Galgenberg Blutgrund / Galgenberg

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Visibly influenced by second-album Mayhem yet tempered by a colder and more mature character of less propaganda-oriented black metal of a more sober quality, Galgenberg’s concise offering in two EPs summarizes the best qualities of the post apogee period of the genre. Melodic phrases lie at the center of the music, making only a very minimal use of chromaticism in order to accentuate areas and forward the narrative. The melodies themselves are long enough but also kept to am minimum and never over-embellished. Both drums and vocals are more than functional, and complete the circle perfectly so that nothing is missing or excessive. Finally, synths are added as accentuators rather than as crutches for lacking content or development, thus adding an occasional layer of  echoing depth.

An offering to be enjoyed more than analyzed, the conjoined demo and EP by Galgenberg are an exquisite treat to the experienced black metal listener, but also a relatively welcoming and logical next step for post De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas explorers. And so, while not the apex of black metal recordings, in that it is not necessarily the hardest to cut through consciousness, it is ‘true’ dark music in its finalized product: never really distracting from the almost epic journey through darkness it takes us through. Like sober, mature black metal of its kind, this journey, this story-telling is never overt, and heavy oppression and dark evocation are always at the forefront, allowing that ‘epic’ element come as an afterthought in certain ‘breathing’ moments.

Furthermore, and most importantly for the maturing of black metal structure, Galgenberg applies what we could term an improved, spiritually-led riff contrast approach, where although motif manipulation will take place, adjacent areas will sometimes be contrasted to forward content and take the music to new places. This is a very delicate affair, and upon it rest the deciding factor for the worth of the work as a totality. The weak point of Galgenberg might be, however, that pieces are not so much concluded as they are brought to a halt from an exhaustion and closing off iterations of participating riff-ideas. This, here, remains one of the challenges for metal as a whole, and few black metal offerings manage to fulfill as such and also providing a sense of closure and conclusion (Burzum Hvis Lyset Tar Oss being a supremely outstanding exception).

Galgenberg’s black metal fits well with the more streamlined true underground of its local mini-epoch in the late 1990s and early 2000s, among such excellent releases as Niden Div. 187 Impergium (1997), and the even better Old Wainds Where the Snows are Never Gone (1997). Despite the comparison, Blutgrund (1997) and Galgenberg (2000) stand as both stylistically congruent to but also distinct from the aforementioned albums (themselves quite distinct amongst themselves, as well). Seen in the unnecessary light of comparison to its proper contemporaries, we can highlight the strengths of Galgenberg as residing in being able to strike a delectable balance between the maintaining a constant, but also dynamic, stream of data-heavy riff structures while achieving a supreme evocative expression that results from said ability to manage the riff-structure in a flexible way: as one ‘voice’.

Sie creutzigen alle Sinne des Leibes!
Das Fühlen mit unaußdencklichem Schmertzen;
Das Schmecken mit abgeschmackter Erdgalle;
Das Riechen mit üblem Geruch auff dem Galgenberge;
Das Hören mit übellautendem Hohngespötte;
Das Sehen mit unverantwortlichem Beginn.

—Johann Klaj

They crucify all the body’s senses!
Touch, with unthinkable pain;
Taste, with bitter gall;
Smell, with the foul reek of the gallows;
Hearing, with ill-tempered mockery;
Sight, with unpardonable undertaking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTWOAMRhgeA