-and-a-half minutes of hypnotic, ritualistic rhythms and strangely seductive soundscapes.
The third (and final) track which makes up Cosmic Doom Ritual is entitled “Black Lava Flow”, and opens with a series of harrowing screams and crashing chords that immediately set the tone for the song. Brooding, brutal, and unforgivingly grim, it marches forward with unstoppable momentum for just under eleven minutes in a titanic procession of gut-rumbling riffs and shuddering, bone-shaking bass lines in mesmerising, doom-laden style, while eerie synths and enigmatic sounds flicker in and out of existence on the periphery of your hearing, before ultimately concluding in a void of absolute silence and stillness.
Definitely an album which will take multiple listens (and re-listens) to fully unpack, Cosmic Doom Ritual is one hell of a debut album, from a band with a clear and uncompromising vision.
MAAT – MONUMENTS WILL ENSLAVE
What with the Nile camp currently in disorder and disarray, the time is ripe for another Egypt-obsessed Death Metal band to try to seize the spotlight for themselves… and it looks like Maat think that they should be that band.
Truth be told though, I hear a lot more Behemoth in the mix here than Nile, along with more than a few similarities to the fearsome Frenchmen in Svart Crown and those Lovecraftian disciples in Sulphur Aeon.
And although it doesn’t really add anything particularly new or innovative to the canon… I’m really loving this album regardless, far more than both the new Hate and Hour of Penance albums in fact.
It’s got fire, it’s got passion, it’s got… chutzpah… and, most of all, it’s got a bunch of seriously kick-ass songs.
Take the opening pairing of “March for a Dying God” and “The Divine Slaughtering of Mankind” – both of which deliver a veritable riffgasm of searing tremolo work and rib-cracking chuggery that’s as hellaciously hooky as it is humongously heavy – or the blistering “Imhotep – Thy Architect”. These tracks aren’t aiming to break the mould or reinvent the wheel. They’re just aiming to wreck some necks and crack some skulls, and they do so with gusto.
The short but sweet “Funeral Euology” shoehorns in an epic amount of melody into its sub-three-minute run-time, including some tasteful acoustic work right at the end, which leads perfectly into the chug-chug-chug-chug-athon of “The Path”, which is overloaded with more riffs than you can shake a Was-sceptre at.
The shuffling, sand-walking gait which opens “Dissolved Into Dust” soon shifts into a skin-stripping sandstorm of blastbeats and brute-force riffage, while “Fear of the Unknown” goes for a slower, more methodical approach at first, only to pick up the pace significantly a few minutes in, leading to some undeniably gorgeous acoustic and lead guitar work during the surprisingly meditative bridge – before the band push things back into the red one last time for the track’s ferocious finale.
Normally I’m not a fan of so-called “interlude” tracks, but “The Rise” actually works really well to build the tension and anticipation leading into grandiose final track (not counting the thunderous re-recording of “End This Empire” which serves as a bonus-track on certain editions), “Spread My Word”, which has both energy and intensity to spare… not to mention a shamelessly epic streak a mile wide… and which ends the album on a fittingly titanic and triumphant note.
So if you’re looking for some top-quality Death Metal that’s heavy, hooky, and ready for war, this one should definitely scratch that itch.