Sep 082023

(Having made his NCS debut yesterday, guest contributor Didrik Mešiček comes right back with the following review of a new album-length EP by Finsterforst, which is out today on AOP Records.)

Finsterforst first appeared on my radar with their previous release, Zerfall, which turned out to be one of the best (blackened) folk metal releases of 2019. The Germans insist on their rather complex musical style, which can seem daunting at first, but it’s very worth investing some time into their music as it does reward you with every listen.

This time the band are back with a new EP (although at 40 minutes, is it really an EP?) called Jenseits, which is really one song, divided into four parts. It will be released on September 8th on AOP Records.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, this is a release that’s one massive song, but each of the four individual parts has a theme to it. Finsterforst begins with the concept of freedom, and sure enough, the opening yell feels freeing; it alone paints the image of a man standing on the cliff of a tall Alpine mountain, his bushy beard disheveled, looking into the dark forests surrounding him.

The track, a bit surprisingly, even features some choir vocals from (nearly?) the entire band but mostly it’s the band’s vocalist’s Oliver Berlin who, from the start, showcases a wide array of vocal techniques, from the cleans in the very catchy chorus, to the harsh growls in the verses, which are also varied throughout the song and showcase a lot more emotion than we’re used to from most harsh vocalists. 

If “Kapitel I – Freiheit” was about all the good things in life, a utopian view, the second part, “Kapitel II Dualität”, brings with it reality – and therefore trouble. This part is, from its beginning, noticeably harsher and the guitars reflect that in their unrelenting distorted sound, but mostly it’s the vocals again that convey the story the most, while there’s an added background sound in this part that acts as a sort of alarm.

Towards the end of the second part the song gets very majestic, cinematic even, and the folkier elements of the band become more apparent before it settles down again and prepares itself for the third, pensive part. 

The emotional crescendo is hit in “Kapitel III Reflexionen” as the song calms down and gives us all a moment to breathe and, as the title implies, reflect on our story so far. The gentle sounds of the duduk evoke sadness and introspection, and while this isn’t a track you’ll likely listen to often, it’s one that elevates this entire story to art. In the second half, the tempo picks up a bit again and prepares us for the final chapter of Jenseits and the conclusion of the story.

As it turns out, all of the parts I’ve already spoken about are already released and all that’s missing (at the time of this writing) is the 15-minute finale to this epic. As the title, “Kapitel IV – Katharsis,” might tell you, this is the big conclusion and resolution of the story, and it certainly begins in a very cathartic manner, with a distorted guitar sound that’s joined by powerful vocals and then the pounding drums.

Finsterforst return to their more classic blackened folk sound here, but the track also involves, surprisingly, some quite groove-metal riffs, which are then followed by a flute. And you may be thinking this kind of sounds like a mess, but the band manage to work everything into this package extremely eloquently, which is a real testament to their skill and how thought-out this entire release actually is as it returns to its very roots three minutes before its end, with that same yell of freedom we heard in the very beginning. 

Jenseits is one of the better surprises of the year so far. I knew Finsterforst were capable of producing some really good material, but I’m still in awe of how they manage to deliver such a cohesive 40-minute song that follows a great narrative and actually has a powerful message as well. Something that’s, luckily, becoming more and more common in modern metal releases as people are realising Satan really isn’t that cool nor scary.

The promo I have for this release actually says the “album is not made for streaming,” but it’s something that definitely should not be skipped. However, it will take attentive listening to fully enjoy and understand the complexity of it and I’m delighted the band have decided to make this EP, which will undoubtedly be one of the best things released in metal this year.

  One Response to “FINSTERFORST: “JENSEITS””

  1. Man am I impressed by Finsterforst. I just discovered them here and now. I listened to their previous album Zerfall for the first time today. EPIC. This would have been my album of the year on 2019 if I’d known about this band.

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