Alburnum - Buitenlucht

06 Aug 2022 - Knut

Post Black Metal, Folk Black Metal, Blackgaze | Babylon Doom Cult Records | Release date: 08 Jul 2022

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Between the outer hard bark of a tree and the heartwood there is a soft part called alburnum or sap wood, the lightest and the youngest part of the tree trunk. Such a band name gives some expectation when the band is branded in the realm of the Black Metal genre. And yes, it is a magnificent debut release from this Dutch band that brings thirty minutes of riffs, tremolos, arpeggios accompanied by diverse drumming and folk related instruments as they sweep along the melodic themes and embrace the harsh and clean vocals.

There are a lot of bands in this genre that seek inspiration from nature as a source for reflection, resilience and inspiration. However, there are also themes of depression, anxiety and existentialism. Thus, the sonics from Black Metal inspired bands can often come out with a piercing iciness. And the starting riffs of ”Ik Kan Niet Zien” (meaning I cannot see) induce such feelings. Nevertheless, soon the sound develops into a melodic theme for the track, and when an accordion appears in the heavy and distorted music, musical warmth slowly seeps into the sonics and dips it into melodic folk related black metal. It is as if the warm sap from the tree embraces the sharp edges of the music - it is so well carried out. The sonics build up with a distorted tremolo guitar that might even be a mandolin. The music eventually becomes so tight it sounds like there is a choir in there somewhere.

The acoustic or folk music instruments will make appearances in the next three songs at different places. Just like the first song of the album did, the second track ”Eeuwig Licht” (“Eternal Light”) also opens with some lone distorted guitar riffs. Soon the drums join and push the melodic theme forward with the always present diverse drumming until the drums signal a change into an acoustic part with a strumming guitar to embrace a mandolin. There are many shifts in this track and clear vocals take over from the snarling vocals and begin to vocalize behind the melodic theme. The distorted guitars return with arpeggio and tremolo guitars soaring over the sonics to hug the snarling vocals. It opens up a bit to give light to a plain in the woods before it tightens again and leads to the end of the track.

”Buitenlucht” (“Outside Air”) is a faster track, tight and melodic at nearly blastbeat speed, the drums working hard and fast hitting the cymbals in between. Although the title of the track alludes to air out in the open countryside under the blue sky there is not much air in the tight music at the start. That is very effective as the soundscape opens up more and more toward the end of the track and also introduces a vocalizing choir and thus induces a breath of fresh air into the music.

The album closes with ”Fluisterend Water” (“Whispering Water”) with an engaging melodic theme played by a tremolo behind the riffs, the drums almost at blast speed and the snarling vocals. The tonality has minor shifts which give a slow and undulating feel to the music. There is a surprising shift at around the 3:30 mark where you can catch your breath as a guitar is riffing along alone. The music comes back and supports the vocals. The tempo shifts and the drums race away faster while the music fades away to let the last track end with some strumming acoustic guitar and a melody played on mandolin as an accordion appears. As the music slowly fades away you are in a clearing in the dense forest sitting around the campfire telling stories of loss, resilience and hope.

This musical adventure started as a solo project by the multi-instrumentalist dubbed D.B. and he was soon joined on drums by R.v.R who has played with countless bands. With this album they follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen like Iskandr and Fluisteraars, but also international acts like Drudkh, Darkestrah and Vallendusk. Alburnum introducing acoustic instruments the way they do while also keeping the melodies very close to folk themed songs, giving the band a unique sound that I am sure will lead to sequels of this album. Definitely something to look forward to.