German autumn lethargy

HERBSTLETHARGIE: Melancholie Im Blattfall

Release year: 2022
Label: Northern Silence Productions

There’s no mistaking it, looking at the cover of German Herbstlethargie’s debut album: atmospheric black metal is the name of the game. And, considering both project title (German for “autumn lethargy”) and album title (German, again, for “melancholy in the time of falling leaves”) speak of sad emotional states and autumn, it comes as no surprise that the album is laden with… well, autumnal melancholia.

Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve, eh!

Or, from another point of view, I guess sole member Herbst – which is German for “autumn”, further revealing a pattern here – is just being frank and up-front about what his project is all about. Needless to say, we get it.

From the first moments of Melancholie Im Blattfall, there is a lot that is instantly and inherently familiar to anyone who’s ever listened to an atmospheric black metal album since, I dunno, Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss or early Drudkh or whatever. In other words: a guitar tone like autumnal fog with plenty of tremolo picking riffs that still never get very aggressive or abrasive; torturous, screaming vocals – though not as hysteric and painful as Varg Vikernes’ vocals; rather simplistic synth arrangements that support the guitars; and, of course, soft, acoustic intros, outros and interludes to weave even further atmospheres.

So Herbstlethargie bring absolutely nothing new to the table with their soft, atmospheric, melancholic, even tender black metal which leans towards mid-tempo despite speeding up at times. And herein lies the greatest shortcoming of the act and the album: it’s all very dime-a-dozen, run-of-the-mill, been-there-done-that. There’s no strong individuating element or unique characteristic to this album. Instead, it drowns in a sea of like-minded autumnal, atmospheric and melancholic black metal albums like a yellow leaf on the forest floor this time of year.

Still, Melancholie Im Blattfall is not without its moments. As much as it is faceless and generic, it is also laden with genuinely nice moments of slow, melancholic atmospherics and weeping melodies. Herbst has certainly done his homework, and knows what it takes to make this kind of black metal grab your attention. As those who’ve read this blog for a while may have realized, I’m more of a bestial black metal kind of guy, who prefers white knuckles and foam at the mouth over sensitive atmospherics, and as such I’m really, really easily turned off by this kind of stuff.

But I’ve listened to Melancholie Im Blattfall many times, and I’m not tired of it. So that’s saying something.

Honestly, not every track works. There are sections that bore me no end, soft interludes that I could do without, and a lot of this and that here and there that I’m not too keen on. But as a whole, the album really manages to capture something of this season of the year in music, something of the forlorn, almost tragic beauty of autumn.

On the one hand, Herbstlethargie is dreadfully unoriginal and generic. On the other hand, in all its generic predictability, Melancholie Im Blattfall succeeds in creating evocative, beautiful atmospheres in a way that lesser proponents of the genre don’t.

This album is certainly nothing for the ages. It’s one you’ll most likely forget about soon. But for the while you listen to it, it will grab hold of a small piece of your soul and paint vivid images of the dying colors of autumn. This gives me hope for Herbstlethargie: at the moment, the project is a bit of a forgettable row, but there’s more than enough here for the one-man entity to grow into something more.

Visit Herbstlethargie on Bandcamp or Facebook

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