Einblick in den Qualenfall
4/7/2009 - Review by: Etiam
Brooding atmospheres, epic strophes of mid-tempo black metal, nihilistic lyrics written in the vernacular (German), and choral baritones juxtaposed with echoing growls. Indeed, it seems that Germany's Verdunkeln is the perfect fit for Van Records, one of the foremost independent labels for gloomy and cave-dwelling Germanic metal. Following their 2005 self-titled debut, in 2007 Verdunkeln released their sophomore effort, 'Einblick in Den Qualenfall', loosely translatable as 'Insight into Torments'. Fans of labelmates The Ruins of Beverast, Nagelfar's more atmospheric moments, and Urfaust's less atmospheric moments will be intrigued by this new group, which actually share members with Ruins and Nagelfar through Graupel. Along with a few other groups (notably Geist), that clique comprises Nordrhein-Westfalen's internationally recognized scene.
With an hour-plus duration spread over six tracks, two breaching 15 minutes, 'Einblick in der Qualenfall' is a major enterprise. What's more, Verdunkeln isn't the kind of band that would impress in a live setting, even while their open-ended and droning compositions can still be engaging to the focused listener. This kind of black metal is simply too dense and deliberately "obscure"-sounding to sit well at the front of one's mind. It is better appreciated as a disquieting backdrop for long drives or late nights spent alone.
Delay-laden vocals and reverberating guitars are de rigueur throughout the album, and the band will often sit on a single theme for minutes on end before shifting into a new riff or sonic texture. The distortion, without being particularly bassy or compressed, still manages to fill the mix like a distant, grinding engine. Clean leads appear frequently, either as the sole guitar articulating minor chords or in freewheeling, hypnotic solos (both examples can be found in opener 'In Die Irre'). The percussion shuffles along at predominantly mid-tempos, committing neither to the tremolo riffing or nearly doom metal crawl between which the guitars alternate.
Furthering the labelmate comparison, Verdunkeln's 'Der Quell' even has the same strophic bounce as Urfaust's 'Drudenfus'. Unfortunately, 'Drudenfus' happens to be one of Urfaust's worst songs, and is correspondingly one of Verdunkeln's weaker efforts. The a capella last track is an effectively contemplative--and overlong by about half--conclusion that invokes some comparisons to the solemn chants of latter-day Bathory. Verdunkeln are far less judicious than Quorthon ever was, however; nearly every song on the album bears the burden of being too long and unwieldy to make an explicit impact on the listener. Instead, 'Einblick in Den Qualenfalls' leaves an impression of density and wearying repetition, with too few memorable themes (especially considering how often they are repeated). Verdunkeln show some promise and are worth pursuing for devoted fans of the genre, but with inconsistent songwriting and an unoriginal voice, 'Einblick in Den Qualenfall' will never be more than a shadow behind 'Unlock the Shrine' and 'Virus West'.
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