Alburnum – Buitenlucht Review

Certain things just go together. Prawn and avocado. Holdeneye and 4.0s. Ozzy and Black Sabbath. You get the gist. Two of those things are “black metal” and “nature.” From its early pagan roots, black metal has always had a close affinity with the great outdoors, rejecting rigid theism for a more atavistic, mystical spiritualism. It’s why half the shitty black metal videos you see happen in forests or on mountaintops. New Dutch band, Alburnum (another name for “Sapwood”) are therefore trodding well-worn ground; when compatriots, Fluisteraars have an album with flowers all over the cover, you’re going to have a tough time out-naturing the competition. Alburnum are not even the first BM band I’ve reviewed to name themselves after a tree. Their debut album, Buitenlucht (Outside), does, however, offer a slightly different spin: rather than being a love letter to the pagan spirits, it’s an ode to how the outdoors can allow one to meditate on depression and grief, with a view to ultimately finding happiness. Hope you say? In black metal? Inconceivable!

Buitenlucht straddles the line between EP and LP, consisting of 4 songs coming in just shy of 30 minutes. Sonically, they’re a slightly sparser, more minimalist version of Fluisteraars, featuring non-threatening, Agalloch-type vocals, many of which sound almost whispered. While there is repetition, the reliance upon it is less than some similar bands, with a greater focus on melodies and riffs to sustain the atmosphere. Passages of scorched black metal are paired with periods that sound post-black in execution. There’s certainly nothing here that you haven’t heard before, but the execution is so slick that it’s only after a few listens that you’ll ever even notice.

Buitenlucht’s greatest strength is how lean, focused and direct it is. Like a cut of beef stripped of all fat, there is nothing bloated or unnecessary here. Even the softer parts are seamlessly incorporated into songs rather than standing as pointless interludes. “Ik Kan Niet Zien” comes crashing out of the speakers immediately with tremolos, blast beats and a basic synthesizer that reminds me of early Wolves in the Throne Room. Around the halfway point, there’s a subtle shift into a more melodic, post-metal sound. It’s smoother than peanut butter oil and indicative of the entire album to come. At no point does any track outstay its welcome and it’s all so entertaining that it absolutely flies by. The riffs are catchy (check the midway point of “Eeuwig Licht” or the underlying melody of “Fluisterend Water”), the folksy parts compelling, and the shift from darkness to light thematically cohesive. It’s all handled so confidently and deftly that you forget this is a debut.

Buitenlucht suffers from some flaws, however. While it may be a lean cut of beef, it sometimes feels a bit like a minute steak: easy to digest but slightly insubstantial. In both length and execution, it has the feel of an EP. It’s not just a timing issue—29 minutes is enough for a band to convey its message. Rather, the album feels like it needed a few more genuine ideas to truly stand out. While Buitenlucht is never bogged down by repetition, after a few listens, Alburnum’s “recipe” starts to become apparent: thrashy section, slower section, transition back to original thrashy section. It’s tried and tested, but it results in the songs losing their identities after a few listens.

Nevertheless, Buitenlucht is an interesting and promising collection. When Agalloch retired, they left a void in the post-black metal world that is yet to be properly filled. While Alburnum are not at that level yet, there is a certain spiritual chemistry that I felt while listening to them. It’s a compliment that my biggest frustration is that I didn’t get enough to make a proper assessment. If a good performance leaves you wanting more, then Buitenlucht have certainly succeeded. Music can heal. The outdoors can heal. Alburnum in your ears during a refreshing walk outside will improve your day. That’s an AMG guarantee.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Babylon Doom Cult Records
Website: alburnum.bandcamp.com  |  facebook.com/AlburnumBM
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2022

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