Last updated on 2 October 2020
I did not quite know anymore where to place this band. After the somewhat silly #YOLO that Finsterforst unchained in 2016, uncertainty truly set in. Did they go off the deep end? Or was that just something they always wanted to do?
And now, this.
Zerfall serves you with an 80-minute monster that will require some real commitment to digest. A relentless total metal war attack that you first need to survive until you can haul the headphones off your battle-weary ears.
Mach Dich Frei and Rastlos were already pretty heavy pieces. One set in the magical lore of the darkest of all forests. And the other really hellishly close to inane hate and rage that almost veered off into territories that the RMR deck crew did not really fancy.
Now, with Zerfall, the band chose yet another hefty theme.
And they put it that way: “First you had Greta, and now you get Finsterforst.” And indeed, them boyz from the home of the Black Forest cake tackle climate change. There you go, straight in the midst of things. A somewhat doom-laden and catastrophic view of the future, perfectly seconded by the album cover Finsterforst provided.
But to compare their tune to the soft teeny style of Greta is a joke. Zerfall more fits the extremist agenda of outfits like Extinction Rebellion. The record positively drips with anger, hate and abject corniness that is interesting to listen to, but less so if you digest it outright. So, maybe we should go ahead and offer the album to these climate extremists as some sort of anthem. Or at least a fraction of it, because the whole shebang is so painfully long.
Finsterforst noodles about this Post Black Metal soundscape somewhat aimlessly, in a way that the jungle-laden Amazonas never dared to meander. The band is of course known for its lengthy compositions and endless tracks. But this record takes the cake.
To grace us with Ecce Homo (behold the man) of some 36 minutes really tested my patience. Having lengthy pieces in your records to get some flow is feasible of course. But only if the theme and make are really artfully done.
But here I am not so sure.
In a sense, Finsterforst made a stew and threw everything into the pot that they currently have available. With the hope that many hours of cooking will generate something tasty in return. But – alas – they forgot most of the spices. So, the only thing they succeeded in creating is pottage. And this is a weak point Mach Dich Frei already suffered from, which they did not improve on.
Yet, Zerfall is true Finsterforst.
You got all the elements that were present before, but presented at a refined level of maturity. And that’s good.
Or is it?
You see, the somewhat rough treatment Mach Dich Frei inflicted on your eardrums was not all that bad. It gave an edge to a production that would have sat there somewhat astray in the soundscape otherwise. Whereas here we got a similar tune, with a tad more complexity, but also less bite than before. With some additional pseudo-oriental strumming à la Whispered that kind of sit there without making a lot of sense.
That said, Zerfall brandishes a meatier delivery of the clear vocals and less focus on rasps. Which is – good in a way. Even if the ubiquitous ooohing and aahing sometimes disturbs, before the clear voice lets loose. Yet there’s pretty fierce emotion in those lyrics Finsterforst deliver. So methinks that Oliver Berlin and Johannes Joseph really felt for the subject matter they covered.
And what about these lengthy tracks?
I did appreciate Zerfall – the somewhat epic title offering – that brings all of Finsterforst‘s goodness to the forefront. With powerful chanting by the band that would befit outfits like Tyr. So, why am I not surprised to find the video for this specific tune on the mighty internet. It is – after all – the one track that does feel at least somewhat commercial.
Weltenbrand even boasts some of that powerful riffing that Rotting Christ is often guilty for. Another powerful piece that other bands will just have trouble to surpass.
As to the rest, I would have wished that Finsterforst would not have lost themselves so much in revisiting old soundscapes. A crisper structure, a more energetic and stringent choice of sub-themes would have gone a long way towards better quality. Yet, Zerfall contains these mushy holdalls that seem to consolidate all the ideas the Finsterforst crew ever had. All of that strewn together somehow into works that would otherwise clarify as records in themselves.
In the end, Finsterforst nonetheless got us a powerful and varied piece of Extreme Metal that is truly enjoyable. In a very geeky kind of way, with mud all over our faces. Yet, the lack of structure and – indeed – focus did not help matters. And – in this sense – this failed to drive better quality, compared to past records.
But in all, Zerfall gets you this manly piece of much metal that can play on your music machine for many hours. And into the night, if that takes your fancy. It is like taking a ride down them wavy mountain streams in this Black Forest of theirs. Or more through a bleak forest, if you care to latch on to the theme more closely.
Get dat tune: