It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s a moment to savour: that discovery of a new, exciting band crafting music that ticks every box in your preferences list. Germany’s Der Rote Milan achieve exactly that on Moritat, their second full-length album. (Find the CD, LP and Merch here.) Smothering nihilism and blistering rage offset by painfully delicate melodic interludes, combining Drudkh-like atmosphere with Dark Fortress’ technicality, overlaid on a vicious blast furnace of a rhythm section. Factor in that the entire album’s thematic content is built on historic stories surrounding Schinderhannes, a folk hero in the vein of Robin Hood, and it’s hard not to get hooked.
From a technical perspective, the melodeath-inspired guitar work, replete with open, ringing arpeggios contrasting with sustained, crushing chords – see “Gnosis der Vergänglichkeit” as an apt illustration – is simply stunning, easily equalling anything produced by the likes of Naglfar or Old Man’s Child. The compositional chops this relatively young band (their first album, Aus der Asche (read our review here), was only released in 2016) have at their disposal is best shown by “Der Letzte Galgen”; its minimalist introduction of vocal and feedback-laced guitar only, shifting gears into a sudden and consuming frontal assault is one of the catchiest hooks in recent black metal.
While many bands produce quality tracks, it is rare to find such a well-crafted song for a change. And that’s something to really appreciate in today’s musical climate: songwriting is becoming a lost art, in much the same way that MTV is no longer music television. The evocative, emotional music of Moritat showcases the technicality of melodic black metal while weaving in a folk-like texture that wraps the whole in achingly human sentiment.
Get a taste for the album via the single “Drohende Schatten”.
Then there’s the title track, a twelve-minute monster that closes the record. Longer-form compositions may have become a staple of atmospheric and post-black metal, but “Moritat” exhibits one trait that most hardly ever manage: engagement. The fluctuating moods and melodies make for a listening experience that leaves one in rapt anticipation of the next shift or hook. The single defining characteristic of Moritat must be its attention to detail: pacing, arrangement, production… every aspect works together in darkly beautiful synergy.
Like some marvel of black metal engineering, Der Rote Milan have created an album that is functional in its expression of human darkness, yet aesthetically enchanting at the same time.
Moritat Track Listing:
01. Die Habsucht
02. Drohende Schatten
03. Gnosis der Verganglichkeit
04. Der letzte Galgen
05. Der Findling
Run Time: 40:54
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Record Label: Unholy Conspiracy Deathwork