Ketzer – Starless (2016)

These Germans play black metal and if you’d gotten a chance to look up a recent band photo, you might not even guess that. Obviously the genre has evolved along with the world itself and the days of sticky corpse paint and devil worship have nearly been left behind. It’s true that these guys debuted with a record in ’09 called Satan’s Boundaries Unchained and like most black metal, it dealt with topics of that nature. But here we have a more forward-thinking black metal act that doesn’t feel the need to dress up or purvey some sort of weird occultic image in order to garner attention. Because when you see these guys in public, they look just like any other German dudes. They don’t even look like they’d play in a metal band, and that’s just fine with me. As for Starless (of which I’m sure has nothing to do with the King Crimson record and the repulsive hentai visual novel bearing the same likeness) it comes across as a very modern black metal disc, quite like the kind in which you can hear bands like Satyricon and Secrets Of The Moon playing a huge role. While many people seem to compare the band to fellow Germans Desaster, some also seem to equate them with Destroyer 666 of which this record bears little to no resemblance. What you’re actually getting here is black metal with an almost progressive touch in the riffs, making me think there’s a bit of a modern-era Enslaved influence on display here. “When Milk Runs Dry” is a great example of this, but it’s not the only unique touch they’ve added here. “Godface” sounds like a melancholic rock song with tremolos and even carries an unheard of backing shout, like the kind you might hear in hardcore. It sounds equally odd when there is a sort of mid-era Paradise Lost goth-rock sort of thing going on here, equally as puzzling as it is interesting. Of course, we didn’t really need the ridiculously short acoustics of “Hunger” and “Silence and Sound” but they do help to build the atmosphere if you’re listening to the record as a whole, of which I think very few people will actually do.

“White Eyes” comes off pretty damn memorable however, making me think a little bit of Melechesh or current-era Rotting Christ in it’s middle-eastern melodies. While it’s not something we haven’t heard before, you’ve really got to give it to these Germans as they’ve definitely been doing their research. As a matter of fact, that little piece flows right into a nearly twelve minute monster called “Shaman’s Dance” which seems to alternate between a sledgehammer and a stick of patchouli, making for an atmosphere that isn’t just volatile, it’s also quite meditative. But don’t worry, there’s still enough room for your head to bang and it most certainly will during the heavier sections. Also, you may want to take note of the little solo piece that appears right near the very end, as that really cements the whole fucking thing for me. “Earthborn” seems to continue that shamanistic vibe, with an unexpected ending that rolls right into black n’ roll. The record also has a bit of a surprise ending, which sounds like the credits to a film shot somewhere in the western desert. Starless certainly has a sort of hippie black metal vibe, yet it definitely accomplishes exactly what it takes to transcend the boundaries of black metal in today’s society. Some might cry that it’s blasphemy, but I feel it’s a necessary evolution and well-worth listening to. It’s upsetting that I can’t spend more time with this one because I have so many more to cover on my list, but if you let this one pass you by, now is the perfect time to grab it.

(10 Tracks, 45:00)

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