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Black n' Roll Done Right - 91%

Apteronotus, April 7th, 2016

Wederganger’s first full length release, Halfvergaan ontwaakt is a deliriously trippy foray into mid-tempo black metal that is infused with black n’ roll, done just the way it ought to be. Utilizing a slew of simple and straightforward riffs that you may expect to hear from bands like Craft or later Carpathian Forest, Wederganer isn’t afraid to drop tremolo picking entirely for long stretches. In their willingness to somewhat give up the usual wall of sound the band is able to explore a broad range of dark and unusual sounds. Most striking of all the band’s experiments are the showstopping clean vocals that, while used in moderation throughout the album, are still incredibly powerful and commanding.

Even setting the vocals aside for a moment (as hard as that may be) this is a really well done album that would be hard to forget even if it was an instrumental one. While bands like Glorior Belli have flirted with incorporating rock influences and been less than entirely successful, Wederganger keeps this album incredibly catchy without devolving into overreliance on trite rock licks. The dark and muffled guitar tone carries enough crunchy edge to make the tremolo picked sections entirely convincing and also lets the calmer moments have an added layer of depth. Even the interchange between the more psychedelic watery vibrato moments and traditional black metal is itself given an interlude with “Schimmenspel.” It’s song that relies on a lonely piano whose morosely reserved melodies echo parts the emotional palate found elsewhere on the album.

One really great thing about the riffs is just how bouncy they feel. I don’t mean this in a dumb rhythmic chugging kind of way, instead the riffs and staccato drumming often develop a genuine sense of leisurely flow. Even the vocal delivery has some rather interesting rhythmic patterns, which is rather unusual for black metal where the vocals normally serve as a melodic ornament. Another odd tidbit that works in the band favor is how the bass sometimes takes over the low riffs while one guitar does a high melody and the other is partly drowned out because of its subdued tone. This creates some space between the melody and rhythm, which strengthens the band’s rhythmic presence.

Now, onto the vocals. They start off amazing with a razor sharp black metal rasp brilliantly harmonized with deep somber clean vocals in the opening track. Then, with “Gelderse Drek” we get ripped apart by the vicious black metal vocals nearly on there own as the cleans add oos and aahs that create a theremin-like vibe. The absolute standouts are however “Dodendans” and “Vlammenvonnis” where you can just bask in the lush baritone notes. Despite how grand the vocals feel, they still fit well into the relatively subdued atmosphere on the album. It’s largely due to how well the lines are parsed into drawn out syllables and slow but interesting melodies. it’s so compelling that frankly the only reason I probably don’t have the lyrics memorized is because they are in Dutch (what English speaker couldn’t love words like Halfergaan and ontwaakt?)

While black n’ roll may sound like a terrible idea to some, this album is definitely a chance to see what can be done with it. It’s a unique experience and will show you how great music can come from a handful of simple riffs when a band has a bunch of talent and creativity. Wederganger have crafted an engaging, memorable, and vocally stunning album with Halfvergaan ontwaak.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.

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.