Oerheks – Cagghenvinna Review

I know pretty much nothing about Oerheks. Normally, that’s the kind of thing that gives me pause—I’d rather know who I’m writing about, what I’m supporting, and all of those fun details, but given that this Cagghenvinna is the debut album for a Flemish black metal band… well, it comes with the territory. As for what I do know, I’m fairly certain it’s a one-person project, with “H.” as its mastermind; I believe “oerheks” is Dutch, translating into something to the effect of “primal witch;” and I understand H. writes his music inspired “by local myths and lore.” That’s all I’ve got, which means I have nothing better to do now than to start talking about the music, a fascinating foray into atmospheric territories that weren’t at all what I was expecting.

Cagghenvinna wastes no time in introducing itself as a kind of atmospheric black metal that heavily leans into the atmosphere and stays a few steps away from traditional black metal tropes. Ordinarily, I’d wait a bit to talk about the production, but it’s really the first thing you notice when “Door Doomen Overtogen” starts—super muted blast beats, and airy riffs act as backdrop for a distinct, echoing tremolo that creates melody and vague screams that give it all character. There’s an immediacy only in the sense that it all begins without warning; there is very little in the way of hard-hitting aggression here. Cagghenvinna has, in essence, been produced to be a work of haunting, ethereal atmosphere grounded in black metal. It reminds me strongly of Fluisteraars, with some elements borrowed from traditional atmoblack. As the song continues, dual guitars, grim narrations, and an edged interlude inject elements of surreal intensity to the music. Surprisingly, the seven-minute track feels much shorter.

All of this is to say that Oerheks relies a lot on melody for the success of the sound. The production is too hazy for repetition to be welcome too long, too wet for any real aggression to ooze through, and too quiet for typical black metal intensity. Fortunately, melody is something H. brings to Cagghenvinna in spades. “Doorheen de Demervallei” is my favorite example of how the subtle keys and tremolo leads can work together so well to create soundscapes evocative of ancient journeying and primal wanderings. “De Oude Eik & Eindigende Lust” takes a more intense approach, but relies on the same magic formula. Towards the end of the track, a familiar theme repeats itself—like any work that borrows from traditional atmoblack, Oerheks’s music leans heavily on repetition, so it’s just as well his leads are as interesting as they are. This is really the crux of what makes Cagghenvinna an enjoyable and cathartic listen.

As much as I like all of these elements of Oerheks, the wholesale lack of immediacy on Cagghenvinna does make it difficult for me to fully engage with the album. After all, repetition and altogether difficult-to-distinguish riffing are two things that makes it easy to lose focus mid-listen. Even as background noise, this is a strong album, but I wish I was able to connect with it a little more consistently. “Transmutatie tot het Edele” isa good example, as it doesn’t really grab me until about halfway through the song. The opening riffs would probably work very well in a more traditional black metal setup, but here they kind of fade into the background, lacking the aggression they seem to demand. With five tracks spanning forty minutes, Cagghenvinna is hardly a difficult listen, but I haven’t connected with it as well as I might have liked.

Still, there’s a lot to be said for an album that can take you places, and here, Oerheks is a triumph. I love the raw, primal-ethereal approach Cagghenvinna takes to telling its story, and I’m looking forward to hearing1 more. I appreciate the quiet approach, but simply hope for something a little more engaging in the future. And if that’s not H.’s style, that’s fine, really—because this is a strong debut no matter how I look at it.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Amor Fati Productions
Website: oerheks.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: August 15th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. And, dare I hope, learning?
« »