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Noekk - Waltzing in Obscurity CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.97 | 6 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars One of the things that I love about the band Noekk is their ability to take dark atmospheres and infuse folk music and folklore into it all, making it heavy, brooding music, but not really relying on metal to convey their unique sound. My interest in the band Agalloch basically led me to the band on a search for interesting and exciting heavy music, and it was inevitable that I would eventually be led to Noekk.

The band is from Germany and founded in 2004 by two musicians formerly from the dark metal band Empyrium. The music is all performed by these two multi-instrumentalists Thomas Helm and Markus Stock, who go by the aliases of Funghus Baldachin (vocals, keyboards, guitar) and F.F. Yugoth (drums, bass, guitar, mixing) respectively. The album 'Waltzing into Obscurity' is the bands fourth album, released 11 years after their previous album.

Starting with the title track (7:23), the album begins with an orchestral effect, synths sounding like an orchestra of woodwinds with a mellotron sound. Suddenly, guitars erupt into heavy riffs and the organ creates a dark foundation as the almost operatic, deep and husky vocals start. The music is as amazing as ever, with a tricky and changing meter, the progressiveness is very apparent. Layers of synth trade places back and forth with complex guitar riffs, and the entire sound remains dark, at times recalling the early prog sensibilities of King Crimson. The vocals might be a little off putting at first, but your ear will become attuned to them. The vocal melodies are almost hymn like, but with a definite evil undertone to them. A surprising warbly synth solo closes out the track.

So now you have your first taste of the band on this album. As we move on to Perseus (5:01), the beat is a little more upbeat, but the monk style vocals continue and contrast the slightly brighter tone of the track. As it continues, the non-standard lyrical structure takes on a lighter tone and the synth riffs continue to keep the track on the brighter side. There is still a dark symphonic feel to it all even with the dark guitars churning along later. 'The Mirror' (4:10) is a bit more acoustic sounding with sustained organ notes anchoring the track. The slow rhythm picks up a bit towards the middle, and the guitars take on the attitude of an old western soundtrack. The folkish aspect of the music definitely reminds one of Agalloch's music, just on a more instrumentally diverse level which has a well-balanced amount of both guitars and keys throughout the music.

'The Giant' (4:46) begins with a dark piano riff which suddenly explodes with more intensity when the full band comes in. As usual, the music is quite diverse and dynamic, moving from heavy passages to softer, yet equally dark sections. The attitude of the music seems to be similar to 'Storm Corrosion', but at times, surprisingly punchier as in this track. But the complexity remains throughout, the music never falling into the traditional melody structure, avoiding the verse ' chorus structure completely. The music later slips into a lovely and pensive section later with soft chimes. In contrast to that, 'On Summits' (4:23) explodes into heavier action and the vocals are even thicker, almost growling at some points, only to later brighten to a major key, then going back to minor later. Even though most of these songs seem to stay in the 4 ' 6 minute range, they are still quite dense with musical ideas and changing structures, and quite well developed.

'Mortlach' (3:03) is a dynamic instrumental that retains the dark symphonic sound, laying somewhere in the gap between 'Opeth' and 'Storm Corrosion' also retaining the folk sensibilities. 'The Windwalker' (4:31) takes on a lighter attitude with layered synth and acoustic guitar, but the same dark, monk-like vocals. Even though it is lighter, it still stays complex, and quickly changes to darker and heavier sections. The most amazing thing here is the way the songs seem like epic anthems, yet mostly manage to stay below 5 minutes, and this can make them sound a bit dense at first. Be sure to listen to the deeper layers and to not be taken aback by the sometimes dense feel of the tracks.

'The Secret Beaker' (5:33) begins with a surprisingly smooth and pensive feel in the beginning, and quite a lovely melody. Deep harmonized vocals later become more airy, and now it reminds me of 'Ulver' with their soft and sinister vocals, yet beautiful accompaniment. During the first instrumental break, there is a lovely exchange between acoustic guitar, organ and keys. The last track is 'The Lily of Reverence' (5:29) which continues in the same dark and dynamic style as before.

Early on with my experience with this album, I have to say that my personal highlights here include 'The Secret Beaker', 'Waltzing in Obscurity', 'Morllach' and 'The Giant', however, I can see that with repeated listening, that all of these track will easily grow on me, as they are quite dynamic and have a great level of complexity to keep the progressive lover in me satisfied for quite some time. It would be nice if there was more variety in the vocal tones, as the husky and deep voices might seem too similar through the tracks, but the level of musicianship and the non-typical song structures should help the listener to keep coming back for more until the sound grows on you. The music is powerful, lovely, dark and sometimes a bit louder, but never to extreme levels on any of those fronts. Lovers of dark, post-metal music with a touch of folk sensibilities will enjoy this album. Those that love Agalloch and possibly Ulver should find a lot to love about this album and this band for that matter. After all is said and done, this is a strong 4 star album.

TCat | 4/5 |


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