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The end of the 19th Century was a time of change: fin de siècle. Not only was the westernized world gearing up for the 20th Century, but many ideologists and intellectuals were dabbling in philosophies involving pessimism and cynicism, which were fairly revolutionary ideas, especially after the period of Romanticism. There was a general feeling among these circles that the world was decadent in nature and this lent to a more inward focus involving aestheticism and symbolism with a focus on abject beauty instead of the ideal that outward beauty was a form of righteousness. With these ideologies and belief structures in mind, Porta Nigra attempt to recreate the decadent and degenerate atmospheres of those times.
“Fin de Siècle” is not your typical black metal album. Whether this is because of their elaborate meshing of black metal with whatever came to their minds or this was really written during some type of absinthe induced delirium is up for debate, but I digress. There’s no denying that Porta Nigra has their roots firmly planted in the black metal scene, but their approach is so abstract when compared to the standard output of the genre that it shuns and defies the label. The final product is a rampant mix of melodic minor key riffing, speedy yet highly melodious trem lines and chugging and rhythmic palm muting. The drums are rather simplistic and straightforward yet still entertaining and engaging: very tom heavy and almost tribal at times. The rolls and fills are incredible, especially the fast paced section of thunderous toms that blast out of nowhere on “Die Spiegel”. Porta Nigra continually dances back and forth from haunting and melancholic atmospheres with an air of decadence, like the instrumental piece “Absinthfee”, to the dark and doomy, blackened yet slightly off-kilter styling of “Tod Meiner Lust”. The vocals alternate between haunting patterns utilizing a hollow, almost atonal, choral approach, raspy and gruffly shouted vocals, which sound similar to the vocals of early Samael or “Revenge” era Alastis and an occasional anguished squeal that manages to stay mid-ranged.
Much like the fin de siècle movement, the entire atmosphere of this album is pessimistic yet disturbingly beautiful, in its own way. This is perhaps best displayed on the opening track, “Dekadente Nächte”, as well as “Megalomaniac”. Both tracks showcase not only Porta Nigra’s ability to thrive in both the blackened doom segments and the avant-garde melancholic wanderings, but also their ability to seamlessly flow in and out of each section while maintaining a coherent sound. “Fin de Siècle” is an adventurous album that revels in doomy atmospheres and degeneration. “Fin de Siècle” is not for everyone. Black metal fans looking for a unique take on the genre should check this out. Fans of mid paced and adventurous black metal along the lines of A Forest of Stars and the like will definitely like this. Porta Nigra's debut is album is solid and interesting enough to garner some attention. Keep them on your radar because, despite the atmosphere of the music, the future looks bright for this band.
Originally Written for The Metal Observer:
Green fairy’s degustation is today a mostly forgotten ritual. Absinthe is indeed more than just alcohol: it is a lifestyle. Precious liquid is first poured into a specially designed glass on which is deposited a finely punctured utensil. Fresh water is then slowly added, filtered through a sugar cube that allows the release of subtle aromas. True symbol of the Belle Époque, celebrated by poets who drew their inspiration from it, absinthe fell into disfavor because of its effects on health, in a civilization now become obsessed with continence.
Going resolutely against the current, Pfalz band Porta Nigra choose to celebrate this deliciously decadent epoch with a first album called Fin de Siècle. Bathed in absinthe vapors, music performed by this German duo constantly alternates between contemplative musings of the drunk and the wrath of the drunkard. Atmosphere generated by the album is imbued with mystery and madness, created with retro sounding keyboards and haunting guitar riffs.
Spleen reaches a climax, however, with the beautiful Megalomaniac, unquestionably the best song on the album. It perfectly characterizes the style practiced by the band, with its catchy chorus, while other passages are rather anxious and tortured. Impossible not to get caught up in this modern and vaguely outdated sound; this true artistic paradox will be repeated throughout the album, but did not reach the same intensity thereafter. Other songs, in fact, suffer somewhat from the second piece excellence and do not offer the same balance between all different styles merged by the group (rock, progressive and black metal).
Who cares! Original thematic approach proposed by Porta Nigra’s two members is based on a solid song writing work and gives a result really pleasant to listen to. It’s definitely a nice discovery for anyone who has a musical sensibility that goes beyond black metal stereotypes.
Originally written for Métal Obscur.