|Review: Graupel - Auf Alten Wegen|
|Auf Alten Wegen|
Label: Cold Dimensions
Year released: 2005
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: February 17, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
for:Auf Alten Wegen
Rising from the ashes of the mighty Nagelfar, Germany's Graupel form the link between them and Verdunkeln, sharing pretty much the same members: both Gnarl and Ratatyske of Verdunkeln are here, as are the members of Virus West era Nagelfar, including Alexander von Meilenwald of The Ruins of Beverast. The result is Auf Alten Wegen, an album with the intensity of Virus West, the bleak atmosphere of Rain Upon the Impure and the mild psychedelia of Einblick in Den Qualenfall.
The production here is excruciatingly raw and stripped to the bone, sounding very much like it was recorded in an abandoned airplane hangar. The bass is completely absent with drums and guitars alike being saturated in reverb with a needle thin in sound, often becoming incomprehensible in the echoing darkness. Many may consider this detrimental (why are you listening to Black Metal?), but much like Rain Upon the Impure, Auf Alten Wegen almost luxuriates in this beaten raw soundscape delivering the acidic atmosphere of The Ruins of Beverast but minus the pomp and bombast. The influence of Verdunkeln (or perhaps vice versa) is evident in the acoustic sections with that same rounded echoing tone evident on Einblick in Den Qualenfall — the massive "Requies Filli" is a prototype for Verdunkeln with its slow riffing, huge sound and 10+ minute length. The vocals of Zingultus are pretty much what you'd expect given his work in Nagelfar but here are absolutely swathed in reverb which gives his voice a far away sound. He has a great screeching Black Metal voice and gets to put it fully on display.
The songwriting throughout is uncompromising and straightforward with each track proceeding at lightning pace. The basic recipe is thus: take Nagelfar's "Fäden des Schicksals" and strip back the bottom end completely and, apart from the above mentioned Verdunkeln-like psychedelia, that's about it. Graupel do not waste any time getting down to business as "Heimkehr" blasts in after little more than 4 seconds of acoustic guitars and leaves you with no doubt as to where this album is headed. The crushing mid-paced beginning of "Der Alte Weg" gives way to more berserk blasting and precise tremolo riffing, and the absolutely rotten foulness of the mid section of "Von Der Gunst Zur Schelte" with Zingultus' echoing screeches paints a grim picture of encroaching despair and rage. In fact, on the odd occasion that Graupel slow down their sound is a fair bit more convincing as the razor sharp guitars are given the room to sound menacing, but unfortunately the vast bulk of the album is blast after blast and can get a little tiring towards the end.
Given the massive pedigree of Graupel's members you might expect Auf Alten Wegen to be an unmitigated classic of Black Metal. It is not quite that, lacking the vision of the members' other projects, but it is still a compelling piece of raging darkness. Clearly Graupel set out to create an album of unrelenting fury and hate, and in this they have been successful indeed as this is about as dark and ugly as music can get. However it also lacks any real dynamic and after a while it can get a bit much — if only there had been a little more of the "Requies Filli" style to break up the pace. So while it does suffer from being a bit one dimensional and fails to expand upon the more experimental sections, Auf Alten Wegen is definitely an album that fans of brutally fast Black Metal will want to check out.
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