Urfaust - Untergang
Van Records
Black Metal, Ambient
7 songs (37:26)
Release year: 2023
Van Records
Reviewed by Goat

Twenty years and seven full-length albums into their one-of-a-kind career, and Dutch black metal pioneers Urfaust have called time. The duo of IX and VRDRBR have been a distinct and unique band throughout, playing an atmospheric and near-ambient form of black metal with those disturbing chanted vocals. And yet all things must come to an end; echoed in the package here, which from the cover art showing a passed-out demon worshipping at the bar to the song titles all referring to various forms of demise or finality, is a message of farewell to the listeners. Listening to the songs themselves, Urfaust hardly sound happy about it; Untergang ('downfall') is a collection of harrowing rituals, exclamations of pain and suffering, wavering in and out of consciousness like the deeply drunken demon of the cover.

The opening title track is immediate and churning, the doom-inflected riffing acting almost as a launchpad for IX's tortured howls. As it progresses the ambient nature of their music rises to the fore, an almost shimmering melody hanging in the air and later turning ominous and ugly. This is not, of course, pleasant music, as the following Höllenkosmos ('hell cosmos') proves immediately with its blackened buzzing, the vocals turning to more distant shrieks that uncannily reverberate behind the riffs far longer than they should. After that, the more straightforward doomy pound of Leere ('emptiness') feels almost rocking by comparison even with more of the eerie screeching, extended to the point where it feels like a void you're permanently falling into. It's all an intense and gripping reminder of how wonderfully atmospheric Urfaust can be when they try, transporting to you an alcohol-drenched nightmare at the drop of a glass.

Elsewhere, it's hard to distinguish between ambient interludes such as Reliquienstaub ('relic dust') and more significant album tracks like Vernichtung ('annihilation') because they share so much musical DNA, with buzzing noise fading in and out. It all leads up to the perfect finale for this album; the opening riff of Abgrund ('abyss') creaks in like a door slowly opening. Hovering for a moment, it launching into a queasily rolling blackened rumble, the dementedly operatic vocals emanating from the void as though to conduct the strange symphony. Towards the end, it doesn't so much fade out as brown out, the music blurrily slinking away, growing more and more distant as though you were being carried off to an unconsciousness that you will never emerge from...

Pages could and should be written about the impact that lesser-known bands such as this have had on individuals, let alone on the scene as a whole. Many a bright-eyed young scamp's enthusiasm for life has been smothered under a weight of alcoholic reality hitting like a brick to the head, and few bands could so adroitly soundtrack the drunken ritual of life on earth as Urfaust. They'll be missed with the same ardour as a reformed alcoholic missing that last sweet sip.

Killing Songs :
Untergang, Leere, Abgrund
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Urfaust that we have reviewed:
Urfaust - The Constellatory Practice reviewed by Andy and quoted 75 / 100
Urfaust - Der freiwillige Bettler reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
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