Vera : Helrunar belongs to the in-crowd of most eclectic black metal bands hailing from Germany. We are dealing here with the ‘project’ of vocalist/lyricist Marcel ‘Skald Draugir’ Dreckmann and multi-instrumentalist/composer Sebastian ‘Alsvartr’ Körkemeier from Münster and since 2001 they offer us a nearly cultural empyrean form of blackened music. Three years ago, the amazing ’Niederkunfft’ was launched at the world, now is the time to dive into their next studio album ‘Vanitas Vanitatvm’.
If ‘Niederkunfft’ happened to be an album which infiltrated many other genres (death, doom, thrash) in the songs, then ‘Vanitas Vanitatvm’ verges more to their blackened roots again. However, that does not mean that we have less variegation or depth. The album title refers to a work from the 17th century of the poet Andreas Gryphius which says ‘all is vain’ and this point of view is reflected on our contemporary lifestyle. Narcissism isn’t strange to our era (just think of the success of ‘selfies’), but the German lyrics dive a lot deeper than that: going from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ to the Bible and much more. In other words, you are educated while listening. Traditionally, this album was recorded with Markus Stock (Empyrium, The Vision Bleak) and we keep on wondering how Helrunar manages to be that heavy and raucous and on the other hand they show so much refinement. The album leads us into the Helrunar universe with melancholic violins. Soon guitars join in epically in ‘Saturnus’, with tight riffs and magnificent guitar accents. It gets heavier, with fast black fury and gravel-throated chants, but they shout the title in an inciting manner. ‘Lotophagoi’ remains being gruff and thunderous, German language increases that grimness.
Yet every song has ear-caressing acoustic passages and often dignified spoken fragments as well. The way they go in crescendo towards the end of the song, while guitars have a fluttering timbre, that’s really ingenious of Helrunar. ‘Blutmond’ is top notch harshness, but ‘Da Brachen Aus Böse Blattern, Am Menschen Und Am Vieh’ impresses with melancholic guitars. The track unfolds slow-paced with a quiescent spoken part. Melodic guitar skills pass into more rough segments, it makes the ending a powerful momentum again. The semi-acoustic title track is followed by fury in ‘In Eis Und Nacht’. The introspective ‘Nachzehrer’ happens to be totally different. This is truly elocution art, yet with an undercurrent of tension (quite menacing) that sends shivers down your spine. What a stunner! ‘Als Die Welt Zur Nacht Zich Wandt’ once again goes for harshness, but even in those brutal songs, you will notice that guitar solos have an empyrean tinge and there are always instrumental surprises (for instance a bass intermezzo here). How Helrunar always holds your attention by working with exciting contrasts, that’s masterly illustrated in the nearly ten minutes long ‘Necropolis’. They round off with an atmospheric outro with violin, played by Arní of Arstiðir Lífsins, and remember that band has close connections with Helrunar. ‘Vanitas Vanitatvm’ is a new masterpiece in post black metal style where outfits go beyond musical boundaries. At the moment they are touring with Empyrium and Sun Of The Sleepless!