It took almost the entire year, but we finally have a record that completely defies logic, explanation, and reason to a degree where I just sat there the first time this record ended and wondered what had just happened to me. Sure, there have been other records that stand out creatively and challenge mentally in 2020, but I don’t know there’s anything anywhere that could match Folterkammer.
The Swiss/American black metal band (and that’s a very rigid description for a beast so wild) delivers “Die Lederpredigt,” which translates to “The Leather Sermon,” a seven-track adventure that mixes dark theatricality, operatic fury, and metallic ferocity in such a strange way, it’s hard to even describe. A lot of that is because of ridiculously savage and flexible vocalist Andromeda Anarchia, whose voice needs to be heard to be comprehended, and I won’t do her justice here at all, hard as I’ll try. She’s such a force, a tornadic wave of insanity and dramatic terror that you cannot take your attention from her, and you’ll only understand her words if you speak German. She’s joined by guitarist Zachary Ezrin (of Imperial Triumphant, who also are no strangers to challenging, mind-defying music), bassist Darren Hanson, and drummer Brendan McGowan on a record that conjures the evil spirits of black metal, exposes the abusive nature of religion and authoritative power, and comes from the perspective of a scorned goddess looking to shed blood.
“Die Nänie” dawns with organs swelling and Anarchia’s hushed singing before she goes operatic and tears paint from the walls. Her shrieks cause muscle spasms as the pace goes nuclear, delivering spellbinding madness as the chorus wooshes back for more, and the track ends in a sticky pool. “Die Hymne” arrives with Anarchia going for the stratosphere vocally, as the playing lands heavy punches, and her shrieks are nuanced by her theatrical hacking and splintering, which is just a morbid joy. The pace hammers away as the track gets vexing as hell, with some outright extraordinary singing pumping blood, and the final moments gurgling out. “Die Elegie” is gently psychedelic as it gets started, with the words coming in ghostly speaking as the foundation explodes. Her growls mar while choral backing sends chills to your soul, as everything that comes from Anarchia’s mouth, even if you don’t understand the words, displays her alien range. The playing unravels further while also soaking up a pastoral vibe before disappearing into darkness.
“Das Gebet” enters the room frantically as Anarchia mixes operatic singing with vile speak-like growl bursts that crawl up your spine. It’s madness. As the song progresses, it actually turns a really catchy, almost pop-like display that explodes like sugar in your blood, and Anarchia’s playful, manic gush of words is both utterly charming and completely terrifying, calling out for dark forces that likely cannot be controlled. “Das Magnificat” has riffs sweeping and creaky growls crawling through blood before the singing gets more breathtaking (if that can be believed). The playing thrashes as evil is allowed to operate without constraint, with wild shrieks crushing glass, and the whole thing storming to a gut-wrenching finish. “Das Sinngedicht” starts mystically and has a chamber music feel, while the singing surges, and the fog thickens. The guitars charge up as Anarchia hisses in dark tongue, sprawling into wild fury and twisted organs. The guitars jolt as the singing dares the gods, blasting shut and canceling the light. “Das Zeugnis” closes this experience with organs signaling doom, and slow, dark tidings bleeding ever so slowly. The singing pushes, starting with a glimmer of hope before turning ugly, and the song unloads with ill will, bringing with it pumps of Gothic soot and black waves of horror. Anarchia’s singing flutters before turning into growls of rage, crushing throats and adding to the claustrophobic suffocation of the album’s final moments.
With mere weeks left to go in the year, 2020 dropped one final destroyer in “Die Lederpredigt,” a record that has no equal when it comes to ambition, metallic ingenuity, and hellish character. Folterkammer deliver something completely different from anything else you heard this year and likely will for a while, and it’s an incredible experience. This record lashes back against power structures, does so with horrifying and gorgeous horror, and it’s something that you won’t be able to get out of your head well after the music ends.
For more on the band, go here: facebook.com/folterkammer.music
To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/products/folterkammer-die-lederpredigt-lp
For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/