Ellende – Triebe Review

Can art be updated? Once released, is a piece of art fixed forever, like chiseled stone? Or fluid, like the hobo wine in the AMG office dispenser? If an artist or musician takes an existing work, and makes changes, have they created an entirely separate piece, or merely created their preferred version? Austrian black metal band, Ellende, raises these questions with its latest (shhhhh) EP, Triebe. You see, Triebe is essentially an update on a previous EP, 2014’s Weltennacht, which consisted of three tracks, “Weltennacht,” “Triebe,” and “Zwischen Sommer und Herbst.” Ellende has updated the first and last songs (keeping their underlying melodies), and replaced “Triebe,” (the weakest effort off the EP) with “Triebe II.” It has also shifted the order of the tracks slightly to improve the flow. The band now claims that Triebe is “of utter importance to the oeuvre of Ellende.” Guess what? That’s correct! Ellende, in updating its past, has never sounded more progressive and relevant.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Ellende plays a mournful combination of black metal and post-black. Imagine if a maudlin Der Weg einer Freiheit and a pensive Solstafir got together for a consolatory night of fun, and then abandoned the product of that night at the local orphanage for 10 years. Its releases have been uniformly somber and sincere, with alternating passages of croaked, furious screams and slow drone or gentle instrumentation. I’ve been critical of previous albums, particularly 2019’s Lebensnehmer, for allowing these instrumental interludes and post-black passages to disrupt the momentum of the music. The metal was fine, but the post-black was boring. With Triebe, however, Ellende makes some subtle yet important adjustments, resulting in the best music of its career.

Triebe works because it’s much better balanced than much of Ellende’s catalog. Whereas both Lebensnehmer and Todbringer’s post-metal passages were momentum-sapping, Triebe manages to implement them in a way that contributes to, rather than detracts from, the impetus of the tracks. Both “Triebe II” and “Weltennacht” contain extensive instrumental sections, but rather than rambling, they build wonderfully to the next blast of fury. Lush orchestration, haunting acoustic guitars, and gorgeous choral arrangements have replaced the drone sections of Weltennact, to wonderful effect. These are interwoven between mournful sections of furious black metal that are compelling and catchy while conveying an atmosphere of profound sadness and despair. The overall result is music that not only soars but achieves something reserved for great art: it made me feel.

There are flaws here and there. The opening two songs are incredibly strong, but they both end abruptly and jarringly. It is a testament to the strength of the material that I was disappointed both were finished, but it feels as if Ellende created these epics, and then didn’t know how to conclude them. Some of the transitions between passages are also bumpy. “Triebe II,” for example, has a midsection that goes from 100 mph to a gentle meander and back again so quickly you’ll regret not wearing a seat-belt. Sadly, closer, “Zwischen Sommer und Herbst,” while a good song, doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessors, and is the only time I felt the material meandered. Triebe, as a result, doesn’t end as strongly as it begins.

Triebe, despite these issues, is the best music of Ellende’s career. Along with Valac and Ancient Mastery, it is also the most essential 30 minutes of black metal in 2021 so far (even if it is an EP — we don’t complain when they slip through the filtering Net ov Steel).1 In going back to older material with a wiser, more mature eye, the band has finally unlocked a potential that was evident, but frustratingly unrealized, in previous albums. Best of all, this feels like an appetizer: a warm-up for more original material to come. If the approach taken here is carried forward, with the seamless integration of post-black with mournful-black, we will hopefully get the Ellende album we all deserve. For black metal fans, in the meantime, this is essential listening.2

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AOP Records
Websites: ellende.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/ellende.official
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I hear large gorilla footsteps approaching. – Running Wild Grier
  2. Except that it’s a freakin’ EP! – Raging Steel
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