Germany is a stunning country. From the odd, historically juxtaposed vistas of Berlin, to the mist-covered streets of Hamburg, or the lush solitude of Burgstadt, it is a beautiful tapestry of rich and horrifying history, amazing beer, and incredible architecture. With such a fantastic backdrop it is somewhat surprising, unfortunately, that Germany is not particularly known for its homegrown metal scene. While the country is not without its fair share of well-known bands of the heavy variety (Kreator, Rammstein, Caliban, Lantlôs, and The Ruins of Beverast to name a few), the nation’s black metal scene has never been an especially notable one. Der Weg einer Freiheit (DWEF from here on out) set out to change that with their own distinct flavor of post-/atmoblack, flying surprisingly mostly under the radar as their first few records received marginal amounts of buzz. However, in 2015 their third full-length album, Stellar, made waves in the scene with an absolutely stunning assault of black metal ambition that landed them on many a metal year-end list (including that of yours truly). It was a panoramic, emotionally invigorating record that catapulted the band’s already solid reputation into the stratosphere. With the release of their fourth record¸ this year’s Finisterre, the band are posed with the challenge of following up their best record with something equally impactful. On every count, they have succeeded. If you have been sleeping on this band, awake. We are witnessing the rise of a group that is sure to become the bedrock of German metal for years to come.
For the uninitiated, DWEF have a distinctive sound within the subgenres that their music could most easily be categorized in. They play a type of post-/atmospheric black metal that is as epic as that of Wolves In the Throne Room or Blut Aus Nord while remaining slightly more accessible and less ethereal. They provide listeners with epic-scale compositions that rival that of Alcest without the general warmth associated with their music, opting instead for a colder, razor-like guitar sound that bites and slices without losing its distinct sense of fullness. DWEF takes all of the elements that make these subgenres notable and distills them into a pounding, emotionally resonant, sonically frigid cornucopia of black metal aggression. The band’s compositions aren’t gentle or lilting, like that of some of their contemporaries. Instead they create brooding, broiling music that holds within it a level of emotional and intellectual transcendence that few black metal bands attain. These aspects of the band’s sound are on full display in Finisterre, which marries brutality and austerity impeccably well, creating a black metal album drenched in feeling and atmosphere, but not consumed by it.
Opening track “Aufbruch” sets the scene for the melding of these elements heard throughout the record. Beginning with a German spoken word segment that slowly wraps itself in a cloud of atmospheric tension, the song gently transitions into a quiet passage of picked guitar notes that lilt with great emotion for a short moment. The music soon quiets into a brief silence, and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Absolutely ferocious blast beats bludgeon whatever peace was created by the album’s measured opening moments into total bloody submission. Nikita Kamprad’s razor-sharp guitar work snakes its way ably around Tobias Schuler’s (drums) and Nico Ziska’s (bass) manic and inspired rhythm section, showcasing the bands black metal roots with energy and vitality. The vocals have always been a highlight of the DWEF sound for me, and here Kamprad’s wailings are just as wretched and powerful as in the band’s previous outings. Over the next eight minutes, the track takes us on a sonically diverse, emotionally rich journey that brings to the forefront the bands continued emphasis on creating sounds that place side-by-side emotional transcendence and crushing, brutal sonic landscapes. It is a powerful opener that serves as an effective scene-setter for the emotional and musical devastation to come.
The second track on the record, “Ein letzler Tans”, is the album’s longest and most intricately composed piece, clocking in at just under fourteen minutes. Displaying once again the band’s penchant for effective mood and tempo change, the song opens with some forlorn, emotive guitar work that feels both incredibly lonely and deeply foreboding. This feeling carries throughout the song, as this melancholic coda carries into the songs fierce middle section, going through several stages of metamorphosis before crashing like a rogue wave into the song’s widescreen finale. This leads us to the album’s centerpiece, two-part track “Skepsis”. It should be noted here that the production on this album (helmed by Kamprad) is exceptional and fits the band’s music perfectly. This deft work behind the board is on full display during this two-part behemoth, especially in the opening instrumental half, as Kampard’s guitars run headlong into the absolute wall that is Schuler’s insane drum work with the force of a tsunami. Within the maelstrom, each instrument can be heard distinctly and with incredible power. This carries into the song’s second half, which rounds out the two-part epic with some blistering black metal riffs that feel much more traditional than most riffs on the rest of the album. The album’s title track and closer is no slouch either, carrying these themes to their logical and satisfying conclusion.
That’s a lot to digest, so let me here for once be brief: The bottom line is that this is a second consecutive exceptional album from a band that is doing things in black metal that few other bands are doing at this level of skill, vision, and precision. The instrumental performances, the production, and the songwriting are all excellent, and Finisterre is without dispute one of my favorite black metal releases of the year, and one of the best. Sleep on this band no more. They are deserving of your attention, and are one of the best and brightest from a German metal scene in need of a champion for the present and future. With DWEF, they’ve found one. Uniformly excellent and highly recommended.
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Finisterre is available now via Season of Mist.