Kerbenok - O
Northern Silence Productions
Pagan Black Metal
10 songs (71'26")
Release year: 2008, Northern Silence
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

Truthfully, I did not see this one coming. Not so soon anyway. It seems just only very recently I reviewed an EP from German pagan black metal band Kerbenok, Der Erde Entwachsen (Gewolte Wunden) and, although the potential for excellence was present, all different themes and directions on the EP remained too far apart to create one cohesive picture. It seems that the duo of Stefan Drechsler and Christopher Duis did not waste their time to come up with an impressive O, their first full-length, to shove my words right back into in my face. Why? Because despite the multitude of diverse wrinkles and influences still present on multi-dimensional O, the Germans now have their act consistently together. Moreover, the EP, capable and all, did not even remotely hint at the power and conviction with which the music is delivered here on O.

The full album, unlike the EP, is a wonderful amalgam of various black metal styles. The long epic pieces like Im Kreise Ziehen wir Unsere Runden and Heimstatt in Trümmern combine progressive Enslaved approach, thrash outbursts, dreamy post-rock shoegazing melodies and militaristic marching. From measured rustic pagan attitude to wistful passages to persistent and progressive sections, Heimstatt in Trümmern doesn’t want to end, slipping into a temporary symphonic calm before the storm moment only to continue where it left off. In O Kerbenok has on display a complex yet interconnected kaleidoscope, which is deeply rooted in primal spirit. Often avoiding relentless blastbeats and speedpicking melodies, except for the intentional showcase in the opening intro Aus der Stille … where idyllic is being crushed halfway through, Kerbenok manages to avoid the stereotypical Nordic coldness while still remaining the minstrels of nature. Only their landscapes are not mountainous and/or covered with snow. Instead, they are located five-ten degrees of longitude lower, amidst wooded areas of Northern Germany. Less region specific, Stefan and Christopher still manage to parlay the harshness of the surroundings, even if at times the atmosphere is a bit more festive (Frihet er Vares).

While the world surrounding Kerbenok is mostly rugged and austere, bringing in guest musicians and authentic folk instruments allows the softer moments to inject pointedly and strategically, to provide just the right amount of contrast (flute waves in Hardangervidda, clavier notes in Verstandes Klinge, quiet moonlight acoustics of Frihet er Vares and the instrumental interlude Waldfrieden). The vocals have similar approach. The majority of singing is croaky Grutle Kjellsson style, periodically accented by pompous spoken voice in Die Schwere unserer Glieder and forest maiden Mother Earth female beckoning in the closer das was noch kommen mag.

It is sad to see that Kerbenok has to temporarily disband with Stefan leaving to Iceland for studies, because in a very short span of time, the band went from “promising” to “must hear”, joining the club of Enslaved, Negura Bundet and Klabautamann, the bands where strong pagan black roots are played through complex progressive compositions and strong musicianship, not hokeyness and cheap artistry.

Killing Songs :
Heimstatt in Trümmern, Hardangervidda, das was noch kommen mag
Alex quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Kerbenok that we have reviewed:
Kerbenok - Der Erde Entwachsen (Gewollte Wunden) reviewed by Alex and quoted 63 / 100
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