If the ‘Verloren Vertellingen’ LP proved anything, it is that, even in the deepest caverns of underground Black Metal, you can create some degree of fuzz and hype. Although none of the four participating bands can be considered, with all due respect and love, to be really big bands in the Black Metal scene, they have managed to set up quite a social media campaign together with the label on duty. For a long time it was impossible to open Facebook and not come across a post about this split LP, if not from the label or the bands it was from one of the musicians involved or from befriended bands and their band members. So although ‘Verloren Vertellingen’, also nicely translated in the beautiful sleeve design, clearly harks back to days gone by, all parties involved have taken up the release of this split LP in a very energetic and above all modern way. After all, news reached me that full print runs of the LP were already as good as sold out little over a week after its release. Having said that, it is now time to take a fresh dive into the choppy waters of Dutch Black Metal…
Anyone who heard the band’s debut full-length ‘In De Nevel Van Afgunst’ will undoubtedly know right away that Hellevaerder is to be dealt with. However, it is not so much the band’s vicious riffs and brisk pace that give it away, but definitely vocalist Miranda Visser’s icy screech. As she opened the debut album, she sounds as tormented and ferocious again on these two new tracks. Her chilling screams once again cut through bone and hold the listener in a suffocating grip. Yet, while the pace and the eerie melody rages on, ‘Als De Nacht Wederkeert’ (which translates to ‘When The Night Returns’) is graced with some humming, moody background choirs that add a haunting atmosphere and make it one of the highlights of this split LP. After recovering from the initial shock of Miranda’s demonic screech and after a few good listens, it can be concluded that this is the best Hellevaerder material so far, an obvious step up when it comes to catchy songwriting and also on a production level the band manages to convince a little better than before. In short, Hellevaerder is a band that takes itself seriously and thus is rapidly climbing the stairs of musical maturity.
Next up and last on side A there is one-man project Duindwaler, the other musical endeavor of Hellevaerder main-composer Daan Bleumink. His contribution to this split LP has only been preceded by a cassette-only EP from 2021, ‘Landloper’. When we take this Duindwaler’s musical starting point one can only be amazed by the progression the project went through. And while a lot of the impact of the two songs can be attributed to the fact that this time the programmed drums were exchanged for actual drums (recorded by Floris Velthuis, who is to be heard on both bands on side B as well), it is mostly the overall song writing that shows a huge step forward. With the Hellevaerder songs still reverberating the eardrums, it might be safe conclusion that Bleumink, as a musician, has underwent a tremendous development. In the recent interview I conducted with him he expressed his love for Hate Forest, an admiration we both share but I thought did not come through so evidently on ‘Landloper’. That influence now fully flourishes on ‘Alles Is Het Waard’ (‘Everything Is Worth It’ in English). The thundering, impelling riffs of this track, with its almost trademark-like slight Death Metal undertone is definitely the best Duindwaler recording so far; even when the title seems somewhat contradicting with the opening song of his debut with Hellevaerder, ‘Je Bent Niks Waard!’ (Dutch for ‘You Are Worth Nothing!’).
Switching to side B we find the aforementioned Floris Velthuis with his solo-project Schavot. Like on his absolute stunner of a second album, ‘Kronieken Uit De Nevel’, he offers his Black Metal somewhat more melodic. And it is not only more melodic, it is also the most sophisticated. It is less based on aggression or rawness, but seems to focus on sublime song writing. And if that assumption is the case, Velthuis managed to achieve not only just that, but serves us with the most dynamics as well. In the right Scandinavian tradition he forges his blackened steel out of harsh riffs, multiple layers of melodies (guitars and keyboards) and the icy screeches that remind of the many great Norwegian bands from the mid to late 90’s. Velthuis’ vocals are impressive as they were on the preceding Schavot recordings, icy and aggressive with his screams but also the more epic semi-clean vocals are a true addition to the multi-colouredness of the music. The same can be said about the great guitar work, to freshen things up even more Velthuis adds some beautifully crafted leads. Alright, it might not be of the same genius of a band like Moonlight Sorcery, but he showcases an obvious open mind when it comes to song crafting. Like on ‘Kronieken Uit De Nevel’ the production is superb and propels the music to almost the same levels of these Norwegian genre giants. No remarks or feedback? Of course, to me personally the unattractive female vocals on ‘Waart Oe!’ are doing the great song no justice.
Next up and closing act is Asgrauw, also featuring Floris Velthuis, again only on drums here. Although also sounding more melodic than any of the A-side acts, the overall sound is slightly more raw compared to Schavot. This way Asgrauw feels like the act that falls, musically, somewhat in between the A-side acts and Schavot and therefore it might have been a good idea for Asgrauw to open side B. Although I would not at all say that Asgrauw feels misplaces, but it definitely feels like the band that leaves the smallest impact. Of course it is not only because their position in this vinyl collaboration, a big part of the somewhat double feeling comes from the contradiction of the somewhat narrating shouted vocals to the more melodic music. This has always been a part of the Asgrauw-formula but because the vocals seem to be way more upfront in the mix, drawing extra attention to it. Underneath there is a beautiful musical landscape that again feels close to the Melodic Black Metal of the late 90’s and early 00’s with full-on dynamics, ranging from mid-tempo to raging blast beats and tastefully composed layers of synthesizers. The comment about the vocals may possibly have come across more negatively than initially intended, as Asgrauw also delivers solid work with their two songs. With the combination between melody and the rougher abrasive work, they manage to present a unique sound within the Dutch Black Metal landscape.
All in all, with ‘Verloren Vertellingen’, these four bands deliver an eminently well-rounded split LP. It not only particularly proves the relevance of the participating bands or the fact that Zwaertgevegt definitively establishes itself alongside Heidens Hart Records and New Era Records as flag-bearing label of Dutch Black Metal, but it is even more so a product of the booming Dutch Black Metal scene: this record may safely be considered a true showcase of the Dutch Black Metal scene.