Klabautamann or, for all the non-German speakers, Davy Jones, is a German black metal band that blends together folk, prog and classic black metal. Their new album, Smaragd, which came out on the 9th of June, is truly a gem. But for the record to open up its lock and reveal the treasure within, you have to listen to it, work for it. Like the sea, it’s a fickle mistress and it’s hard to understand the album’s siren song. Without being flashy or overdoing things, Smaragd does something I see less and less. While it isn’t the most innovative, it does everything that is accomplished here to near perfection.
To give you an insight about the album’s sound, I’m going to introduce the first song, “Into Depression”. Starting off with an acoustic guitar line, which runs through a chorus and a little lead from a smooth, distorted guitar, the song gives off a progressive vibe more than a black metal one. That is, of course, until the drums kick into the foreground at full speed, blasting away. Meanwhile, the smooth lead line goes into a thrashing, tremolo picked leviathan, adding chords to the mix. After only seconds, a harsh guttural voice adds to the very classic black metal sound. The occasional choir takes off the edge a little bit. However, these elements disappear just as quickly as they arrive. The drum plays half tempo, while the guitar goes into a harp-like fingerpicking riff. This wouldn’t be the dynamic album it is if the next change didn’t come quickly though. One can hear the distorted guitar brooding in the background, trying to get its grip back into the forefront of the track. A build up follows and then disappears completely. We are introduced back into the harp-like sound with clean vocals. Moving to the end of the song, one last burst of distorted black metal goodness awaits us, raging until the track ends.
This song is a good example of the overall sound of the band. They are very spontaneous and energetic but like to have mellow tracks that really let the distorted parts fight for their place. Of course, there is much more to discover, like the track “In My Shadow”, which features a lot of jazzy parts and a very present bass line. Another example is “Enemies’ Blood”, which really brought out my inner black metal fan with its Burzum-esque sound.
This record was the treasure chest in sunken ship for me. It does everything in its might to concoct an intricate, emotional experience for the listener. A record that feels personal and almost invites the listener to a conversation is a rare occurrence. While there are minor flaws like weak production in a few parts of the album, one can forgive Smaragd pretty easily. For me, Klabautamann has created one of the best black metal records this year and it’s certain that I will put this as one of my AOTY’s.
Notable Tracks: “Into Depression”
FFO: Farsot, Krallice