|Review: Klabautamann - Der Ort|
Label: Heavy Horses Records
Year released: 2005
Genre: Black/Folk Metal
Review online: January 18, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Rated 3.33/5 (66.67%) (3 Votes)
According to the unassailable bastion of truth and honesty, Wikipedia, Klabautermann is a water sprite who assists sailors and fisherman on the Baltic Sea in their duties, and is merry and diligent with an "unsupressable" musical talent. This is an apt namesake for the German Black Metal band Klabautamann, who are a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, wrapped in a tobacco leaf, wrapped in a banana skin, and glued together with monkey semen. Ok, so maybe they aren't really that enigmatic, but they do have a different take on folk-inspired Black Metal than is the norm.
Of the 8 tracks on offer on Klabautamann's latest long player, 6 of them follow largely the same formula: tremolo-picked Black Metal riffs and blasting, interspersed with some quite laid back acoustic folk playing and mid-paced melodic sections. They are able to effortlessly change between these different styles, which makes each track individually diverse but still cohesive, as the changes are rarely abrupt and flow smoothly. The melodies of the tremolo riffs are all very flowing, having a kind of rolling feel like a lake on a windy day, counter pointed by the aforementioned acoustic sections which have a strong earthy feel. This earthiness is really the overall feel of the album, and all aspects work together to achieve it; Der Ort is a really nature inspired album, with the production, songwriting and the tone of the instruments all coming together to this end.
The guitar sound is really gritty and very far from the usual Black Metal tone, with much less overdrive and distortion, and it suits the riffs very well as they roll around the songs like leaves caught in a summer breeze. It adds to the feeling of "summer" Black Metal that Klabautamann has captured here, with the distant iciness of the more traditional Black Metal sound as far from your mind as the winter at midsummer. This is not to draw a comparison to that other "summer Black Metal" band, Woods of Ypres (although there are similarities in the acoustic passages), as Klabautamann offer a much more convincing take on this style, weaving the different styles together with greater fluidity than Woods. The folk sections are not of the standard variety either; instead they are grounded in open chords and movements as opposed to flutey melodies and violin solos. For the most part this works well, and provides a good counterpoint to the more traditional-styled Black Metal riffs that come with the tremolo sections. "Red Urn" is an all-acoustic number played to a sampled track of heavy rain; even this maintains the summer feel of the album, as it inexplicably gives the feel of a summer rain shower (it is somewhat reminiscent of Opeth's mellower moments from their earlier albums). The drums are largely standards beats with little in the way of frills or thrills, doing little more than keeping time during the heavier sections (although the blasting on some of the acoustic sections works very nicely indeed). They are however very effective behind the acoustic guitars, and provide a good deal more diversity when things slow down. All drumming is handled by session drummers.
Vocally, Tim Steffens has a raspy Black Metal voice; it's nothing special but it is adequate. In fact, the vocals are the main area where this album suffers; when the rasp is in effect you begin to want some variety as it is not particularly expressive. A couple of tunes also sport a Death Metal style growl, which, when accompanied by the Black Metal rasp, give some much need variety. Klabautamann also make use of frequent clean vocals, and these are hit and miss; on some songs, such as the all-acoustic "Red Urn" they work very well, providing a pleasing sense of campfire folkiness, and in others ("Forlorn Sea") they drift in and out of tune in wince-inducing fashion. Several songs make use of whispered passages, but as with everything else on this album, these are not the evil whisperings of misanthropic souls, but rather the whispers of shared secrets. Album closer, "October", features some very well done vocals from Isabel Jasse, but this track is very different from the rest of the album. This track is stylistically very different to the rest of the album, relying more on a rock/pop style than the Black Metal and folk that had painted the nature inspired noodlings of the previous tracks. It is a good song, with a strong sense of melody and flow, but it is noticeably out of place on the album, sounding as though it belongs more on an Alcest or Amesoeurs disc.
For the couple of negative things I've said about Der Ort, it is overall a very good album; it just lacks enough of that indefinable something special to turn it into a great album. I very much enjoy listening to it — Klabautamann are a very likeable band, but I think we may have to wait for their next release for a truly memorable album that will stand the test of time. A recommended diversion for Black and Folk Metal fans after something a little bit different.
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