Karg – Traktat Review

When last a Kargian headline graced this Hall, it was attributed to a TYMHM for their 2018 release, Dornenvögel. Young, full of hope and utterly devoid ov wisdom was the unseasoned Muppet, and ’twas naught but praise that he had for Dornenvögel. Fast forward to the mysterious future of 2020, and the Muppet – nay, the world – has changed entirely. Or, like, not at all but whatever. The point is that time has passed, things have changed and many ways it’s not the same bundle ov felt n’ feelz tackling album number 7 by Harakiri for the Sky’s frontman, JJ – so why am I getting the exact same album all over again?

To be fair, that’s a tad misleading. Traktat doesn’t sound like the last Karg album, but rather like everything that JJ has released prior to this one. To some extent, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Harakiri for the Sky didn’t acquire a legion of adoring fans by sounding terrible, after all; hard hitting atmoblack with a focus on melody is hardly out of style these days, and all the soaring melancholy listeners have come to love and expect from the Hungarian act is here in full display… literally. It takes roughly zero seconds of listening to recognize the ghosts of HftS in any given song on Traktat, and that hardly feels like the great thing that it should be on paper. I’m not thrilled to bear this news, but in many ways Traktat is probably the safest atmospheric black metal album that I’ve ever reviewed, woe Discordia.

Don’t get me wrong, it sounds great. “Alaska” is every bit as evocative and untamed as its namesake, and I have zero complaints regarding Klara Bachmair’s violin involvement on “Irgendjemand Wartet Immer,” “Stolperkenotaphe” and “Abgrunddialektik”; despite the majority of my assessment boiling down to needlessly entitled disappointment1 there is much to enjoy on Traktat, particularly among its guest spots. Guest contributors Purch (Instant Karma) and Bernhard Zieher (Weltenbrandt) introduce some new life to the otherwise tried, trve yet truthfully somewhat tired sound of their tracks (“Stolperkenotaphe” and “Abgrunddialektik,” and “Jahr Ohne Sommer” respectively). Even tracks like “Grabcholerik” and “Alles Was Wir Geben Mussten” kick enough atmoblack ass on their own, without any additional manpower2, but this only begs the question: is enough ass really enough?

Perhaps my overexposure to atmoblack, both asskicking and downright asstastic alike, has left me unfairly biased, but my answer is no. Where Dornenvögel felt organic and furiously energized by anguish and raw hate, Traktat feels so by-the-numbers that I’m a little disappointed my promo didn’t include watercolor paint.3 From the melodies of “Jahr Ohne Sommer” and “Alaska” to the vocal cadence and pentameter of “Entirefriggenalbum,” this is all stuff that I’ve heard before, and the fact that most of this stuff is dragged out over ten minutes at a time does the whole experience approximately zero favors. It’s one thing to keep feeding everyone your signature specialty dish, but for Jørn’s sake give me some new spices every once in a while if you’re gonna start resorting to leftovers! The fact that this isn’t Harakiri for the Sky only makes things that much more tedious, as at least they would typically kick things up a notch4 with a sweetly soaring solo or something.5. What we have instead is a drawn out series of safe-as-shit tremolo passages and rehashed rhythms, all the fixings of prior feasts tossed in a microwave for an hour and fifteen minutes and then served unceremoniously sans a proper entree.

Traktat is the very definition of ‘mixed feelings’ for me. On the one hand, it’s not as though I dislike what I’m hearing. It’s a sound that works, but on the other hand, it’s a sound that I already knew worked because it’s the same sound that always comes from this dude. Enjoyable as Hell if you’re into that sort of thing, but with so much familiarity and so little exploration on display here, I just don’t see myself or other discerning atmoblack fans6 feeling particularly compelled to frequently revisit this album. Not when there’s already so much similar yet frankly superior available in JJ’s back catalog. By all means, give this a spin – if you don’t expect too much from Traktat, you might not be let down.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AOP Records
Websites: Bandcamp (label) | Facebook.com/kargband
Releases Worldwide: February 7th, 2020

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Just because I’m not here to make friends doesn’t mean that I’m here to lie to you, yo.
  2. Though it should be noted that the drums for those tracks were written by Mischa Radivojevic, and that all of Traktat’s drum performances were executed by Paul Färber – who is, in fact, not JJ.
  3. Or at least some goddamn crayons.
  4. BAM!
  5. Except… would they? Arson shared absolutely none of the fretboard accomplishment that its predecessors displayed, perhaps I should have been worried all along…
  6. I’m sure that’s a thing.
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