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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.