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Skognatt / Wehmut > Skognatt / Wehmut > Reviews
Skognatt / Wehmut - Skognatt / Wehmut

Minimalism gains new lease of life - 77%

we hope you die, May 13th, 2022

Skognatt open this split EP of Bavarian black metal with a brand of stripped back, atmospheric black metal that manages to maintain momentum and variety, rare qualities for many of their peers working in the same sonic milieu. Despite the minimalist philosophy, Skognatt are always pulling the music forward via elegantly simple guitar melodies, clean and distorted interchanges, and welcome layers of melodic material. It seems they have taken the aesthetics of atmospheric black metal and rather than driving this into an elongated rumination that pivots on lengthy repetitions, they have instead written linear folk metal pieces that almost behave like anthemic rock were it not for the glum presentation.

These tracks follow a stop-start ethos, with either mid-paced marching rhythms or lackadaisical blast-beats finding their momentum interrupted by clean guitar breakdowns and frequent pauses to reflect on a particular riff or refrain. Vocals are a persistent flow of distorted narration that seemingly goads the music forward into the next passage.

All is hesitant, tentative, modest, yet just at the point where one wonders how long a particular repetition will last Skognatt introduce a new element, either additional harmonics, a basic tempo change, a switch to clean guitars accompanied by a break in the percussion. None of this is rocket science, but it is remarkable how effective these basic tools can be when applied to a genre that is so often underserviced in this department. The overall mood is one of melancholia, with undertones of classic black metal grimness to offset any feeling of overworked sentiment. The result is a surprisingly broad emotive picture that is able to work in lighter colours that blend seamlessly alongside the greyer shades of the overall picture. A subtle work of drab but diverse black metal.

Despite Wehmut billing themselves as depressive black metal, for their half of this split they offer a surprisingly slick melding of traditional melodic black metal with tasteful hints of post metal, all drawn together under the atmospheric umbrella. A wash of tremolo picked guitars submerged in reverb forms the backdrop of these tracks, working through riffs that are undeniably melodic, sitting at the borders of mournful and heroic, they have an understated epic quality that proves to be infectiously immersive.

Atop this are placed high end lead harmonies that form the centrepiece of the lyrical voice, backing up the obscurantist distorted howls with confidently shaped musical characters. Drums offer a supressed thud of realism beneath the mystical wash of reverb drenched guitars. Although lacking in any dynamic qualities, they have a suitable echo that is repressed enough not to swallow the entire mix when switching into blast-beats, resulting in a pleasing rhythmic framing for this otherwise rather foggy brand of black metal.

The music itself is fluid, as passages defined by their strong melodic character – one that occasionally borders on the truly stirring – reach finales of slow, doom laden rhythms that allow the music to build into crescendos of release and resolution. But all is delivered with a sense of objectivity. Although the music is highly emotive, dripping with melodic through-lines designed to tug at the heart strings, the delivery is more naturalist, it does not seem to emanate from a specific human perspective but shoots for a more universalist, realist vantage point, allowing us to reflect on the wider natural landscape beyond our everyday experiences. Which – let’s face it – remains one of the chief appeals of quality black metal, especially variants that sit at the atmospheric and epic end of the spectrum.

Originally pubished at Hate Meditations