Wederganger imagine the dead returning to walk the earth on violent ‘Halfvergaan ontwaakt’

Wederganger-2015People are super into zombies right now. Like, really, really excited about them. I’m not really complaining about it, as I’ve been a big fan of George Romero’s work (the “Living Dead” movies essentially were made in Meat Mead Metal’s backyard), but it’s just interesting to see the fervor that has overtaken pop culture.

I don’t know if that’s what Wederganger had in mind when adopting that name for their band (you know, zombies and all), but the moniker means “one who walks again.” Well, that kind of would mean a zombie, but I guess there are many different ways of looking at it. One way or another, their music is chilling and terrifying, if trying to tell the story of a world inhabited by both the living and the dead. They have a strange way of going about things, and they sing in their Dutch native tongue, so there’s no way for me to really understand what’s going on. But I know what I feel when I hear the music on their ferocious debut “Halfvergaan ontwaakt,” and their strange, oppressive form of black metal is heavy, bewildering, an unlike most of what else is out there.

WedergangerCoverThis odd band that hails from the Netherlands has an interesting structure. There are three core members in Botmuyl (he does the growling and screaming), Alfschin (who handles the ghostly, warbling singing), and MJWW (he takes care of guitars). But when this band expands to the stage, they take on added members including Bezetene (guitars), Quaetslagher and Gluyperd (both play bass), and Onmens (who sits behind the drums). It’s an interesting arrangement that I assume lets the primary members create their visions in the studio, and their added members allow them to translate these terrors live. The band’s music is inspired by Germanic eschatology and Gueldrian folklore, with an emphasis on spirits, the undead, and overall horror. I’ll be damned if the music’s aura doesn’t pay that off rather perfectly.

“Dwaallichtbezwering” begins the record with disarming guitars, sobs that turn into screams, and monotone singing that sounds detached from the earth. The track hammers forward, punishing and causing bruising along the way, while the final moments are mesmerizing and violent. “Gelderse Drek” opens with black metal-style guitars cascading, while vicious, gurgly growls spill over and the pace just goes off. The overall sense of the song turns to haunting, while throaty, talk-like singing takes over as the horrors bleed out. “Dodendans” is the longest cut at 7:49, and it steers into buzzing, yet reflective winds, burly clean singing, and disorienting guitars the sweep into the picture. The track takes on a hazy, overcast feel, like a warm summer afternoon devoid of sun, and a psychedelic wave comes lapping in before the track returns to full, relentless boil. “Wera Wulfa” has dizzying riffs that meet up with deep, gut-wrenching growls and bouts of severe hypnosis. The playing draws to a trickle, eating away ever so slowly at you before the eruption returns and leaves everything in the dust.

“Vlammenvonnis” brings back reminders of that dreary summer afternoon, only now the rains have come and fall just enough to soak you slowly. Clean crooning starts you on your path, but then you meet up with devastating growls, dramatic section of melodies, and an explosive burst into full speed, leaving you absolutely flattened. Toward the end, calm arrives, the singing returns, and then it’s off to “Schimmenspel,” which is a strange, mind-altering instrumental cut. Here, pianos drip, strange noises smear the scene, and weird echoes drive home the sense of vertigo. “Walmend Graf” picks up the intensity again with chunky riffs, guitars catching fire, and harsh vocals rushing back again. There are odd, clean calls over what feels like the chorus, and after a dose of manic assaults, the song rounds itself back to the beginning. Closer “Zwarte Gedachten” has guitars charging up right away, deep growls that almost sound like monstrous dialog, and eventually the grip loosens so the music can shimmer a bit. Melodies and violence intertwine down the stretch, each taking the advantage from time to time, and the song ends with a grim vocal display and every death-teasing element fading into your nightmares.

Maybe one day the dead really will walk the earth, and we’ll look at bands such as Wederganger as one of those visionaries that tried to warn us of what’s ahead. “Halfvergaan ontwaakt” is an interesting collection, one that really stands out from a lot of the swollen black metal pack for its unique strangeness. This band is one you’ll want to spend a dark evening alongside, preferably with a room-temperature stout as your mental guide, and slip into the terrifying world Wederganger celebrates.

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