22 Apr 2021 - Thorsten
Folksy-Black-Metal | Eisenwald | Release date: 30 Apr 2021
A long-awaited release for many Black-Metal fans has been Ungfell’s next sonic adventure, the fourth full-length and first after 2018 Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz (‘Myths, Tales, Pestilence’). And Es Grauet (‘It Dreads’) does not disappoint at all. We are taken back to a place not far away but long gone.
Es Grauet might not feature too many new things within the Ungfell-cosmos, but it surely shows a project of musicians who have been honing their craftsmanship over the years of their existence. Although “their” existence might be misleading here because both members of Ungfell, Menetekel and Valant, are part of the ever-working, never-resting Helvetic Underground Committee and play in various formations of that collective (sometimes under the same stage name or also different ones).
And some connections to other HUC projects can be seen, especially to Urgeist and his songs because they share a kind of pre-modern tonality; that means some instruments are used that usually are not used anymore, especially old percussive elements like monkeysticks, castanet-like small cymbals and also old guitars that sound like lutes or very well-played Baroque guitars. Other instruments that create a late Medieval or Early Modern Period kind of sonic setting are flutes and lyra organs. That all creates the image of a 15th, 16th century village or small town with a fair being the event of the moment. However, the rural village of olden times is to be haunted by some horrific events.
The lyrics tell us of a horrible murder shaking the foundations of the village community to the core. The crime of gruesome, horrific and grisly and sparks accusations everywhere. Everyone seems conspicuous and everything is unusual. The unity is shaking and people are striving to fulfill their own debaucherous needs and with that deepening the fears and aggravations. The story and its horrible events are mirrored by some gripping thunderous riffs and wonderful melodic moments of pure atmosphere. Whenever the songs are on the verge of becoming monotonous Menetekel comes along with another minuscule but highly-effective change in the riffing or Valant throws in a quick drums lick or percussive element to give every song a well-balanced structure between fast and dark on the one and epic and bright on the other side.
Sometimes the songs are close to being pirate or viking metal but that thought is quickly washed away by another change of pace or in riffing. Of course with a story like a classic horror movie (in some way it reminded me of an older version of Das Weisse Band) this can happen all too easily, also because the band embeds some very nice and subtle chants. ”Tyfels Antlitz” (‘The Devil’s Face’) can be a good example here: The song goes through various stages and small changes, the drums move it along and give it enough time to breathe and just when the song is nearly over there is this story-telling element delivered by a monkeystick moving across some flowing sound (maybe water?) - that part at the end wipes away every thought of stereotypes and cliches because it sounds as if we are witnessing the devil with his dragging foot arriving in the town and with it all hell breaks loose. That might even be seen on the cover where some demons are lurking beneath a mountain towering over the town that seems to be burning, while a naked figure is watching from above and another dark face is lurking in the clouds – the fight between good and evil?
Ungfell might not come up with really different riffs or unusual structures but the incorporation of olden instruments, the slowly unfolding story and the magnificent melodies make up for any lack in ingenuity. Es Grauet is not dreadful, it is really recommendable!