Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wolfnacht - Heidentum (2002)

Heidentum takes itself more seriously than Wolfnacht's Night of the Werewolf EP, both in it's colder aural aesthetics and the ideological decision to write ALL lyrics and song titles in German, rather than just some of them. This was not a new strategy for Athalwolf, who had been doing the same on demos for several years prior, but here it works in conjunction with the compositions to invoke what might be the most chilling Greek NSBM record to its day. Other bands like Legion of Doom had been associated with the principles, but Heidentum asserts its convictions like a breath of winter, a crude production standard which functions remarkably well with the cutting rasp of the vocals and the streaming, bloodied guitars which feel like the steaming of lifeblood from the wounds of wolf prey under the frozen eaves of some forsaken forest...

Comparisons to early Burzum, Branikald, or Ulver are not impractical here, though Athalwolf uses a thick, almost death metal bark to his vocals which does often overwhelm the thinner riffing beneath. There are some phenomenal, grim fucking tracks on this one, such as "Licht des Sieges" where its raw guitars meet the subdued orchestral/synthesizer sweeps like a beautiful vortex of falling snow upon corpse-strewn wastes. Or "Heidentum" itself, which is the very essence of the loathing and sorrow that once characterized the 'second wave' black metal of Scandinavians. I was also rather fond of "Der Ritt durch das Land des Eis' und Nebels", from the trumpets and clamor of its intro sample to the cold floes of marching black belligerence. Only one tune here really hearkens back to the punk-metal displayed on Night of the Werewolf, and that would be the closer, a 9-minute experimental piece "Ein dämonischer Winter verhüllt den Schattenturm..." which cycles between raw rock riffs, black metal tremolo rhythms, and curious Gothic-wave sequences in which the melodies really pop out at the listener.

All in all, a fascinating enough album, even if all the songs are not driven home with the same level of writing quality. "Ein dämonischer..." proves that Athalwolf continues to covet his ability to diversify his palette of musical expression, and the primacy of the production values here is sure to thrill fans of that entire nihilistic necro sect of home and lo-fi recordings fundamental to the underbelly of the genre. Admittedly, this has everything in common with the underground of German and Scandinavia, and little to nothing of kinship to the fellow Greek bands, so as a rule of thumb it's not incredibly unique outside of the brief experimentation. But as far as transporting the listener to its frost-tinted worship of the past, it succeeds with some room to spare. Not a 'great' black metal album, perhaps, but a competent debut which remains as fresh as carrion on the scent, and one of the best of Wolfnacht.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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