First of all, I can go on at length about the importance of “supporting your local” – be it pub, football team, farm store or, in this case, black metal band. In an age of increasing globalization, mediocrity becomes the norm as the majority of creative producers (artists, musicians, etc…) have to tone down what makes them unique in an effort to reach a wider, more homogenous audience.
Thankfully, the law of averages means that as some creatives follow this route, others follow the alternative approach, following a more polarized, focused process in developing content that maintains its particular character. Fluisteraars celebrate their Dutch heritage, their European affinity for nature and paganism and a lack of concern for what other black metal bands are pursuing, as evidenced by the album language (the album name roughly translates as ‘embraced by the spirit of the awakening soul’), the lyrical and visual themes addressed and the distinct lack of leather, spikes or corpse paint.
Three tracks, thirty-five minutes. A sprawling, improvisational and authentic expression in every way.
Secondly, there’s the actual process followed by Fluisteraars in crafting this album. The recording is organic, unpretentious and untainted by studio trickery: Gegrepen Door de Deest der Zielsontluiking was recorded in a minimalist, DIY studio with live instrument tracking, single takes and no overdubs of any kind. This disregard for more contemporary methods speaks of one guiding principle, in my mind: a focus on what matters – the music itself. The net result is one of purity and an authenticity that sets the record apart from so many of its contemporaries.
While other natural heritage black metal artists (Drudkh, Winterfylleth…) are undeniably delightful and evocative to listen to, in comparison with this Fluisteraars record they do fall a little flat in terms of raw emotion. Consequently, what comes across on Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking is less of a studio album, more of an intimate live session – that same sense of personal connection is extremely strong. Few other artists manage this effectively, but notable among these is the Quebecois outfit Trépas (whose last record I reviewed here). This phenomenon is one I value highly, personally, especially in these dark days where live music is only starting to emerge from its forced COVID hibernation.
Which brings me to the third area of interrogation – the style. Atmospheric black metal (ABM) as a genre is packed to the gills with bands, artists and composers and, sadly, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick through the rubble to find really strong examples. I find more and more that I return to the classics, such as the two aforementioned bands, or the likes of Italy’s Selvans or even Fluisteraars’ countrymen, Urfaust, when looking for my ABM fix.
All too often, the musical expression is bogged down in cutesy, tweed-clad folk melodies and acoustic singalong chorusing without enough attention being given to the black metal side of the equation that spawned the genre so long ago with the likes of (dare I say it for fear of being cancelled) Burzum. There’s a time and place for the nail-gauntleted necro madness of second-wave black metal, but the honesty and simplicity of purpose behind bands celebrating nature and history rather than the immediately polarizing themes of politics or religion is something to be treasured when it’s done right. And Fluisteraars definitely achieve that.
Taking all this into account, there is little left to say: Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting releases of 2021 and a very fitting – if stylistically evolved and conceptually more ambitious – follow-up to 2020’s Bloem, itself a strongly curated record celebrating nature and beauty. The greatest difference is the level of mediation: Bloem was in many ways a very considered piece, while Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking translates as something more visceral and spontaneous.
Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking Track Listing:
1. Het overvleugelen der meute
2. Brand woedt in mijn graf
3. Verscheuring in de schemering
Run Time: 35:45
Release Date: August 27, 2021
Record Label: Eisenwald