Kluizenaer – Ein Abbild der Leere Review

Formed as a solo project back in 2015, Kluizenaer—a German outfit, despite choosing the Dutch for ‘hermit’ as its nom de guerre—dropped a debut album, Radbraak, that a few cursory searches of the usual sources has failed to uncover. Since I am assured by the promo blurb that the debut comprised “abstract sound collages of blackened ambient and noise,” I did not intensify my searches. Radbraak was followed by two more obscure EPs before 2018’s locate-able Das ungebrochene Schweigen (The unbroken Silence), by which point Kluizenaer had evolved into a trio. All ambient horror and droning purgatory, the EP showed promise without hooking me in. Could a change of guitarist—MMM. out, LLL. in; founding member FFF. and drummer JJJ. remain—be the little nudge Kluizenaer needs to kick into the next gear?

With a title like Ein Abbild der Leere (A Portrait of the Void), one can be confident that the last few years have not imbued Kluizenaer with some sunny disposition. And so it proves, as the synths yaw and swirl at the outset of the record, sucking in light and hope. It’s almost three minutes before a harsh guitar line becomes discernible among the synths and then the haunting misery erupts into furious, industrial-edged black metal. Indeed, across Ein Abbild der Leere, there is a constantly shifting palette of sorrow, painted in hews of howling DSBM, churning atmoblack and eerie drone. There’s something slightly seasickness-inducing about the way the synths pulse, like at the beginning of “Es Verbrennt Sich,” that makes the drone of Kluizenaer’s sound peculiarly unsettling at times.

The drumming is relentlessly furious, maintaining a pummelling intensity—except during the ambient drone sections—which offsets the mostly mid-tempo tremolos that dominate the guitar sound. Every now and again, the guitars of newcomer LLL. rise above the blackened maelstrom, delivering a chunky, almost upbeat, industrial riff before sinking back into the tumult. There are shades of Ethereal Shroud on Ein Abbild der Leere, just as there are hints of NONE and Sadness, and even early Midnight Odyssey. But Kluizenaer leans more into the drone dynamic than any of those acts, with “Ölgötze” comprised entirely of distended synths drawn out into fuzzy, ethereal almost-voices. This is the indrawn breath before the exhalation of bile and fury that is closer “Stylit,” the harshest and by far best cut on Ein Abbild der Leere. Still punctuated with pockets of dead, muted air, the overall intensity on this closer is dialed up significantly compared to the rest of the record. It also sees a slight change in FFF.’s vocals. For most of the album, these are a blackened rasp edging into shrieked DSMB anguish. On “Stylit,” however, a rougher, hoarse bark is introduced in places, which works well.

Kluizenaer’s writing on Ein Abbild der Leere has a sort of sweeping grandeur to it, and to “Stylit” in particular, that captures the album’s title perfectly. There’s an emptiness and desperate longing to the music, which evokes a sense of absence. Unfortunately, that is undermined to a degree by two things. First, while “Stylit” is excellent, the first two tracks interrupt their own flow with atmospheric noodlings once too often, depriving them slightly of flow, while the forgettable ambience of “Ölgötze” adds nothing to the mix. Secondly, the production which, despite its DR7, feels crushed in places with the drums in particular suffering. This leaves some of the heavier, harsher sections slightly muddy and indistinct. This is a shame, as a slightly crisper master could have lifted Ein Abbild der Leere to the next level.

That said, I enjoyed my time with Kluizenaer. Ein Abbild der Leere delivers everything I expect, and much of what I want, from atmoblack, while the addition of more ambient and drone stylings gave the record a welcome extra dimension. The execution is solid, if let down slightly by one or two songwriting choices on the first half of the album and the mildly disappointing production. A step up from Das ungebrochene Schweigen, without reaching the stratospheric heights of the void, Ein Abbilde der Leere undoubtedly paints a picture.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 249 kbps mp3
Label: Wolves of Hades / Breath:Sun.:Bone:Blood:. Records
Websites: kluizenaer.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/KLZNR
Releases Worldwide: February 18th, 2022

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