I was curious when I found Verdunkeln?s ?Einblick in den Qualenfall? album in my review pile, but frankly, I didn?t expect much of it. I had been unaware of the band?s self-titled debut from 2005 and had in fact never heard of Verdunkeln before. Turns out, however, that even if you care, it?s not that easy to find out anything about what has been called ? somewhat expectedly ? a ?mysterious German horde?. Well, mysterious they certainly are, but this ?horde? is a mere two musicians. Gnarl and Ratatyske, the German duo that is Verdunkeln, play guitar and drums in black metal band Graupel. In their own project, they remain within the black metal realm: very long and complex tracks that are up to 16 minutes long. While some of the song structures remind me of Wolves in the Throne Room, it?s actually the eighties goth and darkwave elements that stand out most.
?Einblick in den Qualenfall? roughly translates as ?Insight into the Pain Fall?, and while I quite like the vocals on the album, I?m not so sure about the lyrics. They?re all in German and very hard to understand even for native speakers, but I still don?t dig what is, to me, an unintented parody of German language and romantic ?Innerlichkeit?. Thus the abundance of participle constructions that aren?t used that often in German today (?zerflie?end das schreiende Ohr? ? ?the screaming ear, melting?), and thus the abundance of nouns made from verbs or adjectives: the ?Selbst? (self), the ?Dunkel? (dark), ?mein Hoffen? (?my hoping?, as opposed to ?Hoffnung? ? ?hope?). Such nouns are used to elevate the lyrics to a more abstract level, but I feel they just help to reiterate historicist clich?s of romanticism and of German ?Innerlichkeit?.
The album was originally released in 2007 and, even though the lyrics strike me as somewhat comical, ?Einblick in den Qualenfall? was among the year?s definite highlights. Gothy chants and buzzing guitars kick off the opener ?In die Irre? but soon give way to distorted black metal shouting. From there it?s back to the gothic choir, mysterious whispering, and more shouting which leads into the track?s final movement, a super-hectic finale with frenzied guitar soloing over frantic drumming.
It would be tedious to describe all of the six tracks in greater detail. They?re all long, complex, and full of atmospheres, ever-changing but always gripping and plausible. ?Im Zwiespalt?, the 16-minute epic, is the album?s clear highlight. The listener is swept into the track by heavy rain but is soon elevated by a euphoric guitar line, trotting along in mid-tempo from there, pathetic shouting girded by ultra-primitive synths. At around the seven minutes mark, the mood changes entirely, becoming strangely melancholic for two minutes, before one of the track?s trademark breaks offers a passage of recollection. This is when the lyrics celebrate the moment when the speaker merges with the dark ? an ecstatic, dionysian moment that has been explored by German thinkers from Goethe to Nietzsche and that was later catastrophically used to construct a distinction between the chosen few (who?re capable / worthy of merging) and the masses who can?t aspire to such divine moments: ?Mich giert / Den Schleier zu durchschreiten / Ein Schatten zu werden / Schatten meiner Selbst / ... / Endlich zu verschmelzen / Mit dem Dunkel der Menschen? (?I long to transcend the veil, to become a shadow, a shadow of myself... to finally merge with the dark of man?). From there, the track washes away into its last ambient moments.
Elsewhere, Verdunkeln fall into trash metal riff stampedes straight out of a mid-eighties Bay Area album, but somehow still manage to keep the atmosphere dark, black even ? a rare gift that had me think of Finnish outsider black metal glitch weirdo project Circle of Ouroborus, but Verdunkeln?s tracks are much more epic and programmatically pompous. I only wish that albums like this could be done without such half-baked ideology. 8/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (6 May, 2008)