On March 24th W.T.C. Productions will release the long-awaited fifth album by the German black metal band Membaris. Eight years is indeed a long time in between records, and that’s how much time has elapsed since their last one, Entartet. But holy hell, the return they have made with Misanthrosophie is nothing short of spectacular.
To crib from some of the many words to follow in an introductory review, there is a theatrical quality to the album as a whole, like a fantastical Baroque pageant that seems to put the richness of humanity, in all its wildly swinging emotions — its madness and its never-ending grief, its joy and absurdity, its soulful poignancy and heedless cruelty — onto a grand stage. And to do this Membaris have seamlessly incorporated a wide range of musical styles across many decades, from both metal and rock, into their thorned framework of black metal. Every song holds wondrous surprises and thrilling experiences, every one of them fueled with undeniable passion and executed with tremendous skill.
They begin the album in astonishing fashion with “Architektur fern Struktur”, a whirling dance of fiery riffing, riotous drumming with a razor-sharp immediacy, and a mix of unchained screaming and deep roaring. But the song eventually morphs into something very different — first a flowing, seductively alluring melody with a changed voice as well, and later, darkened, brooding guitar sounds and solemn, reverent singing. The band spin the music up again, but also introduce glistening, exotic guitar leads that create a sense of beckoning mystery in the midst of all the savage, unchained ecstasy. There seems to be as much romance and wonder in the music as unbridled wildness.
That startling opening song is but a first glimpse of the wondrous amalgams of sound and mood that continue to unfold, track after track, as the album proceeds. The racing conflagration of “Nebel Haras” creates feelings of burning pain and inconsolable despair, but the riffing also jabs and jolts, and the singing voices sound defiantly heroic, lending a folk-like accent to the music, while the song’s reverberating helical solo is absolutely, entrancingly, glorious.
As noted above, the passion in the music is undeniable, and unrelenting, but each track presents its own surprises, from the cacophony of yelling voices at the opening of “My Path of Stars” to the beautifully glinting tones, unnerving dissonance, and mercurially swirling melodies within the same song; from the shrieking and diving magnificence of the solo that launches “Constant Companion” to the theatrical voices in that track, shouting their lines as if performing a crowded street scene in the Globe Theater, and the song’s plague-like descent into tragedy and tears, capped by a pair of extraordinary solos.
Come to think of it, there is a theatrical quality to the album as a whole, like a fantastical Baroque pageant that seems to put the richness of humanity, in all its wildly swinging emotions — its madness and its never-ending grief, its joy and absurdity, its soulful poignancy and heedless cruelty — onto a grand stage.
There is also unexpected haunting beauty to be found here, in the vibrant acoustic strumming, the mournful bowed strings, and the fierce folk singing within “The only reason to stay”, as well as extravagant ebullience (“Pulsar” is another electrifying, dervish-like whirl that seems to spin up into the sky, in flames, though it has its own acoustic accents).
And Membaris also make room for the appearance of supernatural forces — the riffing in “Imaginations through the horn-crowned skull”, both oppressive and deranged, and the scorched-earth screaming, sound hellish (though of course this song also morphs into something different — and beautiful).
“Misanthrosophie”, the title track, is an especially fine example of how adroitly Membaris shift gears, switching between light-speed drumming and roiling riffage to swaggering and staggering movements that draw brooding black veils over the music. The track is also home to vocal insanity, and to yet another marvelous spiraling solo.
The album truly is a spectacular marvel, a heroic achievement in so many ways, and so it seems fitting that the closing track “Aus Tiefen empor…” sounds like a pagan battle anthem from a mythic age, an exhortation to victory that heats the blood to a boil and draws power from the heavens. The song is also emblematic of the band’s skill in incorporating many different styles of music across many decades, from both metal and rock, into their iron-thorned framework of black metal. And… one more guitar solo comes at the very end, which is, of course, breathtaking.
In addition to the deep bows that are owed to the members of Membaris — Obscurus (drums, guitars, vocals) and Kraal (guitars, bass, vocals) — we must give credit (and a big round of applause) to Stefan Hofmann, who performed all the magical solos, and to Abigor’s TT, who engineered the record, as well as to Karmazid, who created the evocative cover art. Credit for all the photos above goes to Linda W.
WTC Productions will release the album on LP, CD, and digitally. Pre-order it now — you will NOT be sorry you did.