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Gestrüpp - Below The Trees - 89%

Edmund Sackbauer, April 25th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Independent (Digipak, Limited edition)

Another one man project from Germany is what we have got here. Gestrüpp is not only a very interesting and somehow weird choice for a black metal band, but also the brainchild and creative outlet for a dude who operates under the pseudonym A.A.S. “Below the Trees” is his first offering and also his full length debut, and while most of the single ingredients might sound familiar, the end result is a pretty unique and often unorthodox take on the genre. I will perfectly honest, it took me a bit of time to really get into the music and fully appreciate the vision of A.A.S., but after a few spins the music managed to get its teeth into my brain.

Deeply atmospheric, the songs use a more classic black metal base and some doom/post/whatever influences to craft highly emotive music, weaving esoteric moods and blackened tapestries with ease. The speed is not too high over the majority of the album, with only a few passages where the tempo is upped a bit. However, the stoic harmonies and the interesting hooks make the record a very enjoyable affair. The somewhat stripped down production quality gives the album a pure and unfiltered sound many times throughout, further enhanced by the quite uncommon raspier vocal approach. The guitar riffs found in this one aren't always too complex or fast paced, but they still manage to keep a certain tone and add to the monotonous yet hypnotic melodies.

The tempo is upped a bit at times, with some memorable lead harmonies being introduced in the background, and an unsettling atmosphere starting to build up. This dense atmosphere will not diminish before the album fades out after more than an hour of playing time. There is a full body of work, moving up and down, back and forth across the annuals of emotive black and stoic doom metal. There is talent, charisma, and enough memorable moments to make this a really captivating piece of art. The album’s replay value is unquestionable, and each consecutive spin will make you discover some new details you might have missed before.

I’ve come across plenty of bands within the atmospheric/post black metal sub-genre that lose themselves occasionally in the atmosphere of it all and forget to add a satisfying punch to the mix that allows for a peek of powerful black metal to come in a momentarily astonish the listener, yet Gestrüpp refuses to fall for such a pitfall. A.A.S. delivers a familiar blend of post-black metal that’s as ethereal as it is filled with hooks, and it’s the masterful spacing out of all of that which allows this record to quickly take shape and become something to dive right on into. There are grand moments of humble reflection inwards paired with the gradual explosion of power to make every track here a fascinating experience all at its own.

The production is pretty fine, transparent and clear although lacking maybe just a bit of punch. That being said “Below the Trees” is anyway not so much about punching the listener, more about taking the listener on a fascinating any mystic journey. I personally recommend to experience the album in its entirety via headphones to get fully consumed by its atmosphere. For a debut effort this album is more than impressive.