Formed in 2017, German atmospheric black metallers SCHATTENFALL (translation: Shadows Falling) are back with their new EP Das Verderben (Translation: The Doom) which follows last years Melancholie des Seins (Translation: Melancholy of being) a release that saw favourable reviews when it was released.
The band is formed of Ragnar (Vocals), Vladimir Bauer (Guitar, Bass) and Evgen Karamushko (Drums). The release’s main selling point is that the lyrics are borrowed from poems by Goethe, Heine and Benn which at first glance is pretty interesting.
The album opens with Totentanz (Translation: Dance of the Dead) a slow, brooding piece where in it’s opening sounding more like a doom song than a black metal one. This slow cumbersome nature remains throughout the song. It somehow retains that feeling, even when the bass drum is thundering away and the guitars are creating this impenetrable wall of sound. It’s in this song you realise how unusual it is for a black metal act to be singing in German, which is a language that really adds something to the anger and the pain of the genre.
It follows this up with Abschied (The act of saying goodbye) which takes its name from the poem of the same name by Gottfried Benn. The rhythmic nature of Benn’s words really act as another form of percussion here punctuating the darkness of the music, the craftsmanship of the words to add another deeper layer to this, its opening lines singing
“Du füllst mich an wie Blut die frische Wunde
(You fill me like blood the fresh wound)
und rinnst hernieder seine dunkle Spur,
(and run down his dark trail,)
du dehnst dich aus wie Nacht in jener Stunde,
(you expand like night in that hour),
da sich die Matte färbt zur Schattenflur”
(because the mat colors to the shadow corridor),
– Abschied, Benn
The evocative imagery really shines through the language barrier here because the words ‘Blut’, ‘Nacht’ and ‘Matte’ are phonetically similar to their English counterparts and yet are harsher than the English could ever be with the same intent of meaning.
The final track is Der Schiffbrü. The lyrics here are taken from Heine’s Der Schiffbrüchige that whilst not conveying the darkest imagery, manages to be very atmospheric and brooding without delving into the realms of self parody. The poem itself is sort of the German equivalent to John Clare’s poem I Am which was written when Clare was staying at Northampton asylum. It is about the very depths of depression and misery.
“Hoffnung und Liebe! Alles zertrümmert!
(Hope and love! Everything smashed!)
Und ich selber, gleich einer Leiche,
(And myself, like a corpse,)
Die grollend ausgeworfen das Meer,
(The rumbling ejected the sea,)
Lieg ich am Strande,
(I’m lying on the beach)
Am öden, kahlen Strande,
(On the barren, bare beach,)
Vor mir woget die Wasserwüste,
(The water desert sways in front of me)
Hinter mir liegt nur Kummer und Elend,
(Behind me is only grief and misery)
Und über mich hin ziehen die Wolken,”
(And the clouds move over me)
-Der Schiffbrüchige, Heine
This is a fitting way to round out this EP, this pure description of a pained scene. I think, is what atmospheric black metal should be. This marriage of poetry and harsh almost industrial sounds conveys the desperation of depression, the lack of hope. It is a blanket of affirmation to those that are suffering, and a chilling reminder that to be human is to occasionally suffer.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Das Verderben is out now.
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