Noktvrn by Der Weg Einer Freiheit

Release date: November 19, 2021
Label: Season Of Mist

For 12 years German extreme metallers Der Weg Einer Freiheit have shaken the foundations of the genre, raging through four albums of visceral, dark black metal. There’s something quite beautiful about the fact that their debut self-titled album was only supposed to be a one-off expression of black metal conjured out of the ashes of Frostgrim and death-core band Fuck Your Shadow From Behind. Now, here we are on album five, Noktvrn, perhaps their best but definitely their most progressive release to date.

Thematically Noktvrn obviously concerns itself with the night, with all tracks apparently conceived during this time, and the dreamworlds that awaken in one’s mind. Stare deep into the deceptively simple cover art and you could slip into a void of light or dark, of harsh or astral. These contrasting colours of the cover appear audibly throughout the release and add an ethereal twinkle to Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s night sky.

Opening track ‘Monument’ lures you in with the serenity of its intro, lulling you through far-crying horns and gentle plucks before whisking you away into a fiery whirlpool of blastbeats and a gorgeous main riff hook of energetic tremolos. ‘Am Rande der Dunkelheit’ explores the darkness of anxiety and creeps into your ears with its rapid-fire brutality and seriously nuanced, soul-grabbing riffs charging along to intricate percussion.

‘Immortal’ not only stamps its mark as the band’s first track sung in English but shifts significantly from all other material that precedes it, and I’m talking about the past four albums. The track features a prominent rhythmic beat framed within a simple structure, it’s cold and almost pensively mechanical and crescendos to a satisfying end. Dávid Makó of dark folk band The Devil’s Trade provides sombre clean vocals, which contrast beautifully against Kamprad’s anguished screams. The track is certainly an unexpected surprise and another push towards evolution as well as another complex layer in the black metal spectrum.

‘Gegen das Licht’ is the albums height of grandeur, a near 12 minute epic opening with a reflective and airy songs-worth of shoegazing dreaminess before suddenly smash-cutting to a ripping burst of stunning post-black brutality, with scything, hooky tremolos hacking their way through blastbeats and crushingly catchy drums. This mid-section melts into an atmosphere-thick finale of mesmeric guitar twangs and haunting ambience. The album ends in another complete departure with ‘Haven’, a song that’s less about its instruments, as masterful as they are, and more about Kamprad’s ethereal cleans, which sweep you away to a dreamland of harmonised beauty.

Noktvrn is a dark album. Both in name and material. The album takes you through various moods and levels of darkness, shifting tone now and then and never falling back on simply blasting away, but rather nestling you into musical comfort, whether that be a euphonious riff or a complete change in direction to what perceptions of the band are. Noktvrn lets in a little light into the void-blackness of Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s masterful catalogue and finds a new path to catharsis, by bathing the listener in ethereal beauty instead of simply smacking the troubles away. It is an album to kick away the cobwebs of life and immerse oneself in visceral darkness to breathe in the fresh air of relief from the night-terrors of reality. A go-to album this will be.

Sophisticated and mature, Noktvrn is an eclectic and hugely impressive release from a band in their prime and most creatively in-depth of their career, that could quite easily land on the ever-growing album of the year pile near the very top.

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