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Pagan black metal bands all obey to certain general aesthetic codes, in which they seek to distinguish themselves anyway. Thus, use of dead languages, pend tribute to a disappeared people and celebrate nature are all elements that are mostly employed by bands celebrating beliefs of the past. However, conceptual accuracy is not always a priority.
This is the case for German quartet Timor and Tremor, whose name vaguely Latinized means « fear and trembling » (no, it is not the name of a children’s program). Another interesting detail, band declares interpreting « Chattic Black Metal », inspired by a Germanic tribe, fiercely opposed to Romans, which lived in Hessen at the beginning of Christian era. Finally, all the band’s lyrics are in English. Fortunately, this hodgepodge of undigested concepts does not affect the music.
Upon Bleak Grey Fields, their second album is indeed very strong. After a short narrative, Solstice launches hostilities with a testosterone-packed pagan black metal. This song illustrates main stylistic features of the Kassel’s band, where epic is never far away. This is evidenced by high notes’ rapid succession, along with a drum going at full speed. However, it is Eternal Woe that wins the album’s best song award. Rough and brutal at first, it slows down gradually, adopts clear vocals and a melancholy feeling. Sublime. Rest of the album, without reaching the same intensity, is able to keep pace and surprises by its song writing and playing maturity. Of course, similarities with other German groups practicing the same style – including Varg or Helrunar – are numerous, but Timor and Tremor is able to distinguish itself through its songs quality.
Despite my initial remarks, which can be applied to many pagan-inspired bands pouring into caricature, I admit being positively impressed by this album. Upon Bleak Grey Fields certainly does not revolutionize the genre, but offers more than forty minutes of high quality black metal, a feat that became increasingly rare these days.
Originally written for Métal Obscur.
Atmopsheric black metal has always been a tag that piques my interest. Fair enough you could argue that all black metal should contain an element of ‘atmosphere’ be it bestial, depressing, noxious or in Timor et Tremor's case, a primitive pagan oriented slant on the genre which in their case they describe as ‘Chattic black metal’. What the fuck is ‘Chattic’? I hear you say, well apparently the Chatten were an ancient Germanic tribe that settled in North West Hessen and this is where the band derives their influences and releases them in their music.
So moving on from our brief history lesson, it’s hard to describe the material on the all too brief forty four minutes of “Upon Bleak Grey Fields” as anything less than utterly enthralling. There is the obvious huge Germanic influence present, similarities could easily be drawn to fellow acts such as Obscenity, Helrunar and Heimdall's Wacht but there is also a faint undercurrent of graven pride the likes you hear from Primoridal and a more than coincidental Agalloch and Woods of Ypres vibe especially in the clean vocals. It encapsulates the atmosphere they’re shooting for perfectly without sacrificing the element of brutality, a trap which many bands fall into rendering them limp and lifeless.
Straight from the guitar driven punch of ‘Solstice’ you know this is going to be an engaging listen. Hendrik’s harsh vocals together with Marco’s spellbinding riffing whips up an atmosphere that’s enough to transport you back those times that they sing about with so much spirit and respect. ‘Eternal Woe’ even has a radiance about it which recalls latter Watain among others in all its thundering, tremolo driven intensity before eschewing this mid-way for a brooding section filled with clean vocals that I can only compare to the late David Gold and a magnificent guitar lead. The clean vocals crop up all over the album and really add a fine touch of downtrodden misery to proceedings. It’s almost like this at times could be the album Woods of Ypres always wanted to create but could never find that upper gear.
“Northern Silence” continues the atavistic dirge with its Agalloch-esque progressions and in ‘Shores of Light’ we’re treated to those fantastic clean vocals again woven seamlessly into a thread of longing with those harsh vocals, pounding drums and bleak riffing that trails off into the beyond. It is in fact these final four songs beginning with ‘Shores of Light’ that really set this album apart though, ‘Helrunar’ ups the intensity again while album highlight, ‘Funeral Dawn’ has all the echoes of that aforementioned Woods of Ypres sound again, only better. The clean vocals are executed with such sombre credibility and together with the melodic, ringing guitar passage that closes the song out accounts for something utterly sullen yet sublime indeed, as is the vitriolic fury of the re-recorded ‘Northern Lights’. Picture yourself straddling an endless battlefield with blood and death still coursing through your veins, and a cold hard stare over the destruction beneath to behind a horizon of despair where you just know something better is waiting. That may give some insight, at least to me anyway as to the sound that Timor et Tremor are trying to convey here on “Upon Bleak Grey Fields”.
They always did show a large element of potential before, “My Oaken Chest” was a decent if slightly undercooked release but with “Upon Grey Bleak Fields” they have fulfilled that promise ten-fold and come up with an astounding album that easily sits up there with the best, and that’s no easy task. It contains ‘atmosphere’ in every sense of the word, a spiritual and standalone piece of work that contains a passion and fire that so many other bands could only wish to posses. Harsh yet melodic at the same time, “Upon Bleak Grey Fields” is an expert release in a genre beginning to get saturated with bands all plying the same trade. Don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more from these guys in the near future. Highly recommended.
If you translate the name of the band you end up with something like “fear and trembling”, which resembles the thoughts people might have had while thinking about the “Chatten” (if you’re interessted see this link). Regarding this facts, it’s easy to say, that the music probably will be harsher. Upon Bleak Grey Fields is the fourth release they made, although it’s only the second full-length record. The record offers eight tracks with a total playing time of round about 45 minutes.
The intro makes clear, that this record won’t be really entertaining because it’s really innovative as the intro features quite some clichees. First of all there is the sample of the noise of wind combined with a calm acoustic guitar, later they added some spoken vocals. Something you have heard dozens of times before, but it’s still a good way to build up some atmosphere and it’s well done. The following songs won’t be innovative either and they lack sovereignty, but they are really well played and the way in which they combine well known elements is quite good.
The general playing style has to be described as melodic black metal with some slight influences of pagan metal. The riffs could be compared to some stuff the Swedes of Naglfar do, but they are also influenced by melodic black metal bands. At least the vocals, which are screamed quite low-pitched, remind me of Mikael Stanne, but the whole composition sounds somewhat like Dark Tranquillity goes black metal. That also means, that the compositions are of a high quality, although not all of the songs are keeping this high niveau of songs like Eternal Woe. The songs are mostly quite fast, with fast, cold riffs and impelling drums. Compared with the sound of Dark Tranquillity you’d have to say, that it’s way thicker and more organic, which is a huge plus point. As only fast and impelling songs would become quite boring fast, they added many changes in terms of tempo, dynamics and vocal styles. Especially the aforementioned Eternal Woe would be a supreme example as it pends between fast and furious passages and quite slow paced, sublime ones. That’s not the only thing that gets alternated, as the vocals are pending between screamed, clean sung and spoken passages. Sad thing, that not every song features similiar highlights. The production is quite warm, earthy and powerful.
I didn’t knew Timor et Tremor before this review, but Upon Bleak Grey Fields flashed me. Although the record lacks sovereignty, you can’t say it’s bad. They really understood how to compose melodic black metal, in order to produce quite catchy music, which will nearly force you to whip your head back and forth. They are playing their instruments nearly flawlessly, which means that the only real flaw is the patchy quality of the songs, although none of them is really bad. All in all, this is a really great record. I advice you to visit the bands homepage, as you can listen to one full song there and download all of the previous releases for free!
Written for http://threnodies.com