Ever since I started listening to black metal and writing album reviews, there has always been one band that has consistently shown up in my list: Ellende, an Austrian powerhouse of atmospheric black metal who heavily employ soulful melodies and raw emotion. I have been into this band since 2016, when I first heard their self-titled debut and have always wondered whether this band/project would continue to create atmospheric black metal in what I considered to be a space filled with ‘saturation.’ However, every time Ellende released anything, I’m always impressed with the level of quality and nuance they put into each effort. Now, with their fourth album, Ellenbogengesellschaft, Ellende continues to push the limits of their own creativity, showcasing that they always have more to show than just a melancholic melody.
Ellenbogengesellschaft (German for “dog-eat-dog society”) is an album that stays grounded in the more traditional aspects of black metal, placing less emphasis on the atmospheric aspects of their sound. Although they employ gorgeous choral work that punctuates specific melodic snatches of music throughout the record, Ellende remains rooted in a strictly “less is more” approach, showcasing more of their work as musicians rather than as a band that knows how to create a pretty atmosphere. This is not to say that Ellende have pivoted into a new direction in their music, because they haven’t; this still would qualify as an atmospheric black metal album, but this features more of a post-black metal palette. For example, fourth track “Hand aufs Herz” is one of the more straightforward black metal songs on the album, playing to their strengths of raw emotion and soulful, gorgeous melodies. However, they also employ one of the catchiest musical passages that I have heard throughout their four mainline albums. It’s particularly vibrant and catchy, with a hook big enough to hang coats on. While past albums have had whispers of this, it was never used as a backbone. It was mostly used as sonic cues that were meant to reflect a change in emotion or in tempo. Here, it gives that vibrant, hopeful tune a moment to shine, before shifting back to the more familiar strains of melancholy and reverence.
Speaking of reverence, I wanted to take a moment to discuss Ellende’s production values, because it’s clear that they’ve painstakingly spent much time on this aspect. The way the music is produced, mixed, and mastered is a testament to their continued strive towards sophistication and beauty. While I never particularly noticed how the production seemed to influence their music, they have come a long way since Ellende, whose production was fuzzy, at best. On Ellenbogengesellschaft, the music is cleanly orchestrated, with each individual part sounding beautiful. You can tell they are particularly proud of how this album turned out, and it shows with how careful and precise everything sounds. Ellende are clearly aware that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but no one can deny that this is a beautiful-sounding, superb piece of music.
As a band/project, Ellende’s strength lies in their creativity and their innate understanding of musical placement. It’s impressive that they have managed to deliver four albums of outstanding quality and intensity, and their continued strive in expanding and building on what they have created in the past is something that should be noticed by others. I have no doubt that Ellenbogengesellschaft will become a future classic of the genre, and I look forward to what else Ellende decides to create in the future.
Ellenbogengesellschaft will be available September 30 on AOP Records. For more information on Ellende, visit their official website.
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