What is it about black metal that keeps us coming back? In the last few years, I’ve personally become a bigger and bigger fan of black metal. Anything blackened has my attention. There’s a certain artistry and aesthetic to it that calls me back. Atmosphere is a huge part of it and very difficult to get right, but it’s also about style and technique. Once that combination is there, it becomes this unique experience no matter how many times you hear it. A package could be the same every time, and yet it still seems so novel. Such is the case for Ketzer and their latest record, Cloud Collider.
Ketzer has been in the midst of an evolution. Originally, the band had a very thrashy version of black metal but has tried to move on and grow from that sound into their own. The five piece from Germany had a little misstep with their last album, 2016’s Starless. They took a hit with that album as they were trying to evolve into their own kind of sound. While it may not have worked on that particular record, it would seem that the band learned a thing or two from that record to create something new. Experiments aren’t always going to work the way you intended, but there is always something to learn from the failures if you’re smart about it.
Luckily, Ketzer is a band of brainiacs. Cloud Collider is the perfect mash up of black metal and thrash. There are long sections of atmospheric style black metal and thrash metal style breakdowns. Those two things might seem like they would be in conflict, but Ketzer knows how to write songs in ways that makes their style work for them. They employ tactics from both little subgenres in ways that separate the two and emphasize their importance in the sound. It’s just more evidence that Ketzer learned a lot from the experiment of Starless, so it’s hard to call it a failure when it clearly succeeded in something very positive.
Any song on this album will show the perfect mashing of black and thrash, but “The Wind Brings Them Horses” is a brilliant choice. The semi-technical thrash riff combined with an overall blackened atmosphere is the best of both worlds. Loudly shouted harsh vocals of “Love is not the answer” is the greatest line in black metal and helps keep the song together. Mixing up the drum beats throughout the song not only keeps you on your toes, but it also shows just how talented this band is as songwriters.
Honestly, this has been a tough record to put down. It is instantly enjoyable. It’s engaging and fun in the right ways and is accessible to even the most passing of metal fans. If you’re a black metal fan, you’ll love this band’s take on the sound. If you’re a fan of metal but not necessarily a black metal listener, you’ll like a lot of the elements of this record and appreciate the unique sound Ketzer has developed. If you’re into more traditional and accessible styles, you’ll appreciate how a lot of different elements of the harder sounds have been incorporated into this record. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t find something to really love about this record. When December comes around, I’ll be remembering this record for my best of list. It’s records like Cloud Collider that reinvigorate your love for metal in all of its forms.
Cloud Collider is available now via Metal Blade Records.