Shit, there’re still albums coming out in 2018? Good ones, too? Yet, with my top ten already complete, it’s easy to write off December. But Madam X‘s watchful eye doesn’t sleep. And thank your lucky stars for that. Because we would have walked right past Rauhnåcht‘s newest release, Unterm Gipfelthron. I know, not another black metal review from Grier. And because of that I know I’ve lost about half of you so far. Either because you hate black metal or think all pagan black metal bands are Nazis. Or maybe you think flute isn’t metal. Well, Austrian’s Rauhnåcht ain’t a skinhead group and, go flaut yourself, flutes are so metal. Now, go put on your mittens, get the fuck out in the snow, and let Unterm Gipfelthron be your hypothermia.
If you know the band, don’t assume you already know what their third full-length is gonna sound like. Opener “Zwischen den Jahren” might surprise you. While this track sports lone-member Stefan Traunmüller’s classic black rasps, the thick backing vox/chants will turn heads. Having recorded all the harsh and clean vocals in the past, with this new release, Traunmüller chose to enlist a small army of guests to fill the gaps. And not only in the vocal department. Two such guests on Unterm Gipfelthron deliver mood-setting flute and clarinet accompaniment. A perfect compliment to the rich key-mospheres that drip like the blood of Windir and Wintersun. What this means for Unterm Gipfelthron is that it might be the band’s fullest record yet. Which is quite the feat when you consider 2014’s amazing Urzeitgeist.
Now, back to “Zwischen den Jahren” and its upbeat, flutey, Finntrolling character. While previous Rauhnåcht releases tend to open with epic pieces that grow and evolve over six-to-eight minutes, Unterm Gipfelthron begins with a fun piece that falls short of five minutes—pairing perfectly with the album’s other bookend, “Winter zieht übers Land.” The upbeat, yet deathy, opener to the closer’s traditional, Týr-like folk. For eleven minutes, this song climbs and climbs, using its folk qualities to craft a staircase of mahogany and finish it with growing guitar, keyboard, and choral intensity.
Of the other three tracks, “Ein Raunen aus vergess’ner Zeit” and the title track are the most similar. Both are over nine minutes in length and combine folk with meloblack to produce a classic pagan black metal sound. “Unterm Gipfelthron” weaves flute and clarinet into a thick choir of pagan chants. Halfway in, the song takes on a darker tone and the clarinet finds itself buried in rasps and black tremolo pluckings. Once these break, the track returns to Alcestian atmospheres that conclude in burly Viking fashion and soothing acoustic guitars. “Ein Raunen aus vergess’ner Zeit” is as complex but in a more Wintersun-like, key-driven way. Like the title track, it alternates between folky clean vocals and melodic atmospheres, harsh shrieks and aggressive black metal riffage. It’s a tapestry; one layer painted over the other—thick with definition and possessing every known shade of black and white.
That said, “Gebirgsbachreise” is the album’s best. Cutting the album in two, this five-minute instrumental is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of Rauhnåcht. It’s fucking gorgeous with its acoustic guitar rhythm and heart-melting bass leads. As it builds, a gentle distortion arrives, taking pace with the orchestral air. Each minute is another layer of the cake and the finish won’t disappoint.
In the end, Unterm Gipfelthron is as good as Urzeitgeist. If not better. Traunmüller’s inclusion of woodwinds and full-chested choruses push past anything the debut record, Vorweltschweigen, ever achieved. While nothing here is groundbreaking and, in actuality, quite typical of the genre, Unterm Gipfelthron shows a band (or man) refusing to settle. The progressions are subtle but they’re there and Unterm Gipfelthron is arguably Rauhnåcht‘s best.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Debemur Morti Productions Official | Bandcamp
Websites: sturmpercht.bandcamp.com | alpineblackmetal.at | facebook.com/alpineblackmetal
Releases Worldwide: December 7th, 2018