Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Klabautamann - Der Ort (2005) 78/100.

Based on the few samples I heard of Klabautamann’s ‘Der Ort’, I wasn’t expecting another ‘Merkur’, the first full-length I had heard from the band in full. There are areas of Klabautamann’s sophomore that remind me of the follow-up to it, but there are also a number of differences, some of which hinder the record and prevent it from becoming the classic that ‘Merkur’ deserves to be if it becomes a widely recognised force. As with the sophomore, there are a few aspects of ‘Der Ort’ which truly set it apart from the majority of black metal bands in today’s active scene. Given the fact that the German duo provide an in-depth insight into what black metal sounds like when merged successfully with jazz and progressive music, it isn’t much surprise that the Germans come across as one of the truly dynamic, innovative and inspiring bands present not only in Germany, a country which houses some of the best talents in the scene already, but globally. There are a few individual elements which cause me to believe that this record is as accessible as it is inaccessible.

Black metal fans can be very picky with their music as it does become tiring sifting through the tonnes of new bands to find something which peaks our interest, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the adventurous side of Klabautamann took a certain section of fans a long time before they would come to appreciate the unhinged approach of the band, which includes acoustics, female vocals and an extraordinary bass led sound, something which is usually akin to genres like progressive, not black metal as the bass tends to be driven out by the relentless distortion. Undoubtedly, it’s a tricky business fusing any outside factor with black metal due to the uncompromising and often cold, anti-social mannerisms of the genre, but to fuse an eclectic genre like jazz into the song structures is something only the very best musicians and song writers can pull off successfully. I didn’t expect ‘Der Ort’ to be without its problems as it can take a band of such an experimental nature a few records before they truly hit their stride, something which seems to be the case in regards to the talented duo of Klabautamann.

Having listened to the record a few times through on repeat in order to get myself into the mood of reviewing it, I see that the similarities and differences between the sophomore and this effort are stark and out in the open. I find ‘Der Ort’ tends to dither a bit, whilst ‘Merkur’ didn’t take as long to get into its groove. The record tends to focus too much on one aspect more than the other, whereas ‘Merkur’ could easily blend the two together. Songs like ‘Winternacht’ and ‘The River’ are particularly guilty of excluding much of the experimentation in favour of the seemingly Enslaved inspired cross between black, progressive and Viking metal. As with ‘Merkur’, Steffens harsh vocals are akin to that of the Enslaved vocalist Grutle. The vocals sound very similar to that on ‘Merkur’ and rarely feature any truly notable differences in style, or sound. At no point are the vocals the priority of the band though, with areas like the bass and riffing taking precedence over the vocals which, at times, evolve into muted rasps (and even Agalloch-esque whispered vocals, which suit’s the acoustic touches) as shown well on ‘Winternacht’.

The vocals take a back seat and allow the bass, in particular, to dominate the flow of the music but, unlike ‘Merkur’, there is a rigidity to the production that doesn’t allow such a smooth feel to wash over the listener as it did on ‘Merkur’. The guitars, for instance, under this dim light, sound far more synthetic and lacking in searing emotion as they did on the courageous effort of ‘Merkur’. Again, ‘The River’ shows how the band neglect their adventurous side in order to fire out a few blanks in the form of typical black metal tremolo riffing and even the bass becomes slightly more cautious, opting to showcase its sound in a repetitive fashion, rather than experimenting as it does towards the end of the record and throughout the innovative ‘Merkur’. As with the aforementioned record however, it isn’t until the second half of the record that Klabautamann unleash their ferocity in juxtaposition to their more delicate features like the acoustics, or even the guest appearance of the wonderful female vocalist, Isabel Jasse, a woman with a voice which really compliments the softer side to the band, as shown terrifically on ‘October’, the best song on the entire record.

This song features the most memorable aspects of Klabautamann and in full view, for all to lovingly adore. The use of layered guitars, for example, provides a pivotal role within the atmospherics of the song. One riff lays down a repetitive sound, whilst the other provides notable solo work which provides wondrous textures akin to cleaner acts and alongside the vocals of Isabel, these parts work tremendously well together to accustom a new sound to the record, making it flow more fluidly and without hindrance, something which dubious filler tracks like ‘Red Urn’ don’t manage to do. Whilst songs like ‘October’ restore my faith in the German duo, I don’t think ‘Der Ort’ is as outstanding as the more recent ‘Merkur’, a record which showcases the best of the bands song writing abilities, as well as their talents for melding together black metal, jazz and progressive techniques, something which this record could learn from. Fortunately, with the benefit of hindsight, I can look upon this record as a stepping stone to greater things, rather than one bereft of the qualities needed to perform a style like this. A decent effort, but not up to the standards of the glowing ‘Merkur’.

No comments:

Post a Comment