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Smooth, powerful, fantastic - 90%

Felix 1666, October 22nd, 2021

Generally speaking, black metal is not well known for its smoothness. Exactly the opposite is the case. But Totenwache, another band from the wildly rampant Teutonic underground, spits on this fact. Better still, they show impressively that fluid melodies and authentic blackness can stand shoulder to shoulder. Their approach works, because the relatively melodic harmonies are charming yet unbridled at the same time. This is no pop black metal or anything else of this kind. It’s just a fact that the highlights of “Der schwarze Hort” shine with a perfect flow. Just to avoid misunderstandings, I definitely don’t say that the album lacks velocity, energy or grimness. In particular the nagging and passionate vocals contribute to the dark overall scenario, but some short atmospheric intros can also be mentioned in this context.

The production, more or less reduced to the essentials, also adds to the genre-typical mood. It’s not a perfect mix, because the vocals are nearly crushed by the force of the instruments. However, due to the fact that the dudes prefer German lyrics, many would not understand the lyrics anyway. That’s a pity, because Totenwache are succeful in avoiding stupid stereotypes. Their lyrics are intelligent without wallowing in completely unusual, artificial looking formulations. This separates them from a lot of other German singing bands who think they must save the genitive to show their intellectual superiority.

The title track represents the album excellently. Perfectly flowing, it captivates with unbeatable riffing. This song, equipped with the optimal level of pressure, is hunt and deep black ceremony in one. You can withstand these irresistible guitar lines? Respect, I can’t. They draw me deeper and deeper into the song and so it even surpasses “Galgenvögel” and “Des Königs stolze Acht”, two pieces that also hold a brilliant flow and very coherent, greatly shaped patterns. Some parts of the first regular track on the A side also sound fine, but the needle of my turntable is forced to do a hurdle race during this track. If somebody has a digital version of this song (or of all tracks, haha), I would be very interested…

The B side of the vinyl underlines the musical competence of the band. At first it seems as if the tracks do not totally reach the level of the A side highlights. But similar to the first half of the album, the songs are getting stronger and stronger the longer the B side lasts. And this means a lot, because already “Der Heiler”, the number that opens the door to the second part, gives no serious reason to complain. It is already almost a matter of course that all parts blend seamlessly with each other and “Die alte Legion” additionally scores with an extra portion of sharpness and high velocity. Totenwache, this is getting clearer and clearer, have found their individual form of black melodies they vary it successfully. The result does not suffer from monotony, but impresses with homogeneity and compositional class. How many bands are able to write great tracks such as “Todbringer” or “Gloria Antichristi”? And to top it all off, how many can afford the luxury of putting such black metal smash hits at the end of the song list? “Todbringer” with its partly “Dauđafærđ”-compatible riffing sends showers down my spine and the excessively designed closer strikes the right tone already with the drum rolls at the beginning.

Honestly, I thought: cool artwork, nice title, let’s see what this album will bring. Hopefully solidly constructed black metal. But surprise, surprise, it offers much more. Totenwache’s only full-length is an overlooked gem of the (German) black metal scene with almost an hour of excellent music. Purity Through Fire did no mistake when releasing a vinyl edition of this highly recommended work.