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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

A Hideous Tale of Human Decadence and Demonic Might - 92%

TheSlayFer, April 30th, 2021

Deep in the dark woods at the base of the Swiss alps, the band Ungfell was formed and became like a dreadful whisper in the underground for their style of unhinged black metal that mixed Swiss folk music to create a bleakly euphoric music, and after a brief pause where its band members partook in several projects of equal high quality within their collective; the “Helvetic Underground Committee", the band return with their third opus Es grauet, released under German label Eisenwald.

Now that the overly dramatic summary is done, let’s talk about this new record, indeed, Ungfell where a wild surprise in several black metal circles due to how eccentric and attention grabbing their sound was, with many comparing them favorably to a certain French band I’d rather not talk about, but needless to say, the band made a loud splash in the pond and many (including myself) were eager to hear what this duo of Swiss warlocks did next, in short this is both more of what everyone already enjoyed about Ungfell but with much more refinement and some unique new directions the band didn’t explored in their first two LP’s.

For starters, Es grauet is a concept album with a narrative that encompasses the entire 38-minute runtime, and just from looking at the colorful and uncanny cover, courtesy of American illustrator Robbie C. Ward, you can tell this will be a unique experience, the band successfully managed to further expand and refine their style of raw and melodic black metal with folk elements, and in many ways the music seems to be a combination of the band’s rabid debut and their more folksy driven sophomore record, but also, the music has a more prevalent influence of classic heavy metal, the riffs and melodies take center stage and the folk instrumentation is present as a support and to enhance the music, the band’s main man Menetekel’s vocal work is also much more dynamic and varied, and is also a different approach, in their Facebook account, the band stated that the album suffered a delay due to Menentekel being sick and unable to sing, but he somehow managed to make a good use of it, as his vocals have switched from wailing shrikes to raspy growls, enhanced by reverb, he also does some really effective echoing chanting and deeper growls, it’s as if a demon of the forest was screaming in the middle of the night, the same can be said for drummer Vâlant, who is able to complement Menentekel, not just with speed and blast beats, but also folksy percussions, and an overall classic rock performance in the vein of early Mercyful Fate and Paul Di'Anno era Iron Maiden, its actually impressive how well this duo plays out with each other, and their chemistry and technical prowess is what makes this album so enjoyable. However, while the main songs have that classic black metal approach of being minimalist and to the point, the band did more with that simplistic formula, as their folkish musicality is stronger than ever, acoustic guitars, a jaw harp, a cello and some yodeling in the last track, are employed in key parts of the main songs as well on very well arranged and executed interludes, overall the music alone is a surprising culmination of everything the band did before, with a clear focus on expanding this sound further in the future.

Another element of what makes this album unique is its conceptual narrative, while I’m willing to admit that I don’t speak German (less so the band’s Swiss dialect), it didn’t stop me from enjoying the experience and how each song naturally flows into the next, at times it feels like one long song divided into eight part, however, this is also the record’s one and only issue, because it’s a concept album and the band go deep in tying the music to the narrative, the experience can only be appreciated as an album, there’s definitely standout tracks like “Tyfels Antlitz (Wie e Huerä zwei Chind empfanget)”, “S Chnochelied (Wie e Beschuldigti gfoltered wird und Visione bechunnt)” and “D Unheilspfaffä vom Heinzäbärg (Wie Tod und Verdärbe uf das Dorf iistürzt)” (the long titles also don’t help in this regard), all of which display the best elements I already described, but each is tied to an interlude or the previous track, so while you can enjoy them on their own, it’s like watching a single scene of a movie without the full context, but suffice to say, it will depend on each listener, furthermore, this isn’t a dig at the band, they more than prove why they deserve the hype they got back in 2018, it’s more of a disclaimer so that people don’t go expecting a singular standout track to appear on a Spotify or Deezer playlist.

Overall Ungfell managed to return with a vengeance and were able to both meet expectations and also surpassed them with an ambitious and sprawling album with an equally epic about the hideous wretchedness of humanity, but once again, this is a full album experience, and you’ll need to sit down, and be immersed in the haunted woodland sounds that only Ungfell can conjure.

Best tracks: Tyfels Antlitz (Wie e Huerä zwei Chind empfanget), S Chnochelied (Wie e Beschuldigti gfoltered wird und Visione bechunnt), D Unheilspfaffä vom Heinzäbärg (Wie Tod und Verdärbe uf das Dorf iistürzt)

Written for www.MetalBite.com