PICK OF THE WEEK: Germ’s great, personal new record ‘Escape’ deals with mental illness, pain

Photo by Lauren Kate Kennedy-Yatras

Photo by Lauren Kate Kennedy-Yatras

We like to have fun on this site, and by all means, any metal voice that is a million percent serious is ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean we don’t tackle real darkness now and again, the personal kind that can live deep within you and can shape and/or damage who we become as people. That’s far more real than any devil or goblin scene, and it can happen to any of us.

Metal hasn’t been afraid to encounter personal darkness and mental illness and what they can do to a person. Often times, having music that approaches those sensitive grounds can help the listener know they are not alone and the artist shed some blood. One artist that has excelled in that territory is Tim Yatras, the man behind depressive black metal project Germ, whose new record “Escape” is about ready to land in our hands. This, Yatras says, is the most personal Germ record to date, as he pours autobiographical details as well as his bouts dealing with mental illness and disillusionment with society into his art. You actually don’t even need to know those basic details when sitting down to listen to this record. You can just feel those emotions bleeding out and into your pores. It’s a heavy, emotional, at times beautiful record that could not have been an easy document to complete.

Germ coverAs for Yatras, this is his third full-length under the Germ banner, with “Wish” arriving in 2012, nearly a decade after starting this project, and “Grief” landing in 2013. Along with Germ, Yatras is known for his work with bands such as Woods of Desolation, Austere, Autumn’s Dawn, Blackened Angel, and a slew more. As for Germ, this isn’t merely another drop in the pool of depressive black metal bands that are welling up. There are elements of New Wave and goth in the mix, which certainly diverts it away from the gathering crowd, and the music often feels so foggy and misty, you might lose your way trying to get to the other side. But the journey trying to find the exit is worth the excursion.

The record begins with introductory track “I” that plinks and has orchestral-style keys, and it sweeps into the title track, where sounds flood and a somber melody rushes through. Yatras’ growls are deep and wrenching, sounding full of woe, as the song bursts with emotion. A cold tempo arrives, letting cool winds blow in, before the original body of the song returns for one last strike before strings help it fade away. “I’ll Give Myself to the Wind” starts with trickling guitars and post-rock overtones, before wrenching growls and hushed singing mix to send the track’s message. The playing explodes with life, with spoken verses stinging amid the shrieking, and the storm hammering before it finally releases its grip. “Under Crimson Skies” has a different feel to it, with Yatras choosing to sing rather than growl, and he does a damn good job of it, adding to the thick murk. Before all is said and done, there is an energetic explosion, with shrieks returning and sheets of synth feeling dreary. The back end has Yatras belting out his words again, with the bustling melodies reigning.

“V,” like the opener, is a brief instrumental that has piano keys dripping and rain pounding the ground, flowing into “The Dead Old Tree” that charges and boils before slipping into a slow-driving assault. The shrieks creak and echo, with the song going serene for a stretch before the hammers are dropped again. Every element cascades like a heavy spring shower, saturating the ground and making the footing questionable at best. “With the Death of a Blossoming Flower” starts with clean guitars before the power arrives, bringing with it a rush of sound and piercing shrieks that sound soaked with desperation. Like many of the songs on here, it’s not tumult the entire way, as the track gets uglier with noisy riffs spitting chaos, and the volume gushing over the last minutes. “Closer” fittingly ends the record, with guitars glimmering, and the melodies racing to the surface. The track and the ambiance here grip, with the book closed on this emotional journey with Yatras noting, “You’re not there, but your perfume still lingers.” A somber way to end such a personal record.

You don’t have to relate with Yatras’ feelings of isolation nor his dark mental experiences that have shaped his life. But if you do, “Escape” is bound to resonate even more deeply because you’ll recognize the mileposts along the way. This is a vulnerable, damaged journey we experience with Germ, and it might cause some of us to take a deeper look into our own lives and understand some of what lurks deep within our hearts and minds.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/germofficial

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://www.theconnextion.com/prophecy/prophecy_index.cfm

Or here (rest of the world): http://en.prophecy.de/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.prophecy.de/