Let’s assume that Porta Nigra means “black door,” which could potentially have a serious spooky factor. It would also mean that these Germans spend their evenings traveling by auto to the nearby cities of Frankfurt or Cologne to crawl the dark alleys and abandoned abattoirs looking for nightlife with which to engage. Perhaps at the end of a dead end alley they found a doorway framed in rancid, termite-infested wood with a black door hanging loosely between head and sill. Knocking on the door brought forth a scuffling sound as a large, leather-clad man slowly pried loose the rusted hinges to peer out asking “vas is ze password?” As his eyes trained themselves to the darkness, he could make out three well-clad shapes. Men, in their mid to early 30s, wearing tweed, leather and greatcoats. No password required.
Ushering them into the abandoned slaughterhouse, the bass could probably be felt pumping in what used to be the freezer section. A few meat hook swung softly in the lowly lit room; sawdust dampening their footfalls. There must have been a large metal door that looked as if it had been pulled from the National Bank of Germany blocking their entrance to the more raucous areas of the structure. A quick turn of the wheel and the withdrawal of a few precise pistons that clicked loudly into place would allow the giant machine to swing open revealing a room lit by blacklight, low light and a few well-placed strobes. Impossibly beautiful people likely danced and swayed in a myriad of different levels of dress. Some, using long legs to propel their barely clad body forth into other members of this occult alliance clad head-to-toe in leather and furs. Long hair whipped back and forth between strobes, and sweat glistened on the likely excessive amount of bare skin.
The heroes of the story, known only by their secret monikers, strode forth into the sea of people, their bodies already beginning to spring into action. They were home. The dance floor, champagne room and unspeakable erotic dungeon their playgrounds. Blades flashed and fangs glistened as they prepared to enjoy eternal night among their brothers and sisters.
“Die Augen des Basilisken” represents a highlight on Schöpfungswut, as the relentlessness of the track combines with group vocals (some clean) to push the envelope of aggression and vanguard artistry. Of all the tracks here, it’s “Die Augen des Basilisken” that will hook old fans to Porta Nigra’s attempt to pivot their sound. Yet, while some of the old themes stand out, the “new” melody belies the unsettling industrial aura that made Porta Nigra albums of yore so successful. The lead guitar, even in this track, contains melodies and pacing that begins to border on the atmospheric world of black metal—certainly not a welcome addition to their prior perfect takes on urban decay and the sexual insanity and mental collapse that comes with the energy of a dingy urban landscape.
While Porta Nigra may never again reach the heights of Fin de Siècle, an album that made fans in some of the most unexpected corners of Finland, Kaiserschnitt was at least a coherent and cohesive follow up—almost something of a concept album. Schöpfungswut represents something wholly new for the band. The ambient electronics and industrial floorboards that so anchored their music in a German sound being stripped away has left the band stuck like a piece of meat on a rusted hook. Further, the ferocity of the vocals, and more likely the lack of clean and / or choir vocals, has taken some of the spook and horrifying aura out of their music.
Further muddying the already convoluted stream is the lack of Tongue’s signature militaristic delivery that was so keenly attuned to the mechanic, machine-like sound of guitars on Fin de Siècle. Another aspect lacking on Schöpfungswut is the brilliant use of old propaganda-sounding samples that helped anchor Porta Nigra’s music in a timeless romanticism of uglier phases of European history. This isn’t to say that their new album is a failure or perhaps bad. What it is, however, is a let down for fans that looked to Porta Nigra for such a unique industrialist take on black metal so lacking since the late 90s. Traditionalism, while nothing to scoff at, is simply not what Porta Nigra does best. And with life on earth so very brief, why shouldn’t a band, collective or single person always strive for their very best?