I got into black metal admittedly a bit late, back in 2007, a year after the passing of two black metal legends. Thus discovering Bathory and Dissection was a bittersweet experience. Since then, I’ve explored numerous bands, listening to black metal almost exclusively over a two year period. And then, in the winter of 2009 that came to a grinding halt. It’s hard to say why I took a break from the genre, maybe the fact that I went on a three month long binge of the irrepressible mary-jane (thus gravitating towards more “mellow” music) or maybe because there’s only so much black metal you can listen to before getting sick of it altogether. Things lasted this way for a while afterwards, I can’t really say how long because frankly I don’t remember. But in that time span I gravitated towards primarily folk and doom metal, two criminally underrated genres. And at last, within the past year or so, I’ve begun to wade back into black metal and survey the present landscape. And let me tell you, there’s been some great material that’s been cultivated lately. This should come as no surprise to most of you reading this, but it’s such a breath of fresh air to discover that there’s actually fresh and quality material out there beyond the ocean of rehashed bedroom acts and Darkthrone copy-cats. Which brings me to this phenomenal album by the German band Dammerfarben, released in May of this year.
Melancholy has been an integral part of black metal for literally decades and this album is saturated in it. However, unlike many from the genre, there’s an almost joyous quality as well, not unlike a stream. In fact, that’s what I can best equate this album with. It possesses an atmosphere that flows and evolves throughout the tracks, a diversity not often showcased by bands that play this specific flavor of black metal. I’m more than a little reminded of Horn at times, but the production is much better, there’s no sea of static to shroud the riffs and vocals (which are both fantastic). The latter are phlegmy and the annunciation is top-notch (even if I don’t speak German), the former are memorable if only a bit cliched at times. I’ll be honest, the riffs are at times reminiscent of Burzum, but the progression is competent enough that it never forces the listener to focus on that fact for very long and given the stark difference in style it’s more of a passing coincidence than a negative issue. One of the complaints I do have with this release is that sometimes it feels like the production is just too skeletal, like it’s missing a certain something. But those moments last ever so briefly before diving back into the meat of the music.
An endearing part of the release is the tasteful use of distortion, synths and cello. Unlike many bands them add it in gratuitously, Dammerfarben utilizes them to their advantage, particularly on “Oktobersturm,” which is easily my favorite track off the entire album. The songs aren’t structured around the two instruments, nor are they just “there” to be there. They’re a legitimate part of the structure and the band obviously knows how to use them to their advantage without being too reliant on them, which is admirable in the myriad of “symphonic” black metal acts these days.
In all, the influence of the romantic and melancholic aesthetics combined with naturalistic black metal tendencies, melodic riffs, tastefully used cello and synths, and quality songwriting creates an unforgettable and beautiful release from this relatively young band. According to Metal-Archives, Dammerfarben was originally formed as a one man project, finally becoming a quartet after the release of the 2006 demo. I’ll be honest, I can’t get enough of this band. This album is one that rewards on repeated listens, as most all do.
You can pick it up from the Northern Silence shop for a pretty reasonable price, although I’ll be on the lookout for a North American distro that carries it and update this post later with a link.