Cold, winter, darkness, death, isolation, depression, and black metal. These words are closely related to each other, and their meanings differ on a personal level. How one see’s death, or how one feels truly alone and desolate, varies from soul to soul. However, very few black metal bands capture these feelings as perfectly as Brocken Moon from Germany.
This being their second full-length album released in February 8th, 2009 via their own label Black Metal Mafia Records, Brocken Moon was clearly going for something higher than they’ve ever done. Blending in atmospheric and ambient elements, folk music, keyboards, and a vibe of complete despair was the perfect decision by members Fafir (drums), Grim (vocals), and Eihwaz (guitar, bass, keyboards).
Now, I don’t live in the mountains; I live in a flat and boring city called Windsor. However, seeing as our entire city is literally being consumed by mountains of snow while writing this, the vibes this album gives me aren’t foreign whatsoever. Near my house, there is a big hill in a a park called Blue Heron; the only place where anyone can connect with nature and walk among lands untouched by humans. During this time of year when snow and wind pierce your skin, it’s within black metal where I find true solace and connection with myself.
The first track opens up with a beautifully melancholic folk intro, which is Brocken Moon just stretching their limbs. It moves into an atmospheric piece that reminded me a lot of Agalloch and their Pale Folklore; the soaring guitars and intense drumming put me in a place of extreme cold and windy conditions. The entire track disperses further as we hear the tremolo picking continue while Grim shrieks to the sky.
The rest of the songs are slightly similar to the first; they all have atmospheric black metal and folk elements that put the listener in a blissful trance. The keyboards add a mystical feeling to the music, and the short samples of sounds from the forest, like trees rustling in the wind, wolves howling, and birds chirping, enhance this atmosphere further.
Each song throws some interesting melodies your way. The folk music does reappear on certain interludes, but what I like the most is how the raw production, especially where the drums are concerned, doesn’t make the album feel dirty or unpolished. It feels a winter adventure that is meant to test your mind, body, and sprint.
The five tracks, however, are nothing compared to the final one; a trance-inducing 20 minute instrumental song that will take your breath away. It begins with a soft folk-like riff that repeats itself for about three quarters of the song. I can understand how this would get annoying for some, but for me it was just so melancholic to listen to. The atmosphere of such a simple tune is truly astonishing, and made me think of the most beautiful moments of solitude whilst wandering alone through snowy paths. The songs ends strongly with some more Agalloch-like melodies before closing in on your despair.
One more thing I need to comment on are the vocals. Grim has a unique vocal style, which is a hit or miss for some people; I think it’s amazing. It normally sounds like a high pitch shriek which carries very abrasive overtones. Every time he delivers his lyrics, you can really feel the agony in his voice. It’s not as if he was in physical pain, which is sometimes heard on depressive black metal releases in which the vocalists may self-mutilate to obtain a harsher tone, but it is rather a voice of a person who knows they are alone and will never reach the end of the barren landscape they aimlessly tread. Grim can change things up, too; the first, third, and sixth song feature deeper growls, chanting, and speech, which fit the music perfectly.
I would honestly say this is one of the best black metal gems out there. I’m not too familiar with the German scene and what some great underground bands are from there, but Brocken Moon is a great start for me. I would recommend this to anybody who likes their black metal relaxing, melancholic, and atmospheric. 9/10.
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