Fluisteraars – Bloem Review

Atmospheric black metal inspired by nature. Not a totally new concept, nor the most exciting one in the world, but still one overflowing with potential. Getting lost in a sea of hazy riffs accompanied by evocative overlays has ever been a highlight of my metal experience. Unfortunately, the concept often works better in theory than in execution; the fine lines between “hazy riffs” and “are we sure that’s a guitar?” or “moving passages” and “is this still the same song?” are fine ones, and easily crossed. Fluisteraars hail from the Netherlands, and Bloem is their third full-length offering, one that approaches said lines with enough confidence to have me seriously hopeful for this genre I so want to enjoy.

Perhaps the greatest strength Bloem has to offer its listener is directness. Fluisteraars seems to be making an effort to not waste anyone’s time; this is not atmospheric black metal in the vein of Winterfylleth or (early) Wodensthrone, with lengthy compositions and wandering passages; instead, Fluisteraars get right to the point, writing simple, direct music that wields its power simply for the virtue of having been well-written. “Vlek” is one of the strongest of the album’s five songs, and serves as a great example; it opens with blast beats and strong riffing before bringing in melancholy shrieks. Roughly halfway through the song, an acoustic guitar plays a wistful melody that a is quickly taken up by the electric guitars. A piercing lead follows the melody perfectly, allowing for slight variations in the backing chords and keys until the song ends. The seven minutes fly by under this simple construction — direct, successful, and emotional. This approach persists throughout the album, and the end result is straightforward, enjoyable black metal.

The second-greatest strength Bloem has to offer, then, is the emotion. Fluisteraars has a tough sound to really pin down, keeping one foot in the atmospheric black metal camp and the other wherever the wind takes them. In addition to playing drums, bass, guitar, and piano, M. Koops plays the tambourine and timpani, while T. Chochrane contributes trumpet and trombone. Third and final band member B. Mollema’s screams are equally as powerful as their lyrics (written in the band’s native Dutch). The style gives the band plenty of room to play with subtlety; timpani, trumpet, trombone, and keys all inhabit a quiet space in the mix, texturing and enhancing the music in a way unique to this band. The simple melodies, the fuzzy-but-not-too-fuzzy guitar tone, and the subtle symphonic work make Bloem a very easy album to listen to, and an even easier one to get lost in.

If there’s one drawback to Fluisteraars’s sound on Bloem, it’s the band’s use of repetition. “Euwige Ram” is a strong song, following the band’s formula to really good results; a little over halfway through, it explodes into an emotive lead, with a whole undercurrent of subtle black metal magic lifting the moment to incredible heights. And yet, when I listen, I could swear it’s about to end six or seven times before it actually does. In an album with five songs spanning only thirty-five minutes, over-use of repetition can be dangerous ground, and Fluisteraars walks a fine line on Bloem. Closer “Maanruïne,” by contrast, manages to keep things moving and interesting in a similarly powerful closing melody, adding enough variety in the mix for the album to end on a strong note. While this doesn’t detract a whole lot from the power of the music, it is enough to make me glad that Bloem is the length that it is, instead of wishing for more.

Too much of a good thing can potentially be a less-than-good thing, but that isn’t really the case here — Bloem is a beautiful album that resonates more like a work of physical art than an aural one. It’s an album that you can just appreciate; I’ve listened to it as I’ve worked, as I’ve walked, as I’ve rested, and even as I’ve slept. It’s just that kind of album. Fluisteraars are a new discovery for me, but I’m looking forward to diving into their previous releases already. Their emotive take on black metal has been my favorite discovery of February so far.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websites: fluisteraars.bandcamp.com/album/bloem | facebook.com/Fluisteraars
Released Worldwide: February 28th, 2020

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