Waldgeflüster – Dahoam Review

Sometimes, an album seems to come along at just the right time, as if the capricious gods of the promo bin have taken a break and their serendipitous cousins, briefly, have the run of the joint. I recently went back to my homeland for a visit after a Covid-induced absence of nearly two years. When you return home after being away for so long, the earth feels more earthy, the sky deeper, the sea icier and fresher. It’s a sensation that’s hard to describe to anyone who has never left. But German band Waldgeflüster know. Their sixth album, Dahoam (“At Home”) is all about rediscovering the beauty of the familiar through wiser, more traveled eyes. This is both a mature and compelling theme and a neat switcheroo: much of metal is obsessed with journeys, but little on what it means to return. I was a fan of the band’s previous album, Mondscheinsonaten, and was in a receptive state of mind for this collection. The ground was therefore fertile for Waldgeflüster to weave their magic.

Dahoam is, at its core, an homage to Bavaria. The album explores and celebrates the natural beauty of the Bavarian countryside through a traditional blend of atmospheric black metal, folk melodies, and instrumentals. Panopticon and Wolves in the Throne Room are obvious touchstones and influences. Dahoam is the spiritual successor to 2011’s Femundsmarka, which explored the beauty of the world from the perspective of the traveller. The songs here are sung in Bavarian, and the cover itself shows the Wendelstein mountain, a deeply comforting sight for leading man, Winterherz. As someone who no longer lives in the place they grew up, this concept of “Home” resonates deeply with me. Unfortunately, while the concept is solid, the execution is what lets Dahoam down.

The major problem with this collection is something that plagues a lot of atmoblack: it’s dull. And not only is it dull, it’s formulaically dull. If you’re an atmoblack fan, this is an album you have heard, in various iterations, a thousand times before. From the folksy, acoustic opener, to the ten-minute epics of furious, distorted blast beats and tremolos, to the gentle instrumental conclusion, there is very little to surprise or captivate the listener. Even the songs themselves follow a standard template: gentle opening; furious blast; slower, shoegazey passage; furious blast; synth-driven outro. This applies to “Im Ebersberger Forst,” “Am Tatzlwurm,” even parts of “Mim Blick aufn Kaiser.” While sticking to a template isn’t a terrible sin, when it’s this rigid, it runs the risk of being so predictable that the listener anticipates what’s coming in advance and simply tunes out. This, unfortunately, is the fate that befalls Dahoam. Its insistence on sticking to convention ultimately stifles any creativity or sense of interest in the listener.

If the material that adhered to this template were compelling or unusually dynamic, this wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Many bands in black metal have great success playing to the genre’s conventions (see Wolves in the Throne Room’s pulsing and interesting Primordial Arcana, which used fiery melodies and clever instrumentals to create a real bond with its landscape). But Waldgeflüster, while offering perfectly competent atmoblack, with some moments of genuine inspiration (the soaring “Im Tatzlwurm” is especially notable), fail to develop their ideas, or provide enough compelling or catchy moments. This means the interesting passages get smothered in long periods of drab repetition. Some parts were so unmemorable that I had to begin songs all over again because I couldn’t recall much of what I had just listened to.

Coming home, I was ready for Waldgeflüster’s ode to familiar soil to speak to my parched soul. Instead, I received boilerplate atmoblack. Dahoam is not terrible; it’s just underwhelming. Considering how much I enjoyed Mondscheinsonaten, this is particularly disappointing. Waldgeflüster is capable of so much more than uninspired melodies on cookie-cutter metal templates. Bavaria is a fascinating and beautiful place, but Dahoam doesn’t capture it. “Home” is an intriguing metal concept, but Dahoam doesn’t do it justice. Now that I am in my new home, the ache for my old one is still there. But I’ll have to wait for another album to soothe it.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AOP Records
Websites: blackmetalwaldgefluester.bandcamp.com/  |  facebook.com/BlackMetalWaldgefluester
Releases Worldwide: September 24th, 2021

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