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No dead fish handshake - 75%

DC68, February 12th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Winterblast Halls

Do you know the feeling of a dead fish handshake? You want to greet somebody and his hand lies in yours like a lifeless cod? I can promise you: “Endstation” (final destination) will grip you a lot tighter than a soggy, “fishy” handshake.

Garden Of Grief´s (GOG) musical mastermind is well gifted in transforming emotions into black metal music. You can generally feel his anger, his tortured soul, his depression and determination. And this emotional maelstrom is exactly my single biggest personal challenge with the album. I need to be in a mood, mirroring this specific atmosphere to be able to listen to one hour of great musicianship, over-lengthy songs and instrumental interludes. Being generally a very positive and hopefully sane guy, you probably understand my problem. I do not suffer from emotional swings that one moment make you want to embrace your mother in law and help her to exit life while ten minutes later you suffer a nervous breakdown over the death of your hamster. So much for a prelude and providing you with reasoning (or proof of my narrow-mindedness) why my rating does not exceed 75%, though "objectively" I could have given it 80-85%. But what is objective? And life is not fucking fair as we know.

Though no lyrics are provided I am sure that “Endstation” describes the journey of poor souls being herded into a train and transported like cattle to the Endstation where their lives end and they become part of the “Aschenwind” (ash wind). I think you all know a bit about German history.

"Endstation" starts with an introduction that could have migrated from Marduk's "Panzerdivision Marduk" or "Iron Dawn". Sounds of war with some underlying guitar riffs build up the tension. Followed by a superb blastbeat inferno that especially in the last third unleashes well thought through riffs onto the listener. Even the bass guitar struggles to the surface and catches your attention. Boronian Sturmfels, the hard-ass field marshal behind GOG, barks commands to his soulless minions what depicts the beginning of the end. The trains are being loaded. “End of the Line” draws the listener into its wake with 20 minutes of double bass, melancholic riffing and agonized vocals. Minute after minute the relentless machinery performs its work. Mercilessly families are being torn apart, parents separated from their children. A guitar solo at around 12:00 touches your senses like a musical epitaph for the already fallen and soon to be dead. Then, short blast beats interrupt this inferno, men fighting for their lives, just to be pushed back again. The track ends with screeching brakes on rusty rails and the train comes to a stop in a place no one wants to exit. The music perfectly accompanies the black and white movie playing in this moment in your mental cinema.

With track number 7 my personal highlight of this recording starts. Nearly 17 minutes of all musical ingredients to be found on this album being packed into one opus. “Genocide crescendo” impresses with alternating fast and slow sections, captivating riffs and even some clean forlorn vocals towards the end. “Endstation: Aschenwind” (final destination: ash wind) concludes - with six minutes of gloomy guitar play - one hour of well executed, decently produced and gripping black metal. And there is definitely nothing fishy to be felt when listening to GOG.