When reviewing new music, it’s almost unavoidable to stop occasionally and go, “Hey, that sounds a bit like… (insert band name here).” This trap becomes even harder to escape when dealing with a niche genre like black metal, despite its many sub-genres and post-incarnations. But even given this inevitability, Dunkle Millennia, the debut full-length from Germany’s Kankar, is something of an anomaly, with its constant references and nods to the past. Whether it’s the rock-solid song structures reminding us of Satyricon’s excellent foundations, or complex riffs à la Taake or even the driving black n’ roll groove of Vreid, there’s an ever-present sense of black metal’s history driving this fresh, young and powerful voice in the scene.
And to top it all off, the whole package is neatly finished with an exceptional attention to melody and musicianship that would make Eisenwald labelmates Uada either proud of their legacy or wary of their position at the top of the contemporary black metal heap.
The album’s title track leaves no doubt as to Kankar’s respect for the many acts whose paths they now follow.
But that’s where the comparison game gets tricky. Like the aforementioned Uada, Kankar can easily stray into the realm of melodeath, but where Uada’s latest release, Djinn (read our review), tended towards the cleaner, Insomnium end of the spectrum, Dunkle Millennia settles closer to darker and dirtier Kalmah territory (try “Krater in Sarx” for size). This should, however, come as no surprise – Kankar’s 2016 EP, Elemental Fury, was a well-named beast, fueled by raw, emotive energy and there are still traces of that same energy smouldering beneath the polish lent by Marcus Stock’s excellent studio work, of which “Zerfall des Lichts” is a beautifully balanced example.
While the vast array of comparisons and reminiscences that characterize Dunkle Millennia may make identifying or isolating standout moments difficult, it does make for a different overall impression: one of a new direction for German black metal. Kankar may draw inspiration from a broad pool of sources, but the net result is entirely their own. The German-only vocals, for example, already point to a firm stance being taken.
The full album stream is all the impetus you need to go out and buy a physical copy.
On the subject of firm stances, though, I must draw attention to the straight-up heavy metal crunch of “Die Sonne über Ikarus,” then immediately contrast it with the singalong ebb-and-flow of “Der Schütze”: two separate entities with entirely different moods and themes, each masterfully captured with a panache well ahead of Kankar’s apparent inexperience. Dunkle Millennia is only the band’s first album, so they are still finding their feet and experimenting with style: like scene stalwarts before them, Nargaroth, I foresee a chameleon career ahead for this Thuringian duo.
Based on the examples above, Kankar has no difficulty in expressing a wide range of content, but I do expect more focused albums to follow, each with its own flavour and representative of the band at that particular instance. Even so, Dunkle Millennia still has its own charm: youthful exuberance far outweighs any impression of derivative content and the impassioned (and skilled) delivery of Stríð and Plágan reinforces Kankar’s serious devotion to “Thüringer Schwarzmetall” in all its forms.
Dunkle Millennia Track Listing:
2. Krater in Sarx
3. Zerfall des Lichts
5. Thüringer Schwarzmetall
6. Der Schütze
8. Festmahl für die Krähen
10. Die Sonne über Ikarus
11. Dunkle Millennia
Run Time: 44:26
Release Date: March 19, 2021
Record Label: Eisenwald