As impressive and epic as the land which inspires the Black Forest borne band and their music, Rastlos the fourth full length release from Germans Finsterforst, is a formidable and inspiring soundscape of passion and overwhelming atmosphere. It is a beautifully crafted journey of imaginative sounds and emotive heart brought through pagan metal sounds with blackened winds. It is a full and intrusive confrontation which transports thoughts and emotions into a world of melancholic folklore and expansive ambiences for an equally intensive experience. Rastlos is aural poetry, its masterful invention and craft forming a canvas for visions and adventure.
Finsterforst was formed in 2004 by Tobias Weinreich (bass), Sebastian Scherrer (keyboards), and Simon Schillinger (guitar), the band using the early months to concentrate on creating songs without being able to perform them live without a full line-up. The following year saw accordion player Johannes Joseph join in May with rhythm guitarist David Schuldis following in the October and with this fuller line-up they recorded the well received 3 track EP Wiege der Finsternis in March 2006. This moment could be said to be when things truly took off for the band especially with the addition of drummer Cornelius Heck later the same which enabled the sextet to make their live debut. The release in 2007 of debut album Weltenkraft elevated the standing and acclaim surrounding the band further with its follow-up …zum Tode hin two years later raising the bar of recognition even further. 2010 saw a compilation of their early releases appear as the album Urwerk as well as the addition of vocalist Oliver Berlin, who’s burning striking tones impressively bring their own spite and ravishment within the textual might of Rastlos. The Napalm Records released album without doubt takes Finsterforst to another and greater level whilst inspiring the feeling that it is just the beginning of even greater things from the band.
Barring two brief atmospheric breaths in the nature spawn instrumentals Am Scheideweg and Rast, every track is a vast experience and encounter of their own, all bridging aural grandeur and inciting emotion through inspiring travels lasting a minimum of ten minutes to in the case of the closer Flammenrausch, an extensive twenty minutes or so. This makes the album an exhaustive encounter without it over staying its welcome thanks to the compulsive intensity and quite mesmeric melodic beauty on display all driven by a dawning of majestic soundscapes and nature linked lives. It is also a release which though songs do work alone is much more rewarding as a whole, the immersion into its rich and enthralling plains not to mention moods, a sensational exhilaration.
The releases opens and ends with the same sound, a horse drawn carriage on cobbled streets drawing us into the realm ahead and taking us away at the finale. It is a mere enticement within the thick ambience to welcome the grasping intensity and caustic sounds of opener Nichts als Asche. Its initial presence is harsh and venomous, a corrosive welcome before the riffs stand tall to line the emerging immense scope of the track by bringing extra beckoning depths to their presence without losing their intimidating force alongside the unforgiving rhythms. The vocals are a scurrilous abrasion tempered by the delicious accordion weaves and melodic orchestral like caresses. It makes for a precise yet fluid brew of shadows and light in an erosive and invigorating union.
The following Fremd holds the bruising sinews of riffs and rhythms in place but unveils a wider glorious melodic welcome to sweep before them. It is not long before the song explores its forceful shadows and unleashes senses scarring energy and intensive harsh sounds to move forward ahead of the mesmeric lures. As with its predecessor the track proceeds to merge both magnificently; neither dominating the other whilst finding their own perfect place to shine and rampage within the insidious feeling tempest.
With the likes of the outstanding Stirbt Zuletzt, the best song on the album, and Ein Lichtschein, the release just gets better and better. The first of the pair finds vocalist Berlin adopt a cleaner delivery for the main and for personal tastes it is a more impressive aspect than his also impressive rasping outrages elsewhere. With the horns, varied strings, and a melodic heralding incorporating music and voices, the song offers a stunning passage into its passionate core. The second returns the black metal serpentine touch whilst exploring titan like resplendence in sound and landscape, evoking the feeling of the walls of a forest bearing down in vision as much as the giant sounds do in force and imagination.
With the previously mentioned monumental Flammenrausch sending senses and thoughts into rapture with its lasting mammoth expanse, the album arguably is at its strongest in the latter part, but as whole there is no question that Rastlos is one of the best folk/pagan metal releases this year.
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