Endstille – Infektion 1813 Review

Does anyone else remember the time when the world’s cleverest parents’-basement-dwelling minds held an international summit and decided that the most biting epithet they could imagine to dismiss a particular style of black metal was fucking Norsecore? Well, I raise that dreadful specter from Metal Meme Graveyard not to actually use it (because, seriously, use that word around me with any amount of sincerity and I’ll make you sit on a teacup), but to suggest that, while Endstille fits the general bill, a much tidier – and less apoplexy-inducing – description might hail Infektion 1813 as a Regain Records album, through and through. Sure, it’s out on Season Of Mist, but Endstille’s aesthetic is a natural outgrowth of Marduk, late-period Gorgoroth, and the blasturbatory excess of early 1349 (who, yes, I know, have never been on Regain, but’s it’s a heuristic, so piss off).

Seven albums in nine years means that even devoted fans of Endstille’s brand of blast-then-blast-some-more metal haven’t had much time to catch their breath during the cessation of hostilities. Infektion 1813 finds Endstille with a new vocalist but little else to set this album apart from their others, meaning that this is still bloody-minded, full-on smash-and-groove black metal that, rather than pursuing the thin, trebly fury of the second wave’s cornerstone albums, opts for a thicker, fuller sound. The album sounds great, although one wishes that the bass was given more prominence, and especially that it was allowed to do more than simply double the guitar (though “World Aflame” is a notable exception to this pattern).

The funny thing about this style of blast-overload black metal is that once you’ve acclimated to it, it all becomes a bit…nice. Safe. Even the most furiously blasting passages on here tend to feature slowly shifting minor-keyed melodies – actually, not just slowly shifting, but painstakingly and methodically shifting, meaning that the ‘melodies’ tend to be built simply from playing a different tremolo picked chord each measure (see “The Deepest Place on Earth”). The muted spoken-word introducing “Bloody H” is pretty annoying, though the mid-paced Khold-ish groove that it leads into is a nice change of scenery. The chanting that undergirds the chorus is a bit too sluggish to really capture the interest, though it’s a nice stab at a bit of variety. “When Kathaaria Falls” is more interesting, but even so, upon closer inspection, the simple ascending arpeggio upon which its primary melodic content is shaped is too simplistic to be lauded.

There are successes, however. “Satanarchie” is relatively engaging, simply because of the greater contrast between the slash-and-burn intensity of the verses and the mellower (though still double-bass led) chorus. But honestly, even with the singer screeching away, this is overwhelmingly relaxing music. Not meditative, not trance-inducing, not achingly beautiful – just…nice. “Wrecked” therefore comes off all the better for being more than a little unhinged, lurching from blast to surging riff to pained vocal antics while almost threatening to come apart at the seams. The rest of the album is sorely in need of this touch of danger.

The new vocalist is Zingultus, ex- of perennially underrated German avant-blacksters Nagelfar, and while his presence is effective, it is not enough to elevate Endstille above mid-tier, pleasant-enough-but-ultimately-unsatisfying status. His vocals are suitably impassioned when flat-out raging, but the range of additional vocal touches mostly falls flat – the almost inaudible chants, the goofy spoken word, and especially the absurd recitation of the names of a millennium’s worth of dictators and strongmen that render the album’s closing ten-minute track simultaneously hilarious and enraging (“Francisco Franco… Mussolini… Hosni Mubarak…”). More significantly, unless my ears deceive me, at no point in this genealogy of assholes do they list Mr. “Beauty Art School Dropout” Himself, Bad Ol’ Adolf H. You carnival barkers of the transgressions of politically correct culture can make of that what you will.

Endstille’s press release touts the band’s “destructive monotony” as apparently a great strength. Allow me to add the prefix “self-” to that phrase, and I probably owe some royalties to Season Of Mist’s PR staff for writing a tidy capstone for this review.

Posted by Dan Obstkrieg

Happily committed to the foolish pursuit of words about sounds. Not actually a dinosaur.

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