Karg, the brainchild of Harakiri For The Sky’s J.J., have returned with ‘Dornenvögel’, their 6th album. Originally a one-man project for J.J., it has blossomed into a fully-fledged blackened metal outfit with an affinity for melancholic yet scathing music. Listeners of Harakiri or other blackened metal groups like Deafheaven or Planning For Burial will find ‘Dornenvögel’s grim sound deeply comfortable.
‘Drangsal’ is a slow-burning opener, and one of the strongest 10-minute stints on the album. A bleak wave of sound is slowly crafted by J.J, with scowled vocals being gradually surrounded by soaring cymbal crashes and grinding guitar melodies. There’s an air of familiarity to it, but its icy atmosphere feels as alien as can be.
And this is one of the coldest sounding albums of the year. It revels in its own wintry sound, exhaling its brutal, dark condensation for all to witness. ‘F 19.5’ is a particularly bracing song, a twelve-minute odyssey that sounds as furious as it does distant. The vocals are abrasively delivered, holding their own against the meandering riffs that hold it together. It’s quieter moments are carefully layered, featuring a piano performance that dances carefully on the weight of the song.
‘Dornenvögel’ does it’s best to balance its intense sadness with powerful furore. ‘Meine Freiheit war ihr Tod’ is a more aggressive track, kicking off in the middle of an ascending chorus of noise. It doesn’t ever peter out, but rather feels like it’s taking a breather before returning to take another shot at exhausting you over and over again.
At its heart, that’s how ‘Dornenvögel’ feels. A series of impassioned, harsh tracks that never really let their guard down for too long. ‘Petrichor’ anchors on this feeling, both vulnerable and aggressive at once. In a year dominated by some of the best, bleakest albums we’ve had in a long time, J.J. cements his long-standing status as a songwriting powerhouse.
‘Dornenvögel’ by Karg is out now by AOP Records.
Words by Sam Seaton (@citrus_music_)