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Unconventional and extremely atmospheric - 90%

Mexer, January 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Ván Records (Limited edition, Digipak)

This one seems to come out of nothing: after the release of just one demo a couple of months before Dutch band Wederganger serves us with their first full length album, “Halfvergaan ontwaakt”; and what a ride it is!

First of all you’re introduced to some really amazing cover artwork on this digipak, raised print on a white background that even comes with a nice booklet and all of this is just very well done overall. From the tracklist on the back one can already see that all the song titles are in Dutch and whether you might care or not: the lyrics are as well and all of them are printed down in the booklet. Which to me is a pretty cool aspect, though I don't understand one word of it. It’s just nice to get a cool overall-package once in a while and as far as this is concerned, Wederganger definitively delivers.

But now let’s dive into the music since this is what we are here for. This album is opening its gateways by some freezing cold guitar riffs and a really sinister sounding lead guitar, quite reminiscent of some of the more eerie Norwegian old school stuff like Taake for example. But as you follow them deeper into the realm of this opus, you will rather soon notice that there’s much more to the whole thing than just being inspired by some of black metal's manifests from former eras. The guys from Wederganger are taking it up a step one by one – and even throw the whole thing over the edge from time to time. That’s what really amazed me at my first listen through “Halfvergaan Ontwaakt” and since then grew on me with every run-through.

Do you remember the somewhat sleazy, very down to earth, but yet extremely harsh and just evil sounding rock-influences on Satyricon's “Volcano”? Well, expect some of those vibes to catch your ears when listening to Wederganger’s output. The band manages to incorporate some riffs of this league into their sound, but not just for the sake of throwing some “Hey look! We’re rocking out!” onto the listener. They create their own musical world around it, spice it up with eerie melodies and some seriously impressive drum patterns, which at first glance seem to outbrake the progression of their compositions a little, but all in all just manage to take things to a tougher level for the listener, almost set little barbs to an otherwise almost extremely catchy album. Sure, these guys like to throw in a blast beat or two over the distance of this record and yes, sometimes you are provided with typical black metal atmosphere straight into your face. But what’s really adding to making you feel uncomfortable are the things that aren’t directly derived from the typical “harder faster higher”-drawer. The three quarter time waltzing madness of “Dodendans” and “Vlammenvonnis” seems to originate in some seriously creepy corners of their minds. And when the clean vocals kick in, things get literally spooky to a point where I kept asking myself how all of this atmosphere could be created by such rather simple ingredients. To me, both aforementioned tracks are the undisputed highlights of this album, the heart and center of this phenomenally capturing piece of black metal.

But of course, albeit I consider the slower parts of this album to be the pinnacle of things on Wederganger’s debut, there’s much more to it than this. I already mentioned the unsettling opening track and be sure to expect more in its vein on here. Mid-paced and sometimes even kind of laid-back structures with lead guitars that provide a plethora of coldness and chill woven into them always make sure that your ride through “Halfvergaan Ontwaakt” won’t be too easy to enjoy. Especially when they meet up with somewhat black’n’roll inspired riffs from time to time, creating an atmosphere of its very own. The almost constant lack of blast beats is almost drowning you in eager expectation for a relief to all the emotional stress this album builds up and when they set in, I personally have to say that I could have done without them at all, but neither are they a compositional letdown or implemented just for the sake of it. And depending on one’s personal view and listening habits, they might just be uptempo elements and not even blast beats after all.

And one more thing: don’t expect the clean vocals to be top-notch compared to your personal favorite vocalists. They are done very well, but nothing more than this, adding to the atmosphere and the theatrical feel of a dark fairy tale that’s staged in an extremely creative, unconventional way. As a counterpart to the harsh (but yet very varied in itself) vocal style that predominates the songs, they work tremendously great. Overall, the musicianship on here is on an excellent level. I’m not only speaking of compositional but also explicitly of technical skills. The amount of details thrown into this impressing band’s debut are enough to keep the focused listener hooked and almost forces them to come back, but never distract from the overall goal of providing a dark, rich, unearthly atmosphere. And be sure to get your blood boiling by the instrumental intermezzo of “Schimmenspel”, in which a standalone piano builds up the tension for the last two tracks and thus sounding the bell for two of the harshest tracks to come so far, a monster of an uptempo song on the one hand before the last track bounces you off for good with somewhat repetitive lead guitars, a handful of very strong riffs and the occasional blast beat in all of this midtempo madness. At the end you will be left with a rather abrupt closing, demanding all the impressions to sink in for the time being.

“Halfvergaan ontwaakt” is one of the best black metal debuts that came to my ears for quite some time. And sure as hell the metal community may remain excited for what Wederganger will come up with next.