Progression in music can, oftentimes, be a great thing. Some of the best Black Metal  […]
By Danny Sanderson
November 28, 2015
Todesstoss - Hirngemeer album cover

Progression in music can, oftentimes, be a great thing. Some of the best Black Metal  acts, and indeed albums, blend the traditional sound of the genre really well with  different components to create some excellent, and above all interesting, music. There are a few times, however, where it gets taken a bit too far. Germany's  TODESSTOSS, for the most part, fall into the latter category. Their latest record,  "Hirngemeer", is one of the strangest records you are likely to hear, sometimes in  good ways, and sometimes in bad.

The opening track, "Verwehung", gives off the impression that this might end up  being an overly atmospheric affair. Then, a lone note on Harmonica plays, signalling the beginning of the track proper. For the most part, this is complete lunacy. In the opening few minutes of the song, there's no song structure to speak of, no definable  points to draw on, other than some genuinely grating vocal lines, which are actually fairly impressive and varied, and a few guitar lines that have some traces of melody  within them. But for the most part, this is essentially a cacophonous wall of noise. At  points, it is genuinely uncomfortable to listen to. There are some stand alone, disjointed harmonica sections, and the music takes a much mellower turn, with some decent atmospheric elements and a few thick, substantial bass lines that work pretty well together. But then it quickly reverts to the opening lines of the song. There's a few tremolo picked guitar lines that jump out at you from amongst this racket, but  they don't stick around for long. By this point in the track, it's clear that the band are  ebbing and flowing between these harsher and, for lack of a better term, odd sections, and some much more laid back sections that do have a clearer semblance of structure  and musical form. This is not just a few people randomly playing, this is very  deliberate. And I can't decide whether that is a good or bad thing. 

Twenty-eight and a half minutes in, the music fades away, and the song comes to a close. "Narbenkafig" initially heads down a more conventional musical route, with a nice, chunky bass line and some well placed, sparse guitar parts, coupled with some atmospheric music. The music slowly starts to build, more elements are added and it starts to become a fairly decent track. This is a much more measured affair than the last song, although it still retains the surreal aspects of its predecessor, albeit to a  much lesser degree. For the most part, the vocals work as well, and are strongly reminiscent of the sort of arid howls and bestial shrieks that wouldn't sound entirely out of place in a Depressive Black Metal song, and at a lot of points, they really carry  the music and stop it from becoming stagnant. But, just like the track before it, there  are a few moments where the vocals do sound just a tiny bit silly. By the half way  point of the song, the music has slid make into a much more demented , unstructured state, although luckily not to the same degree that this album began on. it's a shame  that the music on the whole album is not more in the vein of some of this songs high  points; although it's not the best, it's certainly the best track on here, and I feel that if the rest of the album had followed this tracks lead, we'd be looking at a significantly  better record overall. 

The final song on the record is a much shorter affair, and it is definitely one of the  better songs on the album as well. "Strom Der Augenblicke" is more or less based around really solid, well thought out ambient music which is actually fairly interesting  to listen to. There are spoken word sections as well which often work, although the use of the sort of vicious, harrowing cries that are evident on other points in the album  pretty much kill the mood when they are used. Despite this minor issue, this is an  excellent track, and a great way to end a very hit and miss record. 

This record should be viewed more from an artistic standpoint than a musical one. 

After all, the mastermind behind the band is primarily an artist. It isn't all bad, however; if you get past the first few minutes of the opening track and let the music  sink in, there's definitely some parts that, if they had been the dominant theme in the song in question, would have made this a much better album, and indeed show a lot of promise and potential. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between. At points, it borders on outright lunacy, and it will definitely take quite a few listens to be  able to appreciate it on some level. If nothing else, it's certainly unique.

5 / 10


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"Hirngemeer" Track-listing:

1. Verwehung
2. Narbenkafig
3. Strom der Augenblicke

Todesstoss Lineup:

Martin Lang - Vocals & All Instruments
Flesh of L. - Vocals

Euer Gnaden - Bass

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