I’m all for progression and evolution, but during a time when the black metal boundaries continue to cloud and push the genre further into more tempered terrain, it’s refreshing to come across projects whose primary concern firmly continues along that well-travelled path of blistering flesh and kicking skulls into a bone pulverizer. That’s the basic gist behind Am Pranger, the second full-length from this Deutscher outfit comprised of one ex-Nag-E-lfarian (again, what a difference an “e” can make) and two Verdunkeln‘s.
There’s a fair bit of variance administered here and there to sweeten the pot, but fiery flailing is definitely the binding element that ties the bulk of these tunes together. “Daemonicum” shits on the idea of an album intro by getting down to the business of browbeating directly from the gate with a surprisingly dense and cruel attack bolstered by battering drums, knife-riffing and a robust bass that further fills out the bottom end. “Schwarze Feder” comes close to matching the savage opener, but calms the storm by occasionally slowing the pace to a gallop that’s as smooth as a crow’s neck. “Das blutende Mal” und “Herkünfte Schatten” together flash the closest affinity to vocalist Zingultus’ motley Virus West days by peppering the formula with some really nice acoustic flourishes that darken the atmosphere nicely, and both also take advantage of the band’s inclination to assuage the ruckus with a tasty groove, particularly the latter, which rumbles like a bloody tractor at its 5:20 mark.
Am Pranger‘s summit, however, swings in with the epic “Kalte Fessel”, a 9-minute march that opens with a crisp, upbeat, melodic pinch that sounds as if it could have fallen off a heftier version of Belus. It eventually rekindles the blazing brutality at its midpoint before breaking off entirely into a quiet measure padded with maniacal laughter and the troubling cries of someone being sent to the pillory. The tune also spotlights the wide variety of vocal moods heard throughout the record: Zingultus’ furnace-rasp, howls, echoed spoken word, chants, and some supremely agonized clean crooning towards its close.
The 7-minute ambient closer could stand as a toss-away for some, but I find it to be a suitable close to the 38-minute barrage that precedes it; like watching ash gently fall from the sky after an atomic explosion. Honestly, the one thing keeping this record from inducing a full-scale pant-soiling is its general lack of electricity on the fretboard. Had Graupel added some occasional needle-burst leads ala Razor of Occam to bolt alongside these tunes, Am Pranger might have made a late run for my year-end top 20. As it stands, I’d still say if you’re the kind of black metal fan who enjoys the well-produced, vicious attack of bands such as Ondskapt, Malign or Exordium, you need to keep your ear to the ground for the quickly approaching Am Pranger…