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On disc: Simple Existenz

Das Leben vor dem Tod - Mike Thompson - 8 stars

Das Leben vor dem Tod

Das Leben vor dem Tod
(Ván Records - 2010)

Das Leben vor dem Tod is the first album from Zorn, the former guitarist of German black metal band Nagelfar which split up in 2002.
Stylistically this album is very close to the Swedish band Shining, fronted by the infamous Niklas Kvarforth, however I would hesitate to label Simple Existenz' music as 'suicidal black metal' for the simple reason that on the whole its not the least bit depressing or suicidal. What Das Leben vor dem Tod is is very minimalistic, almost no-frills metal. There is no jaw-dropping guitar twiddling, no real sing-along choruses or dazzling displays of technical wizardry and the album has a distinctly under-produced feel to it which I'd wager is deliberate.
The guitar is the driving force of the music, whether acoustic or electric, along with the vocals. The drumming is overall quite simplistic and an extra dimension is occasionally added by some nice synth parts, particularly at the end of album finisher Schaben.
Despite its basic feel the music on this album is on the whole quite gripping. I found my head nodding along to some parts, my ears prick up at a particularly good and well-thought out riff and generally I found something to enjoy in every song. Album highlights for me included Die See and the rocker Mein Licht but there is no real filler at all and all the songs have something redeeming about them. There are a lot of influences from different genres that I can see on this album, from the groovy riff of Mein Licht that wouldn't be out of place on a hard rock album, to the almost drone feel of In Frühjahrsschnee and the doomy Harren und Hoffen.
Of course there are some parts of this album that I didn't like. The vocals on Schaben are horrendous, for example and for me ruin what musically is one of my favourite songs on the album. Generally the vocals are pretty good clean vocals with a bit of grit, in fact they sound of lot like Wieland of one-man Viking metal band Nebelhorn, and the singer even descends into black metal rasps on In Frühjahrsschnee. For some reason though, on Schaben the singer utilises some high pitched screams, possibly to convey some feeling of horror. They certainly succeed but for me its horror at the singer's technique more than whatever he is screaming about.
Overall though, an enjoyable listen! Something I certainly wasn't expecting when I pressed play and a really nice surprise, even if I do have some reservations about certain parts of it. Definitely something I'd recommend to fans of Shining and to those people for whom technical wizardry does not always mean good music.

8 stars

Mike Thompson


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