I’m fortunate enough that every day at my regular job, I have large, expansive windows in front of me, where I can gaze into the thick woods, see creatures I won’t encounter in my suburban life, and be at the heart of nature. This past week, we got an early preview of winter, as snow packed down, turning outside into a picturesque wonderland, and the branches of the trees took on ice and white coatings that made it feel like the cover of a greeting card. Weird way to kick into a black metal album.
You’re likely familiar with Austrian musician Stefan Traunmüller from his work in bands as varied as Wallachia, The Negative Dawn, a Portrait of Flesh and Blood, and Rauhnåcht, the band we’re discussing today. His new album under that banner is “Unterm Gipfelthron” (that roughly translates in “Bottom Summit Throne”), a five-track collection of pagan-style black metal that will make you think of being deep out in the elements. I get winter from this thing, but maybe your mind will wander elsewhere. Nevertheless, Traunmüller creates another fascinating opus (his third full-length under this project and first since 2014’s “Urtzeitgeist”) here he helms the creation of these songs, with help from a steady team of supporting players who help breathe life into this stunning collection.
“Zwischen den Jahren” opens the album with a rousing folkish start, as woodwinds call and whip up a breeze before the track gets harsh and driving in a hurry. Harsh growls pound away while melodies are unfurled, and then the track unleashes raw thrashing. The assault is glorious, and it’s capped off by keys and horns colliding, and the track ending abruptly. The title cut follows, leading you down a clean path before running into burly black metal. There’s a rich, spirited chorus that contains a fleet of voices and gets inside your blood before the song gets gentle again, giving you solace before the next burst. That arrives with militaristic drumming and a pace that rumbles the earth before seeping into a calculated nautical-style section before the chorus’ rushing return.
“Gebirgsbachreise” is an instrumental cut with acoustic plucks, the music flowing serenely, and a cosmic chill floating overhead. Sounds build, colors grow, and group “oh-oh” chants add a rustic sense to the song. “Ein Raunen aus vergess’ner Zeit” is the second-longest track, sprawling over 10:31 after a eerie start that blends into a storm. Keys lean in, while the singing is hearty, and then the growls explode and leave you trembling. Just then, we’re into a dreamy section that quivers and aches before the intensity whips up again, a fiery chorus arrives, and the track tears apart with rage, crushing to its end. Closer “Winter zieht übers Land” is the longest cut, running 11:17 and beginning with an exuberant riff that gets the blood flowing. Growls lash as your flesh, punishing as the song winds and jerks, moving into a grisly, yet chilly corner. The storm picks up again after a brief calm, with choral sections bustling, the melodies pouring in waves, and the track pushing hard, bleeding out in keys.
While it has its devastating, destructive angles, “Unterm Gipfelthron” also is an imaginative record that could help you worship at nature’s altar unflinchingly. That seems to be Traunmüller’s intent here with Rauhnåcht, and those sentiments ripped through me every time I listened to the record (especially when gazing out my work windows). It’s a record full of energy, chaos, and adventure, and it’s one that could attach itself to you as you work your way through the cold season.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/alpineblackmetal/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop
For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/