For their 7th full-length effort, Dornenreich continue to refine and hone in those elements that make them distinct from the vast and growing population of their folk-influenced peers. Razor spun, tight melodic riffing; passionate vocals that strafe both the harsh and clean territories with practiced ease; beautiful acoustic guitars that exist to more than a middling effect; gently curving bass; and the violin of Inve, seamlessly woven into the core metallic instrumentation as if it were always meant to be, perhaps the most fluid example of this in the entire genre. But more than any of this, the Austrians realize what it takes to propel a concept to its beautiful heights, and pace their album with wincing, weaving plots of variation that make it a pleasure to listen through.
Flammentriebe is all of these things, deviously transforming from elegant calms to glorious raids within the breadth of a few measures, with a guitar tone that is sheer, gleaming ice throughout the opener "Flammenmensch". "Der Wunde Trieb" brings Inve into full stride, his string work responsible for an excellent intro that crashes straight into the wavelike riffing patterns and air of solitude and tragedy. "Tief im Land" is more majestic still, with tearing guitars that collapse and emerge into the cleaner guitars and violin, as if an epic were being written out across the scrolls of history. "Wolfpuls" transforms from a cautionary gloom to the catchiest, punchiest riffs on the entire album, yet still carrying its melodies in tow; while "Wandel Geschehe" waltzes with loving despair, each moment of marvelous tranquility hanging at the edge of metallic eruption. I'd also point out the closer "Erst deine Träne löscht den Brand" as noteworthy, a near on 8 minutes epic of sailing violins and emotionally stirring, simple chord progressions that opens with a highly accessible acoustic component.
Flammentriebe is indeed a beautiful evocation, so carefully composed that it's obvious the past 15 years have been put to good use, molding this outfit through a wide wealth of exploration. There is something archaic here, some antiquity the band are able to generally touch upon that makes this the perfect accompaniment for historical fiction, although the 'flame' implied with the title seems more one of inspiration than elemental affinity, this to me is the music of vast open reaches of water or the gentle lick of tides against stone coastlines. My reaction to the band's prior efforts is mixed: some I found compelling, some consuming, some all too forgettable. You can file Flammentriebe somewhere between the first two categories. It's not perfect, but very often will take your breath away.
Verdict: Win [8.25/10]