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What the hell - 70%

Mealann, December 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Ván Records (Reissue, Remastered)

This is one of the releases you either love or hate. Grouped with bands like Lunar Aurora and The Ruins of Beverast, one is obliged to pay them a closer attention. A quick glimpse is enough to realize what makes them similar. They are from Aachen, used to play live with Alexander von Meilenwald and their song themes are very similar to those of Lunar Aurora. Nightly, creepy tales, full of monsters and mythical creatures. This sets up certain expectations, to which this album both does and does not live up.

Let's begin with repetition rate. Generally in music, the shorter the repetition phase, the more trancy and hypnotic the composition. Progressive tracks base on hardly any repetition. Music in general repeats bars of four chords. Club EDM tunes repeat short motives of three to four notes. So does Verdunkeln. Comparisons to sounds of operating washing machine reflect exactly this type of metal.

Now texture. Four elements stand out in the mix. One is murky acoustic guitar, whose sound feels like raven claws or of some other dark fairytale creature. Set in high reverberation, it alone creates a whirlwind of hypnotic blackness, which is an achievement. Two is distorted guitar. Very hissy and buried below element three: drums. If anyone thinks Burzum tracks contain simple drumming, here is a challenge. These are utterly simple and often out of phase. Mixed very loudly, they only add up to the repetitive, hypnotic atmosphere. Four is vocals. Once again, weird reverb setup makes them spill all around the track whenever a growl or a shriek happens. They are the only factor that distracts the repetition. In short, everything about this album feels off. Whatever element of sound or composition you pay attention to, it feels like nothing you've heard before.

The most memorable elements on this album happen to be second parts of "Blutrunst" and "Trümmer". Well executed and powerful motives that enlarge the repetition phase a bit and feel like unveiling of some higher order in between the constantly maintained tension.

Then of course there is "Einst war es mal..." - the essential track of this entire release. Listeners compare it to black metal gym music, as it is based on a constant loop of "Blur - Song 2" drums and a similarly rocking riff. The composition never unveils. When it ends abruptly, there is this feeling of great confusion.

Just like now.

This is AWESOME. - 92%

caspian, November 22nd, 2007

One problem with metal these days is that no one is doing anything new. It's an old and tired sentiment that's been heard again and again (in lots of various genres, and lots of different eras) but still.. With the latest new things lasting maybe 5 years and then descending quickly into self parody, dudes are quickly running out of new genres to cross, new instruments to add, and with things now far faster and slower then they've ever been, the amount of stuff you can do with a few electrified string instruments and a drum kit is fast running out.

What does this have to do with this review? Well, I'm not sure. PROBABLY NOT A LOT!!? These guys aren't THAT revolutionary- no 12 tone technique influences or 88 tone scale trickery here- but nonetheless Verdunkeln have a unique and really refreshing sound- definitely not something you'd expect from some obscure side project!

Despite all of this talk about 'unique and refreshing sound', though, it's still metal. It still rocks hard. The album's centrepiece, the nine minute epic that is 'Einst War Es Mal' is possibly where it all comes together in an absolutely glorious mess of noise. The intense, almost industrial riffing, the trance inducing drumbeat, the deep, powerful occult atmosphere, basically just everything about this track- an totally hypnotic beast of a song that still manages to entertain you with some truly epic riffage. It's a fairly simple formula- trance inducing riffs and drumming- that's been executed really well. The clean breaks that happen throughout the songs are great as well (the amazing intro to 'Truemmer' being a prime example- totally spacey and awesome), giving the whole thing a big sense of dynamics while not interrupting the hypnotic flow of the songs. Perhaps it's the drummer's refusal to ever change tempo or the basic sort of beat- either way, it sounds freaking awesome.

Of course one thing that's going to need mentioning is the production. As a sound engineer, the whole idea of raw black metal production both fascinates and repulses me at the same time- there's now way any of this stuff should be listenable (and I guess a vast amount isn't) but yet it works so damn well. This album is the perfect example of raw, muddy production that sounds AMAZING. Whether it's the storm of double kick in 'Einst War..' that makes everything else stutter and sound even more sinister and hidden, or the raging bass storms that happen whenever these guys get fast (all double kick and mudded-out guitars, tiny bit of snare but that's about it), the whole thing just sounds so damn good. Hell, even the reverb-into-oblivion vocal shrieks sound awesome, which is a tough thing to pull off.

This album DOMINATES. There's huge riffs but also a huge atmosphere, and somehow this album manages to be both Hypnotic but also massively rockin', which can only be a very very good thing. Finding this in physical form is probably completely impossible, but it's totally worth downloading, and while you're at it you should buy their newest album. Black Metallers will absolutely love this, but anyone who doesn't mind a bit of repetition should totally check it out as well, as it's not that raw, and is a totally fantastic listen.

Mighty slab of raw black metal. - 80%

beletty, May 25th, 2007

It's pretty hard to review the album of a band that has never been reviewed before, especially when the band is obscure, because your impression, if not subjective and partial, may mislead the readers who were thinking of trying the artist.

Verdunkeln is a side project of the members from Graupel, a well-established act in the German underground scene. The music played here is, first of all, dark. Its most obvious feature is the bad production. The instruments sound like they've been stuffed with pillows. Guitar notes often sound played at bass level and because of the aforementioned production are thicker and heavier than the colder tremolo picks for which the genre is more known for. This effect strengthens the album's melodic line as best heard in the seventh track, "Einst War Es Mal". Ratatyske pulls out a good performance on vocals, using the classic shrieks and yells that are thickened by the unpolished sound. The guy who handles the bass here (Gnarl, I suppose) might as well be playing a single-stringed one, because it only lays the basis for the music with any melodical variation succumbing to the thick wall of sound. I don't know too much about drumming, so I'll resume by saying it follows the tempo, intense when the rhythm demands or lesser so when things calm down a bit. There are sometimes large gaps between the beats giving the guitar riff a barren sound and adding a dramatic tone to the album.

Overall, it's a good release, never surpassing the status of side-project. It's a close cousin to Filosofem so fans of mid-era Burzum may want to check this out. For fans of raw black metal; it's something they direly need to hear.