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Tarnkappe - Winterwaker

by Lauren Fonto at 26 January 2017, 12:30 AM

In the metal circles I hang out in online, many people believe that the 90s was a good time for metal, including black metal. TARNKAPPE harks back to this era musically, with a cold, raw sound, meant to evoke the spirit of Norwegian black metal. The band is from the small but thriving Dutch underground scene, with two members from bands such as KJELD, SALACIOUS GODS and LUGUBRE.

Their label name, HAMMERHEART RECORDS, instantly reminded me of the 1990 BATHORY album, “Hammerheart”. Having revisited the album, there are, coincidentally, a few superficial similarities between TARNKAPPE and “Hammerheart”-era BATHORY. The vocals of the former are mostly the semi-growl used by Quorthon, and both albums have a raw production that manages to avoid sounding like the sound engineer was simply careless. In contrast, Hrodulfr does make use of a more rasping vocal style in places than Quorthon did on “Hammerheart”. The former’s vocal style works well with the theme of the album – the title, which means “Guardian of Winter” in English – evokes a look back at pre-Christian pagan traditions. Additionally, Hrodulfr does have quite a distinctive voice.

Nortfalke provides a rousing start on opener “Bodemkruiper” with head-nodding blast beats. It’s not all blast beats, all the time, and things move into a sort of progressive sound in a later part of “Aan De Aarde Gebonden”. The latter track also contains some moving riffs from Nortfalke on guitars. He also does some great drumming and guitar playing on “Winterwaker”, with its suitably reverent tone.

To some extent, the band manages to capture the coldness of Norwegian black metal legends such as DARKTHRONE and early BURZUM (the subtle counter melodies here and there remind me of the latter to some extent). But in the end I can’t help but feel that comparing TARNKAPPE to these bands is somewhat of a stretch, since they do old-school black metal well, but don’t have that spark that makes them really compelling. As I’ve said in other reviews, a band doesn’t have to reinvent a subgenre in order to be enjoyable. But there has to be a little something that draws me in.

While TARNKAPPE has produced a relatively good album, in the end they unfortunately come off as pandering to people who are nostalgic for 90s Norwegian black metal. There are some good ideas here, and I think the band has potential, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow in future.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Memorability: 6
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

1. Bodemkruiper
2. Aan De Aarde Gebonden
3. De Bekroning
4. Eeuwig Onheil
5. Winterwaker
6. Kale Vlakten, Desolatie
7. De Hal Van Het Geheugen
8. Hogere Machten
Nortfalke – Drums, guitars
Sat – Vocals, bass
Hrodulfr – Vocals, lyrics 
Record Label: Hammerheart Records


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