Porta Nigra – Schöpfungswut Review

Porta Nigra – Schöpfungswut 01As — I believe — the only German on staff here,1 I feel that I have not had the opportunity to review enough stuff from my countryfolk. It was with a certain amount of anticipation, therefore, that I pulled Schöpfungswut (Wrath of Creation), the third full-length by Porta Nigra, from the toxic waste of the promo pit. I had assumed, given their name, that they hailed from Trier, a town that houses the Roman Porta Nigra (Black Gate) and of which I am rather fond. We can safely dispense with the Trier history lesson I was planning to embark on, however, as they are from Koblenz, a city I know nothing about. Porta Nigra’s 2012 debut, Fin de siècle, was an intriguingly quirky slice of mid-paced, industrial-tinged black metal, featuring a heavy dose of synths, folky melodies (“Megalomaniac”) and haunting atmospheric numbers (“Absinthfee”), all brought together by a surprisingly varied vocal performance (delivered in their native German). 2015’s Kaiserschnitt dialed back on some of the more melodic aspects and turned up both the Teutonic industrial feel and the harshness of the vocals, losing some of the interest for me. Where do they go on 2020’s Schöpfungswut?

Porta Nigra begins by ensuring you know what you’re listening to. Perhaps unnecessarily, coming only six seconds into the record, new vocalist Tongue howls the band’s name and the album title to kick off opener “Die Kosmiker,” a track that ends with several people moaning plaintively in what, I assume, is supposed to be haunting fashion but just sounds like a really disappointing orgasm. I have to say my initial impression of Schöpfungswut was that it represented something of a backward step for Porta Nigra, with many of the more avant-garde elements of Fin de siècle falling away, in favor of a stripped-back, second-wave black metal sound. The variation in the vocals is also reduced, with a more traditional black metal rasp taking center stage, though still ably supported by cleans and spoken word in places (“Das Rad des Ixion” (“The Wheel of the Ixion”), for example).

On repeated listens though, I began to warm to Schöpfungswut. I think my initial disappointment was down to the change in direction from Porta Nigra’s very strong debut through Kaiserschnitt, which was fairly disappointing for me, to where we find ourselves now. Once I got past my disappointment that Schöpfungswut was not a return to pastures old, I realized — over a good coffee and a chocolate brownie — that there is a surprising amount of subtlety and melody to be savored here. The second half of “Das Rad des Ixion” slows things down, with some soaring leads layering melody on top of the icy tremolos that, until that point, dominate the guitar sound. Album highlight “Die Augen des Basilisken” (“The Eyes of the Basilisk”) starts out the gate with raw, trem-picked riffs and a dual rasped vocal attack, which make the most of the harsh German consonant sounds. Over the course of the track’s eight-minute runtime, however, clean vocals play their part too, as does a more symphonic black metal sound that comes into play in its later stages. The album continues in a similarly strong vein, with “Die Entweihung von Freya” (“The Desecration of Freya”), which alternates between pummeling, raw black metal and slightly slower, more melodic sections.

Porta Nigra – Schöpfungswut 02

It has to be said though, that the album does tail off somewhat thereafter.  Both “Unser Weg nach Elysium” (“Our path to Elysium”) and the title track, which closes Schöpfungswut, lack the subtler edges of the first four tracks and are less memorable as a result. They are not poor — indeed Porta Nigra’s songwriting is strong across the record — but they don’t stack up to the quality of the rest of the album. The production on the record is solid, with meaty guitars, sounding thicker than you generally find on an album channeling an older black metal vibe, and standing up well in the mix to the pummeling drums. This is perhaps the lingering ghost of their more experimental, dare I say proggier, debut record.

It took me a little while to warm up to Schöpfungswut and, initially, I had it down as something of a disappointment. But, having spent some time with it, I think Porta Nigra has delivered a dark, and a darkly nuanced, slice of black metal, which has helped me to adjust both to the nagging disappointment of the new Unreqvited record and to the fact that it’s 2020… it was 2019 just last week, what the fuck happened?!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Websites: soulsellerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/sch-pfungswut | facebook.com/portanigraband 
Release Date: January 17th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. I’ll ignore my dual-British nationality for now, both because it’s convenient to do so at the moment and because there are plenty of Brits knocking about here as it is.
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