(The month of November has nearly expired, but before it gasps its last breath Andy Synn has delivered a SYNN REPORT for the month, and in this edition he reviews and streams music from all the albums created by the German band Krater, including their latest work Venenare, released by Eisenwald earlier this month.)
Recommended for fans of: 1349, Mgła, Dark Fortress
I’m a little sick and tired of explaining it but, here it is again for those of you too slow to grasp this very simple truth…
Black Metal comes in many forms and many guises.
It can be dense and dissonant, ethereal and atmospheric, thrashy, punky, proggy… and everything in between. Sometimes all at once.
Don’t get me wrong, I still firmly believe that there are certain features, certain elements and ideals, which are fundamental (even though we can argue about what they might be ’til the cows come home) and without which you’re simply not playing Black Metal at all. But I have very little time for those whose limited vision restricts what they’ll “allow” Black Metal to be.
Germany’s Krater clearly share a similar view, as their back catalogue is a testament to evolution and expanding vision, beginning life as a more “classic” second-wave style band but swiftly developing into something far darker, far heavier, far more technical, and far more atmospheric, than their more primitive origins might have predicted.
DAS RELIKT DES TRIUMPHES – 2006
I’m not going to spend too long on the band’s debut album, as while it’s not a bad record by any means, it’s very much the sound of a band following in the footsteps of their idols – think Dissection, Bathory, even early Enslaved – rather than forging their own path.
That being said, there are some real stand-out tracks that will appeal to anyone who’s a fan of Black Metal in its most “classic” form, including the surprisingly melodic and multi-layered “Weiße Reinheit” and the grandiose, galloping “Bastion”, as well as a few moments (such as during the chunky “Ruf zu den Waffen”) which hint at the deathlier, doomier, elements which the band would go on to incorporate far more prominently in the future.
It’s a solid first effort, make no mistake, but it would be the band’s next record which would really establish them as “ones to watch” going forwards.
NOCEBO – 2011
Five years on from their debut Krater returned with a much heavier, much sharper, and dare I say much more modern second album, one which incorporates an even more aggressive vibe as well as a not-insignificant Death Metal influence (albeit without tipping over into full on Blackened Death Metal in the process.).
This is immediately apparent during the opening pairing of “Parasit (Wider parasitaere Totgeburten)” and “Ebrietas – Crush the Equilibrium”, whose thrashy, finger-flensing riffs, pulse-raising blastbeats, and chattering chuggy rhythms bring to mind the most frenzied and most torturously technical output of bands like Averse Sefira and 1349 at their very best.
The relentless “Aura” is a much more pure, and arguably even more punishing, Black Metal monstrosity, storming out of the speakers like some unholy, steroid-fuelled amalgam of Dissection and Dark Funeral, while the enigmatically titled “-“ takes its foot off the gas for a little while, allowing the crystal-clear lead guitars and wandering bass lines space to stretch their wings, interspersing these meditative moments of introspective ambience with passages of seething, blastbeats and streamlined tremolo runs.
“Geist ist Fluch” doubles down on the moodier vibe of its predecessor, exploring an even darker, even doomier approach than any of its predecessors, underpinned at key points by a deluge of driving blastbeats and fluid footwork, after which the storming title-track finds the band focused on delivering only the most intense, infectious, and unerringly ferocious Black Metal bombardment possible, hammering the listener into submission with riff after riff after riff.
Somehow “Ira Initium Insaniae” is, if anything, even more rifftastic than “Nocebo”, as well as featuring some shamelessly ostentatious guitar heroics and bitter, biting vocals, and acts as one final, palette-cleansing burst of controlled chaos before the grim, grandiose finale of “Zerissen” – all twelve minutes of abrasive aggression and august atmospherics of it – brings things to a suitably climactic close.
URERE – 2016
The band’s third album is heavier, darker, and riffier than ever, exploring an even greater variety of deathly tones and doomy textures, without losing the raw, blackened ferocity which defines them.
The somber, scene-setting “Initiation” quickly gives way to the stunning torrent of writhing riffs, punishing percussion, and merciless melodic menace that is “Non Serviam”, which also (re)introduces the ever-improving vocals of singer/bassist Abortio, who has further developed both his clean and harsh delivery to provide even more bitterness, even more bite, and even more brooding melody.
Abortio’s voice is also one of the many highlights of the ferocious “Bury the Light”, one of the album’s shortest, most savage compositions, as well as the predatory, Belphegor-esque “Flammen Im Vakuum”, which balances its frenzied drum work and massive, malevolent riffs with some seriously sinister atmosphere, while also showing off the band’s “give no fucks” attitude by throwing in a truly outrageously ostentatious solo section amidst all the blistering blastbeats and scorching aggression.
In contrast to its predecessor, “Antivists” is basically just three (and a bit) minutes of pure rage, reminiscent of both Der Weg Einer Freiheit and 1349 in both its brutal efficiency and its dedication to devastation, after which “Vexillum Luciferi” tempers its barbed-wire tremolo runs and blistering blastbeats with passages of morbid, doomy misery.
The neck-wrecking, hyper-thrash riffology of “Hunger of Ropes” is enhanced by some subtle embellishments (and the occasional splash of brooding, hypnotic clean vocals), adding a brooding ambience to the track even as the band cut loose on their respective instruments without restraint or remorse .
“Nerven-Gift” is all chilling atmosphere, churning distortion, and colossal, booming chords, topped off with a litany of eerie whispers and strangled snarls, which shows off the band at their doomiest and their most extreme, while the razor-sharp guitar work and warp-speed blasting which drives “Lust to Burn” reminds me of both Mgła and Nidingr (high praise in both regards).
Finally “Dust – Still Alive In That Place” pushes things into a weirder, more atmospheric place reminiscent of ongoing NCS favourites Schammasch, combining prowling, predatory chords and harsh, haunting ambience with a series of increasingly bleak voiceovers to end the album on a truly desolate note.
VENERARE – 2019
The addition of a third guitarist has allowed Krater to expand their sound even more, incorporating even more complex arrangements, increasingly varied and visceral vocals, and an ever-widening sphere of influences, in a way that often reminds me of the band’s countrymen Dark Fortress, albeit with a less proggy, and more “pure” Black Metal vibe.
This is immediately apparent on “Prayer for Demise”. The riffs are sharper, the drums are more intense. The grooves are that little bit bolder and more bombastic, the melodies bleaker and colder, and the overarching atmosphere that much more ominous and oppressive.
“Zwischen den Worten” capitalises even more on these latter elements, pulling back ever so slightly to deliver a slower, grimmer, groovier, and more melodic take on the band’s signature blackened belligerence, after which “Stellar Sparks” combines the dramatic vocal melodies and eerie atmosphere of the aforementioned Dark Fortress (or the highly-underrated Black Hole Generator) with some seriously tight, thrash ‘n’ burn riffage reminiscent of Mayhem at their barbaric best, along with some impressive, ground-and-pound percussion from drummer Shardik.
“When Thousand Hearts” is a mix of grim, ritualistic ambience akin to the esoteric approach of Panegyrist (complete with some fittingly morbid and melodramatic clean vocals) and scalding technicality, while “Atmet Asche” shows off a big Dissection influence, albeit one that’s steadily twisted into increasingly unorthodox shapes as the song progresses.
The doom-laden, melody-tinged intro to “No Place For You” soon gives way to a Mgła-esque assault of rampaging, hook-heavy riffs and laser-guided tremolo runs , with the band really taking advantage of their expanded, three-guitar line-up to layer soaring lead lines over eerie arpeggios over churning, chattering riffage, all building to a ferocious, full-speed finale that’s as catchy as it is cathartic.
Penultimate track “Darvaza Breeds”, clocking in at just under eleven minutes, is the album’s true pinnacle however, featuring some of the crunchiest, catchiest, and most twisted riffs on the entire record, all of which have been seamlessly arranged to provide maximum intensity and impact.
It also provides another perfect showcase for both the brilliant drum work and commanding vocals which are just as key to the album’s overall success, and even gives the record’s more atmospheric inclinations (and underrated bass work) room to breathe, culminating in one final, fatal spasm of scything drums and gloriously grim guitar work, after which the moody outro of “Wasted Carbon” concludes what is, without a doubt, one of the most intense and impressive Black Metal albums of 2019.
Glad to hear that you enjoyed Venenare as much as I did. Thanks for this retrospective. I spent some time with each record as I reviewed the latest, but this is a good reminder to go back and really absorb Nocebo and Urere.
Definitely hearing a later Dark Fortress vibe in Venerare’s 3rd song ‘Zwischen den Worten’