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The Meads of Asphodel: Sonderkommando

The Meads of Asphodel are prepping the release of Sonderkommando, their follow-up to 2011’s The Murder of Jesus the Jew. So, of course, once the promo hit my inbox, I immedThe Meads of Asphodel are prepping the release of Sonderkommando, their follow-up to 2011’s The Murder of Jesus the Jew. So, of course, once the promo hit my inbox, I immediately gave it a quick spin while I was out and about. What greeted me was far from what I remember on their last album, having me intrigued, but in many ways kind of let down. At this point though, I’m still trying to process what I heard, as it may just be an effort that has to grow on me. But, in any event, here’s what I thought of some of the album thus far.

Sonderkommando ends up a far more atmospheric effort, and one that leaves the medieval sound far behind them. In fact, some of the material seemed to have a bit of Folk thrown in, and some French environmental elements such as the fun, carnival-esque music with a Gothic or Thematic touch towards the end of the title track. This one fades out of dark and dreary gothic tones, complete with some creepy Psychdalic Rock vocals and passages that are impossible to step away from. The keyboards really stick out too, being a little complex, even when clearly a background element.

“Wishing Well of Bones” introduces a more upbeat track, and also one that’s rather eccentric. The environment established in the title track is basically lost, and there’s some haunting distortions here and there to give an echoing effect to the music, such as with their solos. It works for what they’re doing, though it clashes slightly with the chorus and the higher pitched vocals in the background. It’s a catchy track either way though, and one I might get into with a little more time.

“Action T4” is a bit more aggressive, and brings in some glorious tones from the keyboard that are similar to some earlier The Meads of Asphodel material. The song ends up blindsided by a random blastbeat section prior to a solid guitar solo, fitting in well with the subtle atmosphere mentioned earlier. The only problem, like the other two, is that the music sounds somewhat restricted, and the lead vocals sound exhausted, especially in the gutturals.

That vocal issue changes on “The Silent Ghosts of Babi Yar.” The faster areas are just explosive with energy that can be felt all over the place, and even the main veres sound like the band is having fan, all the while throwing back to early first wave Black Metal with a slight gothic atmosphere here and there. Some areas also carry an upbeat galloping approach that is just slightly off to usher back in that eccentric vibe. Towards the end you also happen upon some chords that take it more into a Shoegaze direction, amplified with vibrant, layered clean singing.

“Children of the Sunwheel Banner Pt. 1” blends some Nazi chanting with a bit of Industrial remixing against a fantastical Folkish piece you’d expect to hear in a cinematic version of the Genesis-era Golden Axe video games. It’s really surprising how the two mix together so well, and just as the track continues growing stronger, it just starts fading out really quick for “Children of the Sunwheel Banner Pt. 2,” kicking off with some creepy banging and metallic scraping effects and distortions, like a chair being drug along the ground while echoing guitar notes are played. Ninety seconds later, it’s a dark and abrasive Black Metal offering full of frostbite and a subtle epic tone. Unfortunately the various muffled parts of the drum kit can hold this track back, but it seems to really hit when the music picks up pace and focuses more on blasts than anything else.

“The Lamenting Weaver of Horror” kicks off with a brood of witches reciting a spell, cackeling with laughter to give way to a rough, menacing voice taunting a little boy that he’s dead, as is his mother. Finally, nearly four minutes in, he begins to regail the child with his “Song of Death,” starting off as a straight forward Pagan Metal track, then slowing down into a grim, psychadelic offering. It continues to decompose, never really going anywhere until it finally just crawls to a hault. It left me horribly unfulfilled, similar to “Children of the Sunwheel Banner Pt. 1.”

Perhaps the best way to sum up Sonderkommando so far is to say it mixes some of the eartlier The Meads of Asphodel we’ve come to know and love, while branching out to experiment with other styles, all while trying to weave what could be classified more as a “high society” brand of Black Metal. This isn’t something your average Metal youngster can appreciate, showing off a highly mature and refined side of the band. The problem is that it is incredibly inconsistant, jumping from one idea to another, and not really trying to maintain a fluid, consistant factor throughout. I’ll clearly need some more time with it, but at this point, I’m torn as to what to think.

The Meads of Asphodel (band)
The Meads of Asphodel

Digital review material for this article provided by Candlelight Records.