Kankar – Dunkle Millennia Review

“Nuclear hot riffs.” A commenter recently wrote beneath another review that the way black metal in 2021 is shaping up, to even begin to stand out, bands need to bring some serious, “nuclear hot,” riffage to the table. They weren’t wrong. We can ramble on all day about clever technical flourishes, dissonant chords, and foreboding atmospheres, but when all is said and done, we metalheads respect the almighty riff. The riff is the period that concludes a sentence, the punch to the jaw at the end of a fight, the incontrovertible law that even Steel bows down before.1 So what if I told you that a German duo had managed to jam more riffs into its debut release than many other bands in their entire careers? What if I elaborated that this was black metal, whose detractors regularly cite a dearth of riffs as reason to avoid its delicious elixirs? Would you be interested? You’re reading a blog called “Angry Metal Guy,” … of course you’re interested!

Kankar is the project of Strið on guitar, and Plágan on drums. German black metal is often of the scary, uncompromising variety, but Kankar is more blend than trve kvlt. The band combines black metal with elements of pagan metal, black ‘n’ roll, and even smidgens of death and traditional heavy metal. Think early Immortal mixed with Vreid and maybe a touch of Uada. Dunkle Millennia is the band’s debut LP, following 2018’s EP, Elemental Fury, and it arrives, like many debuts, a bit shaggy, but fully formed, bursting with creative ideas in a genre that occasionally feels stale and worn. It’s sheer energy is its greatest strength, but is also what occasionally holds it back, too.

About those riffs. Like pieces of Lego left scattered by an errant toddler, they come in all shapes and sizes… and they’re everywhere. You’re also likely to step on one when you aren’t looking. From opener “Gier,” with its sinewy melody that twists around a thunderous, relentless drum, they hit hard and they keep coming. More impressively, they’re carried off with a swagger and confidence that recalls those seminal Immortal albums from the 90s. Some are of the more traditional, tremolo-picked, black metal variety (“Thüringer Schwartzmetall”), while others have a distinctly black ‘n’ roll swagger (“Krater in Sarx,” “Zerfall des Lichts”). They’re catchy and compelling without sacrificing any of the bite one expects from vicious German black metal. The riffs carry Dunkle Millennia, and the production wisely emphasizes them, highlighting their crackling energy.

There are some minor missteps. Like a puppy tripping over itself in its sheer exuberance, Dunkle Millennia intermittently struggles to find its preferred gait. The band is so keen to demonstrate its next killer idea, that it sometimes fails to fully explore the one it’s currently smashing out. “Too many ideas” sounds like a first-world problem, and it is, but occasionally you feel the band should just slow down and explore rather than barrel forward relentlessly. The clean vocals don’t appear very often, but when they do (“Festmahl für die Krähen,” “Vergeltung”), they’re unconvincing, and stand in stark contrast to the confident growls that permeate the rest of the album. While Kankar does imprint its personality on the material, it is nevertheless very well-established ground that the album inhabits. It’s extremely entertaining, but it’s not exactly original.

Quibbles aside, Dunkle Millennia is very good. It brings the swagger, it brings the fun, it brings the bite, but most importantly, it brings those brilliant riffs. The journey may not always be even, but it’s never less than supremely entertaining. This is an excellent riposte to those who claim that black metal is “boring.” It should also appeal to those who like their traditional stuff with a heavier, nastier edge. Bands like Kankar show that the future of black metal is exciting, and Dunkle Millennia will almost certainly take them from the underground to the attention of a much larger audience. If you want to be able to say you heard them before they became big, don’t let this pass you by.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websites: kankarofficial.com/  |  facebook.com/kankarofficial/
Releases Worldwide: March 19th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Steel bends the knee to no riff made after 1990! – Steel
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