Vanitas Vanitatvm is the fifth full length for Helrunar, a German band that over the years has deserved a consideration close to cult status, although they have never managed to break through to a wider audience in the black metal field. One of the reasons for this is perhaps the fact that the genre, as interpreted by Alsvartr and Skald Draugir, has always been marked by ill-defined boundaries; a good thing for those who believe that black is an ideal starting point for exploring the darker folds of metal, a bad thing for those who approach it with a dogmatic attitude. With Vanitas Vanitatvm, the Münster duo abandons certain pagan impulses that surfaced in their previous works to come to a more direct form, but always pervaded by a superior class: my preference for Helrunar derives also from the admiration that I personally have for an artist like Marcel Dreckmann (Skald Draugir), whose work I appreciated in the past both with Árstíðir lífsins and with his wonderful folk project Woljager.
After the standard intro, the album starts with the deceptive ferocity of Saturnus and Lotophagoi, before its finale gives us the first significant melodic cues of a work that, as the songs proceed, becomes more and more open to solutions across black. Blutmond is a solemn mid tempo, enveloping and full of nuances, while Da Brachen Aus Böse Blattern, Am Menschen Und Am Vieh has a very varied and nervous rhythmic gait; the caressing and acoustic title track prepares the ground for the new outburst of In Eis Und Nebel, a song with a superb melodic line, but it’s the following Nachzehrer to explain at best what are the peculiar characteristics of Helrunar: a dark and obsessive arpeggio then explodes into a heavy riff, accompanying Dreckmann’s deep recitative, with the pattern repeating until the splendid finale that follows an extreme declaration of morbid love. This long track, magnificent for its evocative potential and performed in a masterful way to say the least, is followed, as if to contrast these characteristics, by the lashing Als Die Welt zur Nacht Sich Wandt, a classic example of the best black German school, with its perfect balance between icy solemnity and melodic openings, and again by the longest track of the work, Necropolis, which over its almost ten minutes offers a kaleidoscopic floating within the most advanced black death. Ultimately we are faced with yet another test of enormous thickness by Helrunar, a guarantee of quality and depth that goes far beyond the narrow confines of the genre in which the German band is pigeonholed; I still believe that the work of these excellent musicians is too often underestimated in favor of cooler realities in terms of image or style, and it is a pity, because Vanitas Vanitatvm is absolutely one of the best albums listened to this year, not only in the black metal field.
2018 – Lupus Lounge
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