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Black metal ADHD - 80%

we hope you die, May 11th, 2021

Es grauet’, the third LP from the Swiss outfit known as Ungfell, sees them further the highly melodic, riff based, relentlessly frantic, ADHD brand of black metal that has seen recent iterations in the likes of Suhnopfer and Ultra Silvum. Here we see this musically nutritious style supplemented with fascinating forays into Swiss folk music that serves to ground this album with a rich, historically resonant colour that immediately makes it stand out from the crowd.

It’s a challenging style, pivoting on dense clusters of melodic riffs that are rarely repeated, leaving the listener with few hooks to find a way into the music. Themes are certainly revisited, but never in the exact same iteration, and Ungfell remain staunchly unsentimental with their riffs, disposing of them as quickly as they are introduced. This, combined with a frantic, shifting, lightning-fast rhythm section can lead to an overwhelming cacophony of sound to which the listener is at risk of simply switching off to.

Ungfell do attempt to temper this barrage however. Opening number ‘Es grauet überm Dorf (Wie s niemert het chönne ahne)’ is a short punch of a riff salad by way of introduction, before the first track proper arrives in the form of ‘Tyfels Antlitz (Wie e Huerä zwei Chind empfanget)’, a seven minute cacophony of frantic, melodic, riff based black metal. But this momentum is brought to heel by the acoustic interlude that immediately follows. ‘Mord im Tobel (Wie en hinterhältige Mord begange wird)’ picks up the pace again, but quickly side lines itself at the midpoint by flirting with a doom breakdown.

Short of stylistic incontinence however, the willingness to veer from the taught interaction of over-excited riffing is welcome. The main reason for this is the unfortunate fact that as an iteration of busy melodic black metal, Ungfell lack a distinctive identity. Fans of Cirith Gorgor will be well familiar with it, and at other times ‘Es grauet’ comes across as an Abigor album without the unique sense of melody.

The album centres on an overcooked conceptual theme. Set in a small, pre-modern Swiss town, a tale of murder, false accusations, and debauchery apparently unfolds as the townsfolk are forced to deal with events well beyond their limited worldview. With that in mind, Ungfell could have spun an interesting variant of folk metal with a colouring of black metal. This intent crops up frequently throughout the album, articulated through unique acoustic guitar pieces and dramatic clean vocals. But it feels as if the music is constantly distracted from this endeavour for the sake of returning to the chaos of dense, hyper fast black metal.

The result is an album with ADHD. Unwilling to let the music breathe for too long, to let passages, moods, even notes, hang for any length of time before throwing another barrage of riffs at the listener. This push and pull between the tension of the metal segments verses the catharsis of the acoustic folk sections can be a powerful compositional tool, for instance ‘S Chnochelied (Wie e Beschuldigti gfoltered wird und Visione bechunnt)’ sees them build these elements into a powerful finale. This is because all elements are working in unison to compliment and contrast each other for the betterment of the overall work. But too often across ‘Es grauet’ we find this contrast proving to be a distraction that kills the pacing rather than an asset.

That being said, Ungfell have certainly packed in a considerable amount of “music” into this album. It is dense, colourful, and engaging despite some pronounced issues in arrangements and structure. If the folk elements could be better integrated to serve the thick washes of black metal that constitute the stylistic bulk of ‘Es grauet’ then Ungfell could be onto a very strong formula.

Originally published at Hate Meditations