Schattenfall – Das Verderben (EP)

Band: Schattenfall
Title: Das Verderben (EP)
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Release Date: 28 February 2020
Country: Germany
Format Reviewed: Digital Download

Germany’s SCHATTENFALL (“Shadowfall” in English) enter the new decade having already released two albums since their formation in 2017. First there was “Schatten in Schwarz” the same year, before the more recent “Melancholie des Seins” last year. With some fluidity to the band’s lineup the one constant member is Vladimir Bauer, playing guitar and bass as well as writing all the music. Interestingly, according to the band’s Bandcamp page, the lyrics to the songs on this current release “Das Verderben” are all taken from Goethe, Heine and Benn poems. While my active German language education hasn’t quite got me to the level of understanding all that’s being said, I believe I can decipher that the first track “Totentanz” means something like “Dead Dance” or “Death Dance”.

Anyway, let this not be a forum for my clumsy German self-learning, I bring this up to give you the sense (which the EP artwork also helps with) of what you should expect from this release. The music of “Das Verderben” takes the listener to a dark, atmospheric world of screaming, howling pain and torment. You might reasonably file this under Atmospheric or Depressive Black Metal. I will always be the first to admit that I’m neither a great expert or fan of Black Metal in general (I often find it too shrill and frenetic for my tastes) however I definitely like this, however it should be categorised. 

The aforementioned “Totentanz” begins with a sparse, funerial trudge of mournful drums and bass, like some emaciated procession marching through the icy night, signalling their approach,  before the crashing, overdriven guitars burst in. With harrowing, screamed vocals entering the scene, the track also features bursts of rapid double bass pedalling, while still maintaining the sense of a slow, but unswaying march; wherever this march is headed it’s nowhere redemptive.

The sound the band achieves with the powerful drumming and satisfyingly thick churning guitars is supported greatly by the visceral vocal performance of vocalist Ragnar. Between the howls, the roars and the screeches there’s a great deal of versatility on show. Sometimes there’s a hint of Tom G. Warrior (of CELTIC FROST and TRIPTYKON), at other times I’m reminded of ASPHYX, with the gutterall, almost hoarse sense of force and venom being spewed forth.

After the powerful, slowly building march of the opening track, the band keeps the momentum going with “Abschied”, where some subtle use of synths add to the creepy, ominous, oppressive atmosphere. Ragnor meanwhile produces some of his most haunting, screaming vocals, and there’s a hypnotic quality to the swaying rhythm. While the opening and closing tracks come in at just under ten minutes each, at almost half the length this is something of a bridge between the two, though in no way an afterthought, as the intensity does not drop at all here; the drums pounding relentlessly, with guitars flowing like a burning tarpit.

On final track “Der Schiffbrüchige” there’s a great sense of menace from the opening moments, as Ragnar offers his most powerful roars on the EP. The music meanwhile, builds from another relentless marching beat to the biggest crechendo of the release, as the marching procession reaches its final, doomed destination, before in one final moment disappearing into the mists of the night.

Altogether, between the performance of drummer Evgen Karamushko, the vocals of Ragnar, the way Vladimir has constructed the music, and the meaty production this is an impressively powerful set of songs. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the band before, but I will definitely now be going back to spend some time with their prior releases and I’ll be keeping a look out for the next time the death dance is coming my way. 8/10 Tom Boatman

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