Oppressive, stark, and cold hearted, Elemente the new album from German pagan black metallers Hangatyr provides a landscape to be feared and enthralled by. It is a demanding and intrusive adventure emotionally and aurally which takes the listener through intensive and intimidating climes but one which expands a melody shaped temptation and sonic allurement which is hard to stay away from. Though not the easiest of listens at times with prevalence to a surface similarity in its intensity, bravery to the chilling Nordic riffery and caustic embrace aligned to melodic acidity only results in an absorbing and evocative proposition to recommend out.
Founded in 2006 and taking inspiration from ‘the mythology of the band members’, Hangatyr made themselves a compelling presence through firstly their 2007 self-titled demo but more so through debut album Helwege which was released in 2010 via German label Nocturnal Empire. It was well-received pushing the band into a stronger spotlight which Elemente can only intensify. The Thuringia quintet began working on their second full-length in the April of 2012, entering The Unholy Studio with producer Christo who had previously worked with the band on the first album and also provided bass on the new record when regular and since returned member Marco could not commit time to the recordings.
Mastered by Alexander Dietz (Heaven Shall Burn, Chemical Burn Studios), the self-released Elemente consumes and takes over the senses from the start, leading its victim through an unrelenting and punishing yet magnetic tempestuous exploration, one which dramatically and corrosively infests and ignites the imagination. The brief scene setting instrumental title track brings everything directly into view; the mountainous terrains with yawning beauty and overpowering vastness all openly displayed before the following Die Sprache der Zwölf intensifies on one aspect and draws the ears into its aggressive narrative. Musically the song, and subsequently the album, works on the imagination right away, sparking thoughts of a rampant flight through skin buffeting and emotion stretching terrain. With the lyrical and mythology being investigated presented in German for us less able linguists, the music is the key to the emerging canvas and it is hard not to feel thoughts and visions erupting as the track evokes with melodic expression within the torturous soundscape around their folkish beauty.
It is an impressive start which is not quite matched by the following pair of Eisenwald and Zwischen den Ufern, though both again are skilled and eager in their impact. The first of the two nags and coaxes with an excellent unrelenting groove and rhythmic battering, both aspects further repeated and adjusted across the album but like an intensive wind with shifts in energy and tone constantly if not as varied in design. It is a positive rather than an issue within what is varied and descriptive scenery within each song but occasionally the repetition, more so rhythmically, can antagonise. Like with its successor there is a spark missing which lit up the opener and many of the subsequent tracks, the second of the pair arguably even more devoid of that essential bait, but both with the rasping serpentine vocals and creative sonic causticity bring a strong enticement to enjoy rather than endure.
Zersetzung next brings an emotional potency to its sonic colour, the guitars casting inciting mercurial patterns soaked in elegant yet uncompromising hues whilst rhythmically the song borders abuse but still lies within the weave of pestilential enterprise to compliment rather than overpower the song’s intent. The next up excellent Grimmfrost expels even greater dramatic investigation, drums and riffs carnivorous in their rabidity whilst the sonic craft and invention of the guitars paint an emotive turmoil to spark again the already over worked imagination. The best track on the album it is a masterful contagion.
The pair of Gelobt und gejagt and Sie vergessen nicht without quite remaining on the new plateau impress and engage thoughts with ease, the first offering a more hopeful tone to its darkened skies whilst the second courts a virulent rapaciousness which feeds on the senses and the air around its insidious presence. It is the darkest threatening track on the album though the closing Rückzug stalks the same climactic and intensive black depths of its premise and the listener’s thoughts to rival its malevolence. It is a thrilling end to a very satisfying confrontation, if one admittedly losing out to the fact that the lyrical secrecy prevents it making the fullest impact. Hangatyr has undoubtedly matured and grown as a band and through the enjoyable Elemente look set to increase their stature and success around the world.
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