Oh, post-black metal. Everyone’s favorite genre to either love or hate on. This little genre is either overhyped or considerably bashed by metalheads around the globe. It can be pretentious, it can be repetitious, and a single song can carry on for-fucking-ever. Many times, entire albums revolve around a key atmosphere that, no matter the quality of the songwriting, repeats itself across every track—no matter the runtime or how many songs are on the disc. And, when that first fifteen-minute piece hits, people either become absorbed or annoyed within seconds. I, for one, neither hate or love the genre. Some of it I get, some I don’t. Germany’s Frostreich is an example of a band that I get. And, boy, did 2017’s Join the Wind get me.

After Geistfahrt‘s high levels of pretentious black metal—that includes spoken passages, female guest vocals, and an average song length of ten minutes—sole member, Wynthar, set his sites on evolving beyond your typical Alcest-core. Follow-up album, Stella Polaris, was a good first step. It incorporated a stronger, more-unique “voice” and developed greater songwriting and more memorable riffs. While a bit on the long side, the flow is smoother than Geistfahrt. Now, through those dark doors, steps Join the Wind. An album that takes Frostreich to a whole new level. Stripped down and focused to the nearest nanometer, Join the Wind is Wyndar’s masterpiece and one of my favorite records of the genre.

Songs like Stellar Polaris‘ “Farbfinsternis” and “Stellar Polaris” set the stage for Join the Wind‘s “The Ever Giver,” “Dear Light,” and its title track. Opening the album at a crisp four-minute runtime, “The Ever Giver” sets the tone of the album with addictive Woods of Ypres-like guitar work and an atmosphere as thick as fog. Wynthar’s tortured voice leans hard into the pummeling blast beats as he screams out angry, vicious shit. Like the opener, closing piece, “Leaving Those Traces,” screams forth in agonizing pain (this time with guitars, not vocals), while unraveling layer-upon-layer of Alcestian, instrumental, post-black nirvana. “Post-black instrumental? How more pretentious can you get?!” Trust me, it’s not. So, shut up.

But, the album’s diversity doesn’t stop there. If you want in-your-face, black-metal bludgeoning, take a ride on “Anxiety.” For fist-pumping kicks and a sing-along chorus, go feel “Empty Again.” If you want gentle moodiness in the form a mid-song breather, “Spirit of the Lake” is your ticket. What about lavish, complex songwriting, with more layers and variety than the rest of the album? Then, the back-to-back punch of “Dear Light” and “Join the Wind” is for you. Not only are the classic elements of build and atmosphere present on these two songs, but Wynthar traverses the peaks and valleys with a mix of harsh and clean vox (both male and female). In combination with those peaks and valleys, this extra texturing makes these epic numbers even more epic.

And, that’s the best part about Join the Wind. No two songs are the same and to have this much diversity in seven songs, across thirty-five minutes, is mindboggling. Join the Wind is living proof that, sometimes, less really is more. Join the Wind is post-black as I like it: bare, yet layered; controlled, yet agitated; aggressive, yet emotional. It’s real, it’s honest, and it’s jam-packed with flowing songwriting. Wynthar, you’ve outdone yourself.

Tracks to check out: “The Ever Giver,” “Dear Light,” and “Join the Wind”