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Häxenzijrkell – Die Nachtseite

Die Nachtseite
by Ian Yeara at 06 October 2020, 7:40 PM

Are you “trve cvlt”? Well, if you still use that term unironically then boy is this album for you. I don’t listen to a lot of second wave type Black Metal, but I have a lot of friends who love BURZUM and DARKTHRONE and all those classic Black Metal artists so I am at least aware of the sound. I respect the inspiration and the dedication to the sound, but I have questions.

Is it absolutely necessary for a band in 2020 to be imitating the production of Black Metal in the early 90s? It feels unnecessary, I can’t tell you how many Black Metal bands I end up listening to where the music is fine, but the production just takes me out of it. There’s a middle ground between a cold, dark sound and there being so much noise in the production that it actually covers up the music. I can hear the guitar putting up that wall of noise, but everything else under that is a mess.

I get that Black Metal bands are always trying to get back to their roots, but I would argue that we have way too many Black Metal bands these days trying to be “trve cvlt” and not enough bands trying to make their own way, or have decent production. Anyway, there’s my rant about the production, time to talk about the music itself.

The album is short, only 36 minutes long, and it looks like it’s a three part concept album kind of thing. The problem is that the music is just not doing it for me. There’s hints of things that I would normally love scattered throughout. On "Part 2: Unter Sieben Sternen" there’s some really lovely atmospheric sections where the mix actually sounds fine and, although I don’t usually like narrations in my music, I didn’t mind the German narrations, I felt like they really enhanced the atmosphere of the album.

The problem really is the guitar. When we have the actual heavy metal sections the guitar just puts up this wall of sound, but there’s hardly any riffs, or at least any riffs worth talking about. Just for some reference while I was going through this album I took some time to listen to some DARKTHRONE, GORGOROTH, MAYHEM and I even went back to the first two ENSLAVED albums which I absolutely adore, just so I could understand why this album wasn’t clicking with me. I think I understand why now; stuff like "Transelvanian Hunger" in 1994 of course utilized the wall of noise, lo-fi production style, but back in the 90s bands recorded in that manner because of budget constraints, they weren’t recording these albums in a nice studio, they were doing it in their basement or garage on cheap microphones and that’s what gives that music such a distinct sound.

Back to my point though even with that wall of sound bands like DARKTHRONE made sure you could still hear the vocals and guitar over everything else and that you could distinctly hear the riffs. On this album everything just blends together and not in a good way, you either have a wall of sound with minimal detail or you get atmosphere setting with screams and growls in the background. There are certainly nuggets of good ideas in here, but the execution of those ideas is poor.

I have a hard time even talking about the individual songs because there’s nothing to hook me in, they’re not memorable at all and I can’t help but wonder what even is the point of this album? It’s all in german so I have no idea what the album is actually about, but I’m not curious enough to dig any further. This is without a doubt one of the worst combinations of Doom and Black Metal I’ve ever heard, the Black Metal doesn’t riff much and the Doom sections feel just tedious.

The vocals have their moments and I actually do kind of enjoy, especially some of the animalistic, insane screams, but they don’t really stand out much and you can hardly hear them over the guitar most of the time.

As an audio engineer who loves Black Metal, rather than just tearing down, I’d like to provide some constructive criticism here. First, bring up the bass a little bit, I swear that would make such a huge difference, maybe bring up the mids too, but the low signals are barely audible so all we get is treble all the time. Bring the guitars down in the mix and take out some of extra noise in the production. I get that it’s supposed to be old school 90s style Black Metal and that’s wonderful and all, but sometimes bad production is just bad. Oh and definitely bring up the vocals in the mix. I mean none of these suggestions will fix the songwriting which is tepid at best, but it might at least sound better. I like Black Metal a lot, but I guess this album is too “trve cvlt” for me.

Songwriting: 2/10
Musicianship: 4/10
Memorability: 0/10
Production: 1/10

1 Star Rating

1. Part 1: Auf der Schwelle
2. Part 2: Unter sieben Sternen
3. Part 3: Im Labyrinth der Dunkelheit
P. – Drums
MK – Vocals, Guitars
Record Label: Amor Fati Productions


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