Behold, the sound of steel against steel, a rousing beat of the drum and a distant menacing tone. So begins “Weisser Hirsch”. There is a touch of the epic about Lower Saxony’s Hohenstein, a new addition to the German atmospheric Black Metal brethren. This Germanic duo sport a more uplifting sound, something a king to Viking metal, whilst maintaining a distinctly Black Metal ambiance. Once past the opening intro, “Sundalschlacht” feels like a war anthem, a steadily progressive march into the abyss created through a metronomic drumming style and catchy riffs, all brought together cohesively by a melodic undertone created through both synth and guitar. Hohenstein are overwhelming in their songwriting ability, and never let their work slide into the mundane. Well spaced and expertly placed interludes of softer but steely guitar play break up the flow well before once more crashing into their more accustomed groove.
I’m very much a fan of this style of mid paced Black Metal. I find with a lot of bands who delve into the faster territories that a lot of what is on offer can get lost in the relentless rush. Hohenstein are a measured band, playing with a cold serenity that lets you absorb and linger on their music. Don’t take this for a weakness in style though, as what is on offer is also hostile, cold-blooded and brooding. Cernunnos (The horned god of Celtic Polytheism, and in this case the vocalist/guitarist for Hohenstein) has a traditional Black Metal style, grating, raw and powerful all at once. ‘Ahnengrab’ is a song that for me epitomises the Hohenstein sound. It has a satisfying groove throughout, mid-tempoed, catchy and dark. A superb mix.
Released on CD and 12″ vinyl through label Purity Through Fire, as well as on cassette by Worship Tapes, there is something for lovers of all formats on offer. If you prefer your atmospheric Black Metal to be harder on the traditional Black Metal side with a more subtle harmonic balance then Hohenstein fits the bill nicely. [Heathen of the Horde]