I love last year’s Ghost Bath release. I say this not to stir up yet another round of fruitless discussion debating the validity of the band, but rather to place this review in context. As much of a fan as I am of traditional black metal, I’m by no means a purist, and I see value in the genre’s post-rock inspired incarnation as a means of borrowing and remixing traditional blackened tropes in an unexpectedly serene context. Ewig.Endlich. displays an acute understanding of how this formula works; their debut LP, Auf Grund, runs the gamut from melancholic post-rock to traditional black metal and does so with a respectable level of competence. Yet the way their compositions unfold feels so clinically by-the-numbers that it’s hard to imagine anyone not developing an apathetic outlook on Auf Grund early on, regardless of one’s experience with the genre.
After kicking off with a round of promising introductory chords in “Menschenkind” that recall a similarly dusty and commanding opening from Der Weg einer Freiheit’s stellar Stellar, Ewig.Endlich. is quick to reveal their true colors as the riff devolves into jangling post-rock picking. This awkward progression foreshadows the duality of immediate and lackadaisical personalities that define the bulk of Auf Grund. The record shifts between the two approaches at regular intervals throughout, providing a decently dynamic showcase of perfectly average genre excursions. From post-black to pure black to doom, Ewig.Endlich.’s sound is so broad as to show a lack of commitment to a unified aesthetic, but the unpredictable hodgepodge makes for reasonably engaging initial forays into an album that, surprisingly, doesn’t feel too bloated despite its hour length.
Yet return trips to the Ewig.Endlich. Factory ov Pretentious Gloom quickly dissolved any hopes of uncovering smart, subdued songwriting tactics. To put it bluntly, it feels as though Auf Grund’s individual compositions are held together with Elmer’s glue. I perceive no conscious efforts on the band’s part to smoothly transition between movements; tracks are whisper-quiet one measure and blaringly bombastic the next. This is a common and frequently effective way of stirring the listener’s excitement in black metal’s atmospheric sectors — Ewig.Endlich. clearly understands this, as it’s a play they make on every track — but the transitions in aggression lack internal logic, creating confusion where they should be delivering an emotional impact. The jarring tonal shifts are wrapped in rigid frameworks, as nearly every track starts and ends aggressively yet are interrupted by predictable, flow-killing extended dips into melancholy at their mid-points.
For all the pessimism that Ewig.Endlich. draws out of me, I recognize that Auf Grund’s back-end manages to deliver a pair of solid tracks. “Neon und Asphalt” sees the band actually giving a damn about making the most out of their diverse playbook, establishing a unique ebb and flow between indie acoustic passages and driving rock rhythms, eventually culminating in a satisfying run of d-beats capped by one of the album’s most melodically colorful black metal passages. The following track, “Abend,” falls into the record’s predictable structural trap, but its foreboding low-end weight and droning tremolo lines prove engrossing nonetheless. The latter cut’s dynamic snare lines prove drummer Benjamin to be Ewig.Endlich.’s most capable asset on the performance front, but vocalist Simon comes up short, with his strained, static hardcore shouts quickly grating before the first track has even concluded.
I’ve talked in past reviews how atmospheric varieties of metal make for impressive growers due to their subdued nuance, yet the only discovery I unearthed between listening sessions of Auf Grund is an explicit roadmap detailing how nearly every track should unfold per Ewig.Endlich.’s standard of uniformity. This wouldn’t strictly be a detriment were the music more engaging — a part of me still adores early DragonForce despite every single track sharing an identical structure — yet outside of a couple of choice cuts, E.E. operates so rigidly and joylessly that I was never raring to jump back in past my initial listening sessions. Easily appeased post-black junkies may find something of a fix here, but for me, getting through Auf Grund is nothing short of an auf grind.