Release year: 2021
Label: Headbangers Records
Belgian Gotmoor are one of those bands with a long history, but little in terms of discography to show for it: originally formed in 1996, they released a bunch demos, a demo compilation and one album before calling it quits in 2005. Then, they reformed in 2010 and took a whopping 11 years to produce another album.
Well, what’s the rush, eh?
Still, I’m not sure if the 11 years of fermenting this particular stew can really be heard on Zonderlingen (which, apparently, translates to “odd men”). It’s not that the album is bad – because it isn’t – it’s just very familiar. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing if I meant it sounded like Gotmoor’s earlier material, but I don’t. I’ve never heard Gotmoor before.
The thing is, this sounds like so many early noughties and turn-of-the-millennium black metal bands. Melodic tremolo-picking riffs, speedy tempos, and a dense sound that’s somewhere between foggy and soft. At times it sounds a bit like Belphegor with the death metal elements toned down, and even more melody in the riffs. The occasional atmospheric addition of synths, synth choirs or the likes only makes this sound more like some lost album from 15-20 years ago. At other times I’m reminded of Austrian Hollenthon – who released their three albums just in the era I mentioned – and scarcely surprising, just like that symphonic extreme metal band, apart from the obvious black metal classics, the promo sheet mentions Gotmoor have also drawn influence from symphonic soundtracks and classical music.
To be sure, Gotmoor do what they do quite adequately. There are definitely things to commend here, such as the nice, hoarse rasp in the vocals. But in the end, it’s hard to get very excited about Zonderlingen when it sounds like the kind of stuff you heard far too much of back in the day. Kind of like, when you’ve had three big helpings of ice cream, a fourth won’t get you very excited even if it’s lemon-licorice.
And that exactly is why Zonderlingen isn’t very rewarding to listen to: though very well made, it feels like yesterday’s stew.
Ultimately though, I suppose there will be enough of people out there who’ve not got their fill (and then some) of this kind of material, like I have. For them, most likely Zonderlingen will hit the sweet spot: melodic but raw, atmospheric but still speedy, and with a good clear sound to boot, this is certainly the kind of stuff there’s always a demographic for.
But this page is not about them and their opinions. Damn it, this is about me, me, ME and what I like and think about things! And personally, my opinion is that Zonderlingen is a finely crafted album full of rather unengaging material.
Summary: 20 years late to the party, Zonderlingen is an adequate piece of symphonic-yet-raw black metal that saw it’s best-before date a decade or two ago.