Totenwache – Der Schwarze Hort

Band: Totenwache
Title: Der Schwarze Hort
Label: Independent
Release date: 11 August 2019
Country: Germany
Format reviewed: Digital Stream

“Funeral darkness, clouds shadow the pale surface of the moon…
Amid peals of possessed chants out from the darkness and the fog”

Cold…evil…anguished. Black metal is very simple. It’s more about feelings than about technicality. There are many Black Metal bands now who are constantly pushing the boundaries and introducing many diverse influences both musically and lyrically. But that schematic appeal of old school Black Metal will never fade away. It’s harrowing,it’s mournful, it’s finding gratification in eternal darkness. It’s the reverie you created for yourself. It’s finding a new elucidation in the beauty of void. It’s self-immolation in an adventure through eternal winter and not caring about the destination. It’s gritty,it’s frosty, it’s wrathful,it’s light beyond the eternal night. It’s just a primitive pandemonium created by some treble-heavy harshness, some dreamy yet dysphoric melodies, some sorrowful, howling cries surrounded in a stygian crypt…it’s the forlorn tales of “Der Schwarze Hort”.

Totenwache is a trio of imprecation from Hamburg, Germany-Animatrum on bass and vocals, Valfor(Ashhrnheim) on Drums, Host Of Cinder on guitars. They released their first EP “Ursprung” in 2017 which was a magnificent ode to the old and cold raw, harsh Finnish Black Metal. Then they released a split with Mavorim in 2018 where they shifted to a less bleak and harsh, more melodic and atmospheric approach. Now they are back with their debut self-released full-length “Der Schwarze Hort” where they combined these different aspects and delivered an inflamed yet freezing, cataclysmic yet melancholic Black Metal journey. It’s like “Carelian Satanist Madness” era Satanic Warmaster meets “Fimbulwinter” era Satanic Warmaster.

“Der Schwarze Hort” is a quite straight-forward black metal album. The 8 songs proceed from one to another in a certain, distinct tempo throughout the 55 minutes. But what it lacks in complex song structures and unpredictability, it makes up for it with an intense yet numb, brutal yet tearful atmosphere with some raucous, ear-piercing cacophonous riffing of misanthropic Black Metal and exuberant, gleeful nature of melodic Black Metal.

The thing that impressed me most about “Der Schwarze Hort” is the commencement. The beautiful acoustic intro gives a sense of weirdly quiet, eerie, calmness before the storm. I wish Totenwache would use more acoustic passages in the later parts of the album too just to create some suspense and diversity in the overall compositions like Aaskereia.“Utreil: Niedergang” starts with a rasping, freezing riff from the depths of the Siberian mountain which feels like the call of wintermoon…the summoning of the wolves. This riff reminded me of the starting of German classic raw hateful Black Metal anthems like “Ruhe” by Der Weg Einer Freiheit and “Satanification” by Darkmoon Warrior. That raw, bewitching riff then inevitably descends into the divine realm of spellbinding chaos. Cold sun sets as we break from the chain of fear. Covered by night we march against the invisible force. We March under blood strained clouds of lies.

The vocal delivery of Animatrum is classic nihilist, angry, wrathful, hateful shrieking which brings back the image of Werewolf himself. These sorrowful outbursts are supplemented by wave after wave of captivating melodies. The spiral, hypnotizing tremolos one after another drowns you into suffocating oblivion. The transitions between dense, distorted riffs and clean, grim tremolos will sometimes make you wander through the anti-terrestrial valley of depletedness and hollowness. So despite the absence of any unpredictability or complex build up in the songs, it can still perpetuate your interest because of that primordial, cloistered cold riff breakdown or that mirthful, exuberant, wrinkled melodic passage. It’s in your face,uncomplicated black metal played in a modest speed like Vox Mortuis, Dim Aura. But the cross-breeding of sturdy, vigorous nature of German Black Metal bands. Bands like Har Shatan with the melancholic, mournful nature of bands like Dusken create a contrastingly beautiful atmosphere. Songs like “Gloria Antichristi”, “Die Alte Legion” and the title track (which is my most favourite track of the record) contain some seriously lucent, blazing melodies which will put you in a trance-state where you are lost in your own wintry wilderness.

Another great aspect of this album is the very prominent role of bass guitar and tight, compact drumming. This was illustrated best in “Des Königs Stolze Acht“. The bass line after the initial verses…then the return of harrowing screams amidst clamorous chaos and finally the pounding double bass kicks to take you beyond sanity….it’s glorious. Valfor’s smooth transitions between blast-beats and d-beats and capricious use of double bass along with the sparky, ebullient bass works throughout the album add a groovy layer to the harsh, strident soundscape.

So “Der Schwarze Hort” is a blessed sacrament of archetypal Black Metal madness.It may not be enriched with diversity and complexity..it may be more atmospheric, less repulsive..but still it’s quite trance-inducing. It’s just some words of destruction, songs of desolation. It’s being carried by the forbidden spirit of blasphemy through agonizing, freezing winds. 7.5/10 Apollo

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