One of the great things about reviewing music is the opportunity to drag an underground artist from the depths of the metalverse into the blinding light of day. Sometimes that pans out well for us and, by extension, the artist. Sometimes we end up regretting our choice. The worst feeling in the world as a reviewer, especially one like me who has never written a piece of music in his life, is to say, “this album sucks.” That feeling intensifies when the judged is but a singular human being bravely reaching out and handing their precious work over to us. When I first listened to Weltfremd‘s debut full length, Nachwelt, I believed it to be the moment where I pummel the dreams of an aspiring musician. Imagine the sigh of relief I breathed when multi-instrumentalist Marco Bruder’s first offering grew on me more than I expected.
Weltfremd takes two overarching styles—doom metal and black metal—and filters them through subtle streams of post, funeral, and atmospheric subgenres. In an unexpected twist, eighty percent of the vocals constitute a raw, blackened rasp that sends chills down my spine. The other twenty percent consists of clean vocals dripping with desperation, but which are also unfortunately off-key more often than not. As far as riffs go, you’ll find the gamut, pulling inspiration from all corners of the genre. Some of them are more derivative of established tropes than others, but all are serviceable and enjoyable. Nachwelt is most notable for the smart blending Marco achieves between genres, weaving all kinds of threads together only when their respective colors contribute and coalesce beautifully, giving the end result a distinct and multidimensional personality.
As with any piece of music possessing a multifaceted set of characteristics, some resonate negatively. For Nachwelt, the clean vocals, the album arrangement, and the song lengths are the three least appealing characteristics. Vocally, “Lethe” is atrocious, consisting mainly of clean vocals draped haphazardly over mournful synths and effects which remind me of Nine Inch Nails, to an extent. It’s a bittersweet experience, liking a song’s music and wishing to high heaven the singing was left out, but there it is. As for the arrangement, Nachwelt divides evenly between its more energetic front half and a decidedly funereal conclusion. Both are decent segments by themselves, but more mingling of the two halves would help move things along more efficiently. Lastly, the song lengths, especially in the dirge-driven second half, drag through extended instrumental sections that do not do enough with their time. Of the three ten-plus-minute cuts present, closer “Elysion” is the worst for wear in this regard. The last minute-and-change consists of frilly electronics that no listener should reasonably expect, and which serve no purpose. As a fully instrumental track, “Elysion” is otherwise gorgeous and ends the record so well without that last bit of padding.
That said, Marco knows precisely how best to transform his music between styles. My favorite example is how “Lethe” bleeds right through “Phlegeton,” which at first fiddles around too long. But then, crashing from some unseen sky comes this massive black-metal plod, and suddenly the song feels a lot more dangerous than the listener was led to believe. Opener “Acheron” contains more nuggets of compositional inspiration, transmogrifying a sludge-ridden stoner riff into a funeral doom refrain that both showcase Marco’s knack for rhythm. Also impressive is “Elysion,” which despite its iffy ending is a breathtaking elegy to send the album off with grace and dignity. This track evidences Weltfremd‘s greatest strength—balancing crushing doom with pensive atmosphere—and provides guest musician Albrecht Probst a perfect backdrop for his impeccably restrained cello.
And now we’ve come to this, the final moment of judgment for a new artist I was very excited to sample. While I at first regretted my choice, subsequent dives into these doomed waters revealed greater nuance and character than I had initially perceived. Flaws still exist, and it will take time for Marco to rectify them on subsequent releases—vocal training and a tad more self-editing to start—but there is enormous promise within Nachwelt. I look forward to your next offering, Herr Bruder!