It’s with a certain amount of anxiety that I finally sit down to write this review. I could have completed an assessment of Krater‘s Venenare at least a week and a dozen listens ago, but this record has a hold on me that I can’t seem to shake. I’ve covered albums that I absolutely adore before, so it’s been hard for me to pinpoint exactly why this particular album seems so difficult to move past — but I think I’ve figured it out. I’ve really only gotten into black metal in the past two years and while I’ve learned to love the sounds and aesthetics that the style has to offer, I’ve yet to find a record of the darkest metal variety that could stand as an archetype fully representing what I find appealing about the genre. I’d yet to find a black metal album that felt like it was mine. Until now.
Germany’s Krater began their black metal journey in 2003, and the 16 years since have seen the band in a constant state of evolution. After a debut that tended towards the pagan side of black metal, 2011’s Nocebo saw Krater moving in a more aggressive second-wave direction, and 2016’s Urere built upon that sound by adding more melodicism and wrapping it in a clear and powerful production. Venenare is the culmination of this evolutionary process, incorporating many different styles and sounds picked up along the way but at the same time transcending descriptive labels and tags by appearing as pure, unadulterated black metal. You may think you hear the lower register vocals and melodic sensibilities of Mgla, the pagan cadences of Bathory, the icy tremolos of Dissection, the vicious attack of Mayhem, the thrashiness of Deströyer 666, the atmosphere of Wolves in the Throne Room — but what you really hear is fucking Krater, a veteran band at the absolute top of their game.
Accurately touted as a “50 minute work broken into nine songs but unified as one winding, widescreen composition,” Venenare weaves a tale of humankind’s struggle with meaninglessness and nihilism as we live out our brief time as individual collections of so much space dust. Cosmic fires initiate the proceedings on intro “Eruption” before “Prayer for Demise” arrives to blast our ashes into the void with its ferocious low-string tremolos, sickening chorus, and demented, almost progressive riffing. “Zwischen den Worten” begins as a full band jam session then morphs into something akin to post-Dissection, building and building with ringing arpeggios, infectious melodicism, and a classic heavy metal solo before embedded rage-filled lament “Stellar Sparks” arrives with its unsettling and at times dissonant choral vocals and thrash rhythms. The latter features a grooving breakdown, showing that Krater has no problem coloring outside of the lines of “trve” black metal to deliver their punishing message.
Speaking of punishment, I read an interview in which vocalist Abortio states that he hopes that every syllable he spews will land as a punch to the listener. One listen to paganistic bruiser “When Thousand Hearts” should be enough to prove that he’s succeeded. “No Place for You” seems to be a blistering attack on modern black metal bands that are too trve to pay tribute to the forefathers of the genre — listen closely and you’ll hear Krater name some of the bands on whose shoulders they stand. The epic penultimate and final proper track “Darvaza Breeds” uses the imagery of the perennially burning natural gas crater in Turkmenistan to give us a glimpse of our not-so-distant future, one in which our elements dissipate into the heavens to become the next generation of stars. Using four minutes of furious black metal, moving into a beautifully mournful section, and closing with yet more rage, “Darvaza Breeds” is the standout track in an album chock full of standout tracks. The production on Venenare is absolutely stellar. The guitars have a decidedly “untrve” thickness, Abortio’s bass is an integral part of the compositions, and each of Shardik’s drum strikes lands with mighty power.
In my personal evolution, the struggle with nihilism has been all too real. Paradoxically, acknowledging and embracing the inherent meaninglessness of life has led to a desire to find and experience whatever transient meaning I can before my atoms move on to continue their cosmic journey. As closer “Wasted Carbon” simmers to a close and Abortio throat sings the song’s title, I go forth inspired to get the most out of this life for as long as I have it. With Venenare, Krater have created a black metal album that feels as if it were made just for me, and while I think you should enjoy it, I honestly couldn’t care less if you do.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websites: abstrusekrater.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/abstrusekrater | www.bastion-krater.de
Releases Worldwide: November 15th, 2019