With their sound tagged as Industrial Folk Death Black Metal, quite a mouthful as you can see, the new album from Ukrainian metalers Thunderkraft has a lot to live up to and maybe some doubt to dispel as well from such a broad labelling. The proof is though with their magnificent new album Totentanz, the band more than fills the requirements of such a wide scope of sound. The album is mesmeric and downright glorious, as well as unpredictable, wonderfully surprising, and in many ways self centred. The band knows what it wants and where they wish to go with their sound, and it is that surety and determination plus the fact that the music and ideas are simply stunning, that makes the album such an impressive release.
Thunderkraft came to be in 2001, the band built on the desire to blend the members love of death metal and Ukrainian folklore with a black metal flavouring. Active and well respected on the live scene the band released their debut album The Banner Of Victory in 2005 to a strong acclaim. Despite this the band hit a lull and during that time revisited their approach and music. Totentanz sees them returning with a new electronic aspect to their music wrapped in sweeping symphonic moods and elements all meshed with their existing thunderous sound. The result is an experimental and adventurous deviation to their previous creativity which is thoroughly satisfying and inspiring.
The album opens on a fanfare and chest beating charge veined by an intimidating riff taken straight out of ‘Walk’ from Pantera. That sound can be borrowed, stolen as many times as it likes and it can never lose its power as shown here on Настане Час [A Time Will Come]. The song explodes into crashing guitars, combative rhythms, and wanton symphonic keys, the folk majesty of the song courting the senses with a fine grace beneath the thunderous intensity surrounding it. The song as an opener is an instant wakeup call and invitation to the rest of the album which gets better and better from there on in.
With lyrics in either Ukrainian, Russian or German, the explorations of “mankind’s relation to the past, ideas of greatness and boundless possibilities of the human spirit, and the strength of will and character”, and the problems he has with them are lost to us of limited language skills but with music that veers from pulsating to ferocious stopping at every station in between there is never an issue, the emotion unleashed and instigated within all consuming and deeply pleasing. The mighty Totentanz [Dance of The Dead] explores the electronic side of the bands new sound deliciously merging the aggression with a vibrant hypnotic drive, the song infectious with stirring keys from Ann in tow with the pillaging riffs of guitarist Alafern and bassist Sigurd, the duo conspiring together with mischief and high intensity. The song leaves one breathless, its energy and imagination swarming through the ear like a melodic tsunami.
With songs like the stomp fest Свiт Майбутнього [The Future World] and the triumphant Навстречу Новой Заре [Towards A New Dawn] bringing light and dark together in a perfect bewitching union, Thunderkraft never lessen their grip on the ear and beyond. Alafern’s vocals growl and pace tracks as menacingly as the striking rhythms of drummer Munruthel and the intimidating riffs that spine each song. This gives the release a muscle that demands and receives full attention to allow the melodic ingenuity and provocative ideas to dazzle and tease, whilst the added likes of the flute and violins alongside the industrial synth sounds venture into untested grounds with the ultimate of success.
The album is so diverse and varied it takes more than a couple of plays to fully discover all of its corners. This is epitomized by the best song on Totentanz where the band seem to throw everything into its creative well to produce a song which should not work but does to the highest level. Смятая Повесть [A Crumpled Story] is a blackened manipulation, its scorched groove winding around the senses squeezing tightly as strings tempt and taunt the ear. Metallic beats harkens the songs grand design with riffs incessantly poking, keys venturing into the cosmos, and jazz and brass interloping to great effect. The song is a visual play for the mind, its carnival mischief and eager violations an exhilarating stimulus for thoughts and the heart.
Totentanz is simply excellent and a feast to delve into constantly. With a sound that can be best described as the likes of Dominanz and Rammstein whisked into frenzy with the likes of Turisas and P&H, Thunderkraft have returned and emerged as an important new breath for multiple genres.