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Urfaust > Einsiedler > Reviews
Urfaust - Einsiedler

Excellent if uneven EP that could be much bigger - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 4th, 2016

A band whose output I probably should be paying more attention to is the long-running Dutch ambient black metal act Urfaust who have built up a healthy-looking discography over the past decade though close inspection reveals most releases are splits and EPs, the latter of which some may be albums in disguise. "Einsiedler" is as good a place to start with as any, as this is a deeply dramatic and almost operatic work, very unlike most arty and experimental BM where I hang out whenever my cool hipster reputation around this place is rapidly fading away. For want of a better category, "Einsiedler" is presented as an EP though if it had been originally released on vinyl it might have been considered a single.

The first song presents as if it were a chapter in an on-going saga, the full details of the preceding chapters as yet unrealised on other Urfaust recordings, not that the band is under any obligation to its fans to present the entire epic. "IX - Der Einsiedler" ("der Einsiedler" meaning "the hermit" or "the recluse" in English) could be interpreted as a loner's spiritual awakening, a cry of angst and hopelessness, or a mind deteriorating into madness and screaming for help, or even as a combination of these scenarios. However listeners choose to hear this song, it is bleak and tortured, filled with heart-rending pain. Repetitive and apathetic drumming, high-pitched blank keyboards and minimal tremolo guitar set the scene in which the harsh vocals scream and croon inner suffering and emotional torment. Voice often soars to majestic heights, to be brought down by animal screeches of pain. Most of the time the instruments keep to their cycle of keening sound as if in sympathy with the vocalist's wretchedness though you can't help but feel this apparent empathy is part of the endless punishment. A lone synth hops out onto a little deranged journey, perhaps promising relief but leading us astray instead in the darkness. The painful emotion is unbearable and you wonder that the vocalist can keep it up for 12 minutes without collapsing.

"Verderber" ("destroyer" or "corrupter" in English) is equally dark and bleak but with a sharper and jagged guitar-dominated sound suggesting potential blood-red suicide and violence that could erupt suddenly any time, with devastating and brutal results. Again this is a very repetitive track but in contrast to its longer partner, the instruments are stripped back to time-keeping drums and solo lead guitar with feedback, revealing a stark landscape of life-and-death choices to be made, from which there's no escape or release. Hiding and procrastinating only delay the inevitable in a minimally styled track that best exemplifies the "less is more" cliche and where atmosphere reigns supreme.

Both tracks are very good on their own but together they're an uneven unit as the first song is almost twice the length of the second. Probably Urfaust felt that the second song says twice as much as the first in its bare-bones, teeth-bared arrangement - but in that case, "Verderber" still merits a longer treatment and development. The repetition could have led to an intense climax that makes the entire piece (and the whole recording) worth the listener's time to sit through, however good the music is. Plus in being of more or less equal length, the songs would complement each other and form a basis for a possible concept album.

Exceptional Einsiedler. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 20th, 2009

There are a number of things that make Urfaust such a unique band. Alongside bands such as Circle of Ouroborus, Urfaust are one of a few bands to offer their audience clean vocals, though these vocals are slightly shrieked for better affect. I’ve always been under the opinion that Willem is one of the better vocalists in the genre since he is prepared to experiment with his voice in order to achieve maximum success. Vocal experimentation hasn’t always gone down well with black metal fans. There is still a rife debate over whether Silencer’s Nattramn, for example, is a top vocalist, or whether his piercing high pitched shrieks are merely laughable. Black metal is a genre that doesn’t afford many slip-ups, especially in the vocal department. With bands from other genres, I find that the vocalist can have a limited appeal once the instrumentation is good enough for the both of them, but within this picky field, the vocals need to embody the emotion behind the music and I feel Willem does this successfully and without much effort given his natural flair for leading on the microphone.

2009 has been a busy year for Urfaust in regards to live performances and working on new material. Thus far, the Dutch duo have released a split with legendary Norwegians Joyless through top label Ván Records, as well as releasing this well received EP, ‘Einsiedler’, which is comprised of two wonderful songs, particularly the enigmatic entity of ‘IX: Der Einsiedler’, a song which utilises the brilliant voice of Willem and the infamous song writing abilities of Urfaust. To top it all off, I understand that the duo are hard at work producing a new record, set for release early next year, I believe, which is undoubtedly exciting news. Hopefully, Urfaust will be able to push on and truly confirm their status as one of Holland’s leading black metal bands. Although I did enjoy the sophomore, I much prefer the debut and given that this EP, ‘Einsiedler’ is much like the material present on the unusual debut, the levels of anticipation are steadily rising within me. I’m hoping they opt for an older style, which they have done for this delightful little EP, which spans just under twenty minutes long.

The feel to this EP is similar to that of the debut, ‘Geist ist Teufel’, as previously stated. It uses a very repetitive backbone as the basis for the material, as shown in the bass and guitars, which monotonously work together to achieve an unforgiving atmosphere not unlike the atmosphere present throughout the non-ambient songs on the debut. Very dark, but also very engaging. The vocals are like the pied piper, luring us to the afterlife with a completely entrancing atmosphere beneath the plagued vocals of Willem. I love everything about ‘IX: Der Einsiedler’. From the piercing vocals, to the repetition of all the instrumental aspects and to the devilish synths that seem to be created by a keyboard, though I could very well be wrong about that. The song writing is fantastic, as always. It allows Urfaust to be almost entirely repetitive, but still interesting throughout. Listening to Urfaust is like watching the Devil give a sermon. Its hellish atmosphere is intoxicating, yet so much more gentle than previously experienced, perhaps due to the weird undertones and accessible bass being consistent throughout.

I do consider ‘Verderber’ to be the weaker of the two songs, but it is also good in its own right, just not as good as the opening song. This song isn’t as constrained to repetition as the opening track, though it does feature some repetition. The bass is allowed more time and space to roam within the soundscapes and does so effectively. The vocals are more pressing than usual. They take the shrieking qualities to the next level and step up the pressure on the listener, who is witnessing the pits of hell open up before their eyes and death drag them down into it. The distortion is also stepped up and isn’t as calming as the opening song, which wasn’t as vigorous as ‘Verderber’ twists the soothing atmospherics into a ball of unbearable hatred as Willem spits forth his venomous teachings. I was highly recommended this incredible EP by someone who knows my tastes and who had said it wouldn’t disappoint, which it certainly didn’t. Excellent material and here’s hoping Urfaust continue this on the next full-length outing.