First of all, I don’t consider myself a fan of the jollier, Humppa-styled metal released by bands such as Finntroll, so I approached this album with a fair bit of caution due to the playful nature of the artwork adorning the cover. Two cartoonish woodland folk standing atop a boulder and surveying a vast forest is a pretty good indication that you’re about to be hit with a fair bit of grinnin’, twirlin’ and bouncin’. I soldiered on, however, mostly because I have a great deal of respect for what Vendlus Records has done in the past, and because one of the two men steering Germany’s Klabautamann happens to be Florian Toyka of the impressive avant-death metal outfit, Island.
Originally self-released in 2003, Our Journey Through the Woods is indeed a rather sunny affair, but it’s nowhere near the beer-soaked ditties that normally drive me up a tree. For one thing, apart from the abundance of acoustic guitar scattered throughout each song, Klabautamann‘s brand of black metal leaves behind any tin whistles, accordions, flutes, mouth harps, dulcimers or blithe maidens swinging arm-in-arm that would likely push things into some sort of hobbit bash. Put simply, Our Journey is surprisingly fast and bright progressive black metal with enough of a touch of darkness to keep moody louts such as myself content.
Much of Klabautamann‘s sunny disposition has to do with the fair pinch of classic German thrash (Eternal Devastation era Destruction) thrown in the mix here. “Der Nock” and “Tower of Sorcery” are the most obvious culprits, but nearly every song features extended moments where all players have sites locked tight on pure speed. There’s also a flavor of Isa/Ruun period Enslaved, which has as much to do with the Grutle-styled vocals of Tim Steffens as it does with both bands’ penchant for swirling King Crimson-styled progression into the blueprint – the amazing “Seaghost,” for example.
All the speediness is offset nicely by generous use of darker, acoustic-driven woodsiness that bring to mind bands such as Agalloch and Tenhi. Elegant twelve and six string layering swarms nearly every tune, but it’s the instrumental “Elfentanz” that really lets the folk shine.
Our Journey Through the Woods glows with the warmth of an old, familiar fairy tale, and it delivers what all good fairy tales should deliver: imaginative stories unfolded through a perfect balance of light and dark. It’s easy to understand why Vendlus chose to reissue this gem.