Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dämmerfarben - Herbstpfad (2012)

It seems amazing that a mere 15 months ago, a disc titled "Im Abendrot," the first full length by German three piece Dammerfarben, slid across the desk for me to digest. What happened next was the first of many musical awakenings, opening my eyes to bands from far and wide, big and small. With three new members in tow, including the soothing vocals of Emma Björling, the six piece version has spent the past year plus growing, not just in number, but in sound. On their new album, "Herbstpfad," you get the same "beauty over beast" tones with a swelling maturity that make it all the more powerful.

In the howling wind that opens "Hoststig," a light guitar emerges match with the smallest touches of strings. As the track builds, each passing strum gets more forceful, without ever losing that delicate feel. The strings take over, with haunting melodies leading the way from here to "Im Spätherbst." The unbridled aggression of black metal styled vocals shakes you from your trance, grinding on your ear drums. But the staggering contrast between voice and music is what may stay with you. The intricacies of the guitar work have vastly improved, plowing ahead with speed, precision, and a sense of the purpose. Everything has more depth this time around, with multiple layers coming together flawlessly thanks, in part, to solid production work. Each instrument finds a place in the mix, a equal part of the whole, resulting in a dynamic wonder of a track.

Returning to the softer side, the interlude track "Vinterblekheten över fältet" once again carves out a niche as a stunning beauty. Between the clean guitars, deft and ripe with melody, and the host of secondary instruments that make an appearance, this is the purest form of lullaby. As we have learned, light can not exist without darkness, and vice versa. So, "Zu nächtlicher Stund" brings the darker side of things to the forefront, with the heavy thud of kick drums blasting through your sub woofers. This is not to say it is all gloom and doom. The screeching vocals give things a more evil tone. But, despite thunderous bursts of machine gun snares, double kicks, and rapid fire guitar work, there are folk inspired influences at play too. The manner in which they come together is the true victory, with their ability to flow seamlessly from one to the other is encouraging. Even the outro, as simple as two layered guitars might seem, is well played. A taste of the truly unique sound that this band has to offer, "Löv i höststorme" must be heard to truly get a sense of what is at play. Strings play off of one another, swaying and flowing from side to side in an upbeat mass.

Not to be outdone, the true black metal fury returns on "Und Winters Kälte kehret ein." The tempo has built to an unstoppable pace by now, rattling everything in site with a defiant blend of raucous drums and guitars. But even in the midst of all the sharp blast beats and fills, there is still room for more rich guitar work. This isn't all just mindless shredding and "fast as you can" chords. Every note seems to have a specific place in the grand scheme, especially evident here. There are times when the melodic sensibilities and coarse vocals take on an atmospheric quality, like that of Alcest. The closing track, "Vintervisa" finally unveils the enchanting vocals of Emma Björling, layered softly over beautifully played acoustic guitars. There is something in the way the strings of an acoustic squeak with each chord change that lends an added dose of magic to their sound. Captured in this not quite five minute opus is all of the rich harmony and purity that one would expect of a folk artist, and not even a metal one. It would be off base to say this is their greatest success, but outside of the box thinking should always be reward and encouraged.

It was a mere 15 months ago that Dämmerfarben made their full length debut. So much has changed over the last 450 or so days. Now six members strong, they have found their stride, making music that is as well rounded as the band members themselves. Equal parts heavy and angelic, "Herbstpfad" puts you through the entire range of emotions. Through crystal clear production, and pin point accuracy with every musical movement, the band take you to a different time and place, faraway from your desk or office. They coax you to the edge of a cliff, then pull you back gently. In an album that is a mere 30 minutes of run time, they make a much more lasting impression that you could ever have expected.


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