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Totengeflüster are a German symphonic black metal band founded in 2007 by bassist/guitarist/keyboardist Totleben. He began writing various song compositions before teaming up with secondary founder, Narbengrund, who contributed lyrical and vocal elements to the existing compositions which Totleben had written for the band in advance. In English, the group's name translates to Whispers of the Dead, which adequately describes their musical style. Eventually the twosome added Schattendorn to their ranks as a live and session drummer to complete their line-up, though he is not considered a founding member nor contributes to any of the song structures. Driven by sorrow, death and insanity, what lays in the depths of Totengeflüster's debut full-length album, Vom Seelensterben?
From the very start of the material, audiences will be greeted with an authentic raw quality that gives the music an aggressive, bloody, razor sharp edge right from the beginning; this element is generally absent from the over-polished symphonic metal from this day and age, making it a unique attribute on its own. Narbengrund's vocals are reminiscent of what is heard in Carach Angren and even early Cradle of Filth work. Some of the song structures that make an appearance on the content are blatantly inspired by Dimmu Borgir, circa In Sorte Diaboli, such as what is heard on "Ein Traumgespinst", and there is even some old Emperor influence present. However, that being said, Totengeflüster do have elements incorporated that keep their work from coming off generic or vapid.
The song compositions are both aggressive and sophisticated, two principles that are at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, yet Totengeflüster seamlessly blend them together into an onslaught of raw, chaotic energy while still being able to give the material a haunting orchestral break from time to time. "Die Prophezeiung", "gefrorene Tränen" and "Im Tau der toten Morgensonne" are entirely instrumental tracks which powerfully utilize Totleben's ghostly orchestral keyboard structures. The latter track, which is the outro, is a true testament to how provocative, eerie and varying the keyboards can become; it incorporates a dynamic range of synthesizer sounds, from organs, choirs and clean keyboards while deep, cinematic styled bass booms in the background like dropping bombs. As a bonus, the band added "Ein Monolog im Mondschein (Orchestral Version)" at the end of the album. The track finds itself an enthrallingly welcome addition to the track listing, compelling enough to stand solely on intricate orchestral composition rather than relying on any other instruments; listeners may very well find themselves enjoying this version over the main one. Where the vocals are concerned, Narbengrund comes across commanding, dominate, horrific and tortured; this gives a heavy contrast versus the tame, elegant synthesizers that accent the vocal track. He provides a variety of techniques such as sinister whispers, black metal shrieks and rough growls that keep the content from becoming mundane and monotone. His style is very reminiscent of Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth, more specifically the Cruelty and the Beast era, especially within the whispering vocal growls that are present. Due to mixing, the vocal and keyboard tracks largely eclipse the rest of the components, however the guitar can be heard donning an electrified, fuzzy distortion tone while strumming chunky palm-muted riffs, catchy power chord progressions and interesting tremolo picking. Schattendorn drums like an absolute madman, bestowing unto the content driving patterns, rolls, galloping beats and double bass blast that give the record an unrivaled intensity of hellish proportions.
Vom Seelensterben is dripping with raw, aggressive symphonic energy from every track. The seasoned orchestrations are the highlight of the material, while the agonized vocals come in as a close second. Every element works with one another to flawlessly provide an intense, destructive, apocalyptic atmosphere that rips the listener apart, leaving them to the depths of insanity by the end of it all. Totengeflüster harmoniously blend combative high speed tempos with slower paced segments without making the two structures clash or sound abrupt as they flow into one another. The only flaw with this album is that the vocals and synthesizers tend to take over the drums, guitar and bass tracks; this can be attributed to the mixing and it would be an easy fix for future material. Highly recommended for all, suggested mostly to symphonic black metal fans and those who long for rawness with their symphonic metal. Make sure to pick up a copy soon! Limited to 150 copies.
Physical Copy Provided by: Totengeflüster via Metal Message
- Villi Thorne
Symphonic metal of any variant is hardly of interest to me, with my preference for music being the more direct and aggressive genres.But receiving the package for Totengeflüster‘s debut full length album Dem Seelensterben in my mailbox proved interesting enough, with the band putting much thought and effort into the visual aesthetic aspects of their album, which was all the more impressive considering how the release of Dem Seelensterben is an independent effort.
Right from the introductory track Die Prophezeiung the band makes it clear that this would be one beautiful, yet haunting journey, not only with the mystical atmosphere that shrouds the music but also with the high presence of the piano, being the main instrument on the track. The influences from early symphonic black metal bands such as Emperor are immediately clear once the aural onslaught began proper with Ein Traumgespinst, with the aggressive riffs and the urgent pace of the band’s brand of black metal. Vocalist Narbengrund’s shrieks are tortured, and this creates a nice contrast against the beautiful and somewhat enchanting atmospheric backdrop created by the heavy orchestration.
But it doesn’t take long for one to notice that Totengeflüster seems to have placed a much higher emphasis on the symphonic aspects here compared to the aforementioned. Apart from the opening track, the keyboards are play a high importance in the music of the band, and sections where the almost neo-classical arrangement of the keyboards bring to mind symphonic black metal bands such as Anthelion or Dimmu Borgir. Furthermore, there are moments on the album where the band goes into ambient sections, and the strategic positions where these are placed certainly serve to reinforce the emotions and moods that are on the rest of the album. Female backing vocals can also be found littered throughout the album, making the music feel all the more haunting.
The production quality of Dem Seelensterben however was one aspect that came across as rather surprising. Unlike the polished production that most symphonic black metal bands tend to utilise to ensure that the impact of the music is experienced in its fullest, the production on Dem Seelensterben seemed to be rather raw at times, especially on the “metal” aspects of the music such as the instruments and while it could very well be the band’s intention to ensure that the black metal aspects of the music sound as authentic as possible, it felt kinda contradictory at times as the album progressed especially with the epic feel that the atmospheric, symphonic elements of the music provided.
Overall though, Totengeflüster‘s debut is a release that has put together a nice balance of aggressive black metal and a heavy indulgence of beautiful symphonies and while admittedly this has done little to change my musical preferences, Dem Seelensterben is a respectable release in its own rights.