Ossaert – Pelgrimsoord Review

When we choose a promo, it’s like a job interview. An album is always trying to convince a prospective reviewer that this is the game-changer.1 Like any resume worth its vastly exaggerated merit, it may boast some serious thesaurus abuse, throwing in phrases like the “Black Metal manifestation of abandonment to perdition” and “invigorated heretic ardor” and claiming its predecessor was “one of the most haunting debut releases of 2020.” Reviewers are a tired bunch, y’all, so you can expect that I’ve learned to take Ossaert’s claims with a grain of salt, as such avowals are tossed around like “world’s best cup of coffee” is exploited in New York City. So do the wordsmiths of Ossaert get the job?

Ossaert is an anonymous duo from the Dutch city of Zwolle, which they describe as “indoctrinated.” This is foreshadowing in that the duo, spearheaded by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter P., specializes in a breed of black metal not unlike the many confused faces of Batushka. Utilizing cold, ruthless second-wave black metal run through the dark lens of religion, they balance blasphemy with a spiraling feeling of madness. Opener “De Geest en de Vervoering” showcase this brilliantly, opening up with a hymn played on organ with distorted voices singing along. While utilizing choirs and religious themes can result in heavy-handedness, Ossaert accomplishes it with tact and subtlety. Not unlike Ancient Moon’s 2019 effort, Pelgrimsoord balances liturgy with ruthlessness, making it a worthy addition to your black metal collection.

On paper, Ossaert does nothing terribly unique, but they add enough pizzazz to avoid tedium. “De Geest en de Vervoering” utilizes a good swaying motion with fury and contemplation, its climactic descending riff downright madness-inducing. “De Val en de Beroering” and “De Nacht en de Verdwijning” expertly fuse droning riffs with passages of doom influence, while desperate clean vocals add to the fray. The ridiculously distorted bass intro atop a punky d-beat elevates “De Dag en de Verschijning” as it uniquely and seamlessly transitions into melodic plucking, while the emotional chord progressions showcase a heart somewhere amid the filth. Layers of guitar riffs, synths, and vocals, alongside tasteful variations in tempo and percussion showcase Pelgrimsoord’s haunting tapestry of influences further enhanced by its production striking the balance of raw and dense. Vocals are also of note, as they offer much variety for black metal, ranging from deep hollow roars to manic shrieks to reverb-laden baritone cleans.

While Ossaert’s best moments are those that deviate from the blackened stereotypes, it’s another story when they adhere to them. Not to say that these moments are bad as much as they are forgettable – they largely become the filler between moment to moment. For instance, the intro to “De Nacht en de Verdwijning” swings between the intensely descending riff and standard black metal mid-tempo plodding: the better former versus the lackluster latter side-by-side in a single passage, and overuse of the central melody mars an otherwise intriguing platter. Other than uninteresting, there is little truly poor about Pelgrimsoord as much as it is run-of-the-mill; this lends itself to simply getting lost in the mile-deep muck of black metal artists vying to be the second coming of Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger. Ossaert is no exception, and while the moments of true interest shine, there is little that I could pinpoint as distinctly theirs: just a good interpretation of second-wave black metal with some twisty delight.

Ossaert’s variety shows something special about these Dutchmen. Pelgrimsoord is a wild ride from start to finish whose deviant ways are its greatest asset. While the standard black metal shenanigans are solid, they are largely unspectacular; but when they morph into a shifty riff or a wonky melody, it truly shows how far this duo could go. Pelgrimsoord invites listeners on a fun blasphemous ride, grinning with every twist and turn, but the scenery on the straight and narrow remains rather drab. Ossaert gets the job, even if they’re immediately put on a professional development plan.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Argento Records
Website: facebook.com/Ossaert
Releases Worldwide: June 4th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Spoiler: it often isn’t.
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