Urfaust, Der freiwillige Bettler (Ván Records)
U.S. Release Date: March 11th, 2011

Sometimes I love black metal, sometimes I hate it but when bands like Urfaust come along I definitely pay attention. This is the third full album for this dutch duo and the first in five years (it was released oversees in November of 2010). Der freiwillige Bettler peaks my interest because it doesn’t have a typical black metal sound. In fact, you could argue that is indeed one of those records that pushes the genre into new territory which is exactly what needs to happen these days.

Vocalist/guitarist IX and drummer VRDRBR know how to put together a melody, but for the most part the minimal aspect of the drumming falls nicely in place with the atmospheric sounds from IX. There are really three different aspects to IX’s vocals. There’s chanting throughout the record and the first two tracks are mellow-ish in nature while the chanting on the 4th track (“Der Mensch, die kleine Narrenwelt”) is quite evil and dark. There’s ungodly screaming like he’s on fire, no better explained than by listening to “Das Kind mit dem Spiegel,” and then there’s cleaner vocals as you approach the end of the disc where you can actually make out words (although I don’t understand the language, it’s at least clear that words are present).

I’m usually not the one to heap praise upon a disc recorded in a language that I can’t understand but Der freiwillige Bettler and Urfaust have something pretty great going for them. This is that rare black metal album that’s both creepy as hell and soothing at the same time, so whatever mood you’re in there’s something for you.

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Echtra, Paragate (Temple of Torturous)
U.S. Release Date: March 31st, 2011

I’m not one to regurgitate a press release and usually I don’t even bother reading them (sorry to those who take the time to write them) so I can formulate my own opinion without being tainted by how anyone wants me to feel about the album at hand. But with Paragate, I was curious how this was being billed and after reading the release I saw this;

“This aural chronicle of the soul’s flight from corporeality issues from the Land before spiraling down into the heart of Earth, in the process loosening the stranglehold of dislocation modern humans labor under. Echoes of the Hunter stalking the prey of meaning ring out in the caverns of Spirit while arcane dances commence by the fireside; the chthonic depths offer their healing flame to our essence. After plumbing the lengths of these tunnels he is risen to the Heavens, taking flight in order to fully embody the liberty written in our blood. Above and Below make love in the flesh of the Seeker, engorged with breath and bearing the weight of the sweetest fruit.”

Clearly this passage was written by an alien or at least a human that can somehow dig way deeper into instrumental drone than any other person on this earth.

Here’s what I hear; two tracks, 23 minutes in length each because every song Echtra releases is exactly 23 minutes long. Atmospheric black metal with a folk twist over the second track until about the 9:30 mark of that tune when the 5-hour Energy kicks in and he goes ballistic on the instruments and screams like he’s being tortured for about three minutes.

I do hear that “spiraling” part mentioned in the description as many passages of the “Paragate I” take that circular, almost psychedelic route. But I don’t get anything making love in the flesh of the seeker and I don’t see how any one can dance by a fire to this at all without passing out and falling into the flaming pit.

“Paragate II” is the better of the two halves as it has way more variety than the first. “Paragate I” kind of lulls you to sleep a little bit with it’s straight repetitive atmospheric feel while the second part provides a jolt of black metal energy to wake you up again. Clearly my view on this is way more simplistic than the release, proving again that PR work is not in my blood.

I happen to be a fan of drone but I admit sometimes it’s hard to see the merit in many of the releases in the genre. While Paragate does have its moments here and there, it certainly doesn’t make me want to hear more.

About the Author

Dave Steed

Dave Steed is all about music; 80's and metal to be exact. His iPod will shuffle from Culture Club to Slayer and he won't blink an eye. He's never heard Astral Weeks but thinks "Dazzey Duks" by Duice is the bomb. It's an odd little corner of the world he lives in.

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