Leiþa – Reue Review

Bamberg, Germany’s Noise is a busy man. By my count, he put out three EPs under his Kanonenfieber moniker—two of which I covered here—and a very good full-length with his Non Est Deus project in 2022. Alongside that, he was, it seems, producing, in all senses of the word, another record as his third alter ego, Leiþa. The first Leiþa album, Sisyphus, itself only came out in 2021, a year when Noise also dropped my AOTY, Kanonenfieber’s Menschenm​ühle. Bottom line, this guy writes and releases a lot of very high-quality black metal. Each of his projects has a slightly different focus, however, with Leiþa the most personal. Deeply introspective in its lyrics and harrowing in its soundscapes, Sisyphus was a tortured album, rather like the mythical man himself. So everyone on board the Happy Land Express for follow-up Reue (which translates as ‘regret’ or ‘remorse’) then?

Emotionally raw Reue may be but we are certainly not dealing in raw black metal here. Leiþa serves up a harsh and uncompromising, yet surprisingly melodic dish of misery and self-loathing. The tremolos and blasts come thick and fast, frantically careening forward, with Noise’s immediately recognizable rasping snarl raging over the top. For all the wretched fury and helplessness poured into the lyrics and atmospherics of Reue, it is also packed with moments of fragility, their beauty heightened by the tumult they arise from, like the picked, guitar-only instrumental passage about halfway through the epic “Fremdkörper” (which also features guest vocals from Dany Tee of Los Males Del Mundo). Similarly, the title track builds from humble and vulnerable beginnings, elements of doom threatening to break into the stripped-back opening, only for the blackened harshness to spill over once more.

Leiþa simultaneously recalls the patient, post-black restraint of Ellende and the grandiose, pummelling ferocity of Likferd-era Windir, filtered through a Firtan lens, while the stark, almost folky, sections lean toward something like Agalloch. At once both immediate and brooding, Reue is a musical manifestation of the regret Noise writes about. It rages at itself, while casting about for a target for its wrath, exhausting itself in the process and pausing occasionally for breath, before unleashing again (“Tier” and “Schlaf”). There is an almost symphonic black metal quality to some of the compositions on Reue, which feel rich and textured despite their uncompromising nature. The screaming guitars and pounding blasts of “Schlaf”‘s heaviest sections are the perfect example of this, and find Noise at his most unhinged vocally.

As with all Noisebringer records that I have heard, the production on Reue is first class. The crystalline, melancholic guitar tone and great drum sound, which allows the blasts to sound dynamic but still punishing, is perfect for Leiþa’s sound. Similarly, the mix is nicely balanced, giving each constituent part enough room to breathe and not allowing any single element to dominate. There’s a lot to like and little to criticize about Reue, which is tightly written and does not overstay its misery-soaked welcome, clocking in just under the 40-minute mark. If there is a criticism to be made of Leiþa’s sophomore outing, it’s that for all the quality on show in the individual tracks, there is perhaps not a huge progression in the sound across the album’s run as a whole. The basic blueprint is repeated across Reue, with the musical journey perhaps not quite the equal of the lyrical one.

That said, I’m kinda hunting for criticism at this point because Leiþa has delivered a very strong record here. Packed with emotional heft and great songwriting, this was a very good, if rather heart-wrenching, way to start my 2023 reviews. Superior to Sisyphus in its consistency and flow, I am sure I will return to Reue’s bleak and darkened atmosphere often as the year progresses.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Noisebringer Records
Websites: noisebringer-records.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/noisebringerrecords
Releases Worldwide: January 13th, 2023

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