By Kyle Harcott
With zero foreknowledge of Hamburg’s Todtgelichter, I took a chance on their latest offering, Angst, based on its striking, this-is-black-metal? cover(which, at first glance, vaguely reminded me of Mono’s Hymn to the Immortal Winds). I’m glad I took a chance on it because, while suitably virulent, Angst shows the kind of ambition and maturity (think Agalloch, Alcest) that, when done properly, is desperately needed in the genre. A healthy dose of progression engenders the album from the start, and it’s infused with melodic hooks that catch in choruses throughout. You never get the chance to pin down Todtgelichter as any one animal – this album goes all over the map.
The album opens with “Café of Lost Dreams” which pairs bassist Nils’ hoary roar over entrancing progressive guitar passages, and accompanied vocals from organist Marta, whose voice strongly recalls Nighttime Birds-era Anneke van Giersbergen from the Gathering. The track runs the gamut from soaring prog passages to venomous blasts, and brings closure with a clean coda.
“Oblivion”, with its ominous intro, is probably, moodwise, the most straight-ahead ‘black metal’ track on the album, but again, even here, Todtgelichter don’t play it entirely straight, incorporating soaring guitar creeps and barely a blastbeat in sight. There’s also that pesky melodic passage midpoint, which drops into an outright prog-sounding solo, before raging off into a blackened sunset.
Atmospheric blackgaze show-stopper “Neon” starts out very ‘rock’, completely out of left field with the rest of the album. But it’s also the most ambitious of the songs here, and stands out accordingly. Showcasing some stellar lead guitar work, the track manages to come across as somber-yet-hopeful; its middling tempo keeps it upbeat well into its morose driving coda, with guest vocals from Nihilaz from Vulvark.
There’s a lot to be digested at once on Angst – each track weaves a spiraling web throughout the fifty-four minute playing time. Longtime fans of Todtgelichter’s more frostbitten back catalogue may not altogether be pleased by such an auspicious turn from a band formerly known for grimmer output (although allegedly there were hints of a more avant-garde direction on 2007’s Schemen). But for those who can embrace a hearty dose of melody, progression, and evolution alongside their black metal – how can a change like this be a bad thing? Highly recommended.
(Aural Recordings/Code 666)