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A True Piece of Art - 92%

TransylvanianForest, June 16th, 2006

I usually don't care about lyrics. Especially if it's black metal lyrics, since most of the time they're stupid or just repeating slogans we've heard many times before. It's different with Dornenreich though. In short, their lyrics deal a lot with thoughts, dreams and life from a philosophical point of view, and they are excellent both content-wise as well as lyrically, which is why I decided to include extra points for them into the rating. Everybody familiar with Dornenreich knows that their "poems" are very important to them, and I've always considered their releases a combination of music and words right from the first time I’ve listened to them. This is important for most of you, since as far as I know, there's few German speakers around here, so most of you won't be able to appreciate Dornenreich's all-German lyrics, and maybe won't like the album as much as I do.

There is, however, a lot to appreciate in the music as well. Dornenreich's style has changed tremendously over the years (especially since the release of "Hexenwind"), but on this album they play a style closely related to black metal, with lots of keyboards and strings, using quite a number of acoustic guitars and calm(er) parts as well, but manage to never drift away into cheesiness. The general mood of the album is very "dream-like", meaning it's all a little blurry, but quite transparent at the same time, like behind a wall of glass or a thin veil of winter mist. It's nowhere near the confusing and overloaded style of symphonic black metal acts such as Limbonic Art or Emperor; in fact, I wouldn't call it "symphonic black metal" – as some people do – but rather "melodic black metal". It's definitely not for people who are into raw and hateful black metal, but fans of melodic black or harder gothic metal (e.g. Tristania) will most probably love it.

Although the song structures are very complex (no verse/chorus patterns or the like), the melodies always represent the centre of the songs and are very clear. It's easy to make out the individual instruments in the mix, with the exception of the bass. Usually the melodies are played by strings and keys (and sometimes acoustic guitars), while electric guitars and the excellent drum work provide for the required heaviness, but occasionally the e-guitars give melodies as well. The smart instrumentation of the album must be one of the main reasons why it is so good, and the melodies are just amazing. The music has a lot of romantic melancholy to it (remaining powerful though), but never gets depressing in a doom metal way.

The vocals are another thing that deserves a paragraph of its own. Evíga, who also writes all of Dornenreich's lyrics, gives the lead vocal, screaming most of the time, but also whispering when appropriate; his performance is just great. Thankfully he does not yet act as over-the-top as on the follow-up "Her von welken Nächten", on which he adopted an awful squealing from time to time. Valñes' vocals are labelled "dirges" in the booklet, and I couldn't think of a better description for them. They are much more prominent than on any other Dornenreich album released so far (June 2006), accounting to about one third of all the vocals, and even doing the lead vocal for some time on track #6. Although they may sound a bit ridiculous at first, they are absolutely great and the perfect counterpoint to Evíga's raw screams once you get used to them. I don't know how or why it is, but they somehow have a unique foreign accent to them, which I love.

Considering the individual tracks, tracks 1 – 3 as well as the black metal ballad "Woran erkennt mich deine Sehnsucht morgen?" (#6) are some of the best songs I have ever heard, even without the lyrics, and I wouldn't hesitate a second to rate them at 100%. They have more of an equal balance between hard, semi-hard and calm parts than the remaining two tracks, especially #4, which is just acoustic guitar, strings, whispers and occasional drumming. This does not mean #4 and #5 are bad, but they just aren't on par with the rest of the album.

To close this review, I just want tell you I've been owning this CD for over three years now, so it definitely withstood the test of time. I already told you who will like the album and who will not, and although it might be hard to get outside Europe, I consider this piece of art a must-have for fans of the genre. Buy it on the web, and make sure you order "Her von welken Nächten" with it so you can save shipping costs ;)