I seem to be making a living off these new German black metal releases. There’s something about the melancholic take on the genre from that region that just captivates me. As such, I’ve made it a personal note to dig a bit deeper into this scene going forward. To that effect, Der Weg einer Freiheit is one of this year’s new discoveries. Since their 2008 inception, the Bavarians have issued two full-length albums up to this point—and their new third effort, Stellar, is a definitive example of everything that makes their black metal world worth exploring.
Der Weg einer Freiheit loosely translates to “the way of a freedom.” Knowing that, I was half expecting to be immersed in a lofty, uplifting piece of art. This did not prove true. Instead, the musical personality of Stellar is ominously sobering, more along the lines of what’s expected from Bavarian black metal. Furthermore, the lyrics are set to match. Regardless of the fact that it’s in German, I encourage you all to research some of the lyrical content at work here. Find a translator—or better, learn German. This isn’t something I normally bring up, but on Stellar, it deserves some recognition. The tracks themselves are dynamic. They range in duration from under four minutes to well over 12, with the majority on the longer end. Each song serves its own unique role on this album, offering a variety of stylistic influences and tempos. As a result, this becomes a complex listen that requires some patience and a few cycles through. But it’s a killer product once you’ve given it the time it deserves.
The album starts with “Repulsion,” which surrounds you with an ambient, echoing introduction. The crisp guitars couple nicely with the dry militaristic percussion. This sound becomes all-encompassing once it’s met with the hauntingly droning clean vocals. “Repulsion” evolves from a sound meant for solitude to one that becomes a blistering ride through remorseful darkness. This is where Stellar takes off, and as we work our way into “Requiem,” the early feel can be tied back to the latter stages of the opener. This time, however, the leads are more deliberate when layered over the rhythms, giving the songs a multi-dimensional feel. We eventually depart this track, and the first third of Stellar, with two instrumental minutes that include a cello segment—a nice chance to step back and acknowledge what we’ve already experienced.
From here, Stellar takes a more aggressive turn. “Einkehr” brings us a barrage of low-end tremolo picking and relentless blasts that would surely catch the attention of their Scandinavian counterparts. Despite perhaps a more straightforward feel, “Einkehr” gives us enough of a melodic dose to create a memorably passionate sound throughout the six minute listen. They never lose their mournful personality, they just present it with added intensity. “Verbund” is the only track I really question. It’s three minutes of chaos that would make Young and in the Way proud. This particular subset of metal has its place, but I don’t think it’s here. It certainly continues the buildup in anger that began with “Einkehr” and escalates it to the point of hatred, but from a musical standpoint, it breaks the cohesion the album had been developing. Fortunately, it’s the shortest track on the album, allowing the Bavarians to make their point—whatever it is—without losing me.
The closing begins with “Eiswanderer,” taking us back to the earlier themes, but with a bit more grit at the outset. “Eiswanderer” translates to…well, you can figure it out. This proves to be an appropriate title, as despite starting at a rather furious clip, the song’s more ambient middle stages ease back and give the listener the impression of trekking along a snow-capped ridge as the companion sun fades beyond the horizon. But that’s not how this story ends. Things rapidly escalate to a new level of painful intensity as our winter wanderer succumbs to darkness and cold once dusk completely gives way to the isolation of night. That’s how we’re left before ending things with “Letzte Sonne.” Appropriately, this concluding track translates to “Last Sun.” It feels much like that, as the 12-plus-minute epic is as passionately compelling of a closer as we could ask for. The rhythm is not cluttered with intense speed, but instead with a healthy dose of an even cadence where every beat has distinction. It allows that last sun to take new forms that were previously undiscovered. Some focus must be paid to the predominantly instrumental second half of the song, with its crisp, emotional guitar leads. As a listener you can’t help back but gaze skyward once the vocals reemerge. Everything that had been building has taken its final form.
Der Weg einer Freiheit is now fully on my radar. This is going to go down as one of the more memorable albums of 2015 and serve as another reason why the black metal world needs to play close attention to the music materializing out of Bavaria. The instrumentals are impressive, the production organic, and the overall feel is one of darkened emotion with no shortage of passion. Their sound doesn’t grow stale and they show a complete willingness to push their stylistic limits. As a result, we really can’t ask for more. Count me in.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”