Review Summary: As the final notes fade away into nothingness, the album finishes, but the atmosphere and mood stays with you for hours afterwards. That is why this is such a great experience, despite the flaws.
With a band like Dornenreich, letting yourself get drowned within their music is easy, but actually describing that sensation to someone else is not. You see, Dornenreich are not like most bands, they experiment in every release, develop different styles, different atmospheres and different emotions within their music while all the time keeping their identity. At the core of their sound is a very traditional and droning black metal style, but on top of this is a huge amount of different ideas and sounds. They have beautiful and enchanting ambient sections, slow, doomy whispered passages, acoustic picking amongst the heavy riffing and much more, it all makes for a brilliantly immersive and effortlessly absorbing experience.
As for this actual album, Durch Den Traum is a fifty minute story
for the listener split up into eight chapters. This story is melancholic, aggressive and beautiful at the same time, best reflected by the second chapter (the first is just atmospheric keyboards) which changes constantly throughout. Although starting rather slowly with whispered vocals and simple droning guitars, it eventually develops into something with a more established beat and groove. Utilising a start-stop approach, Dornenreich trade between depressing black metal riffs and beautiful keyboard passages, while the vocals are whispered and enchanting throughout. Just as the song seems to be developing into a huge climax around the four minute mark everything stops, the electric guitars fade out, replaced with simple acoustic playing that brings back the beauty established previously. When the black metal riffs come blazing back into the music, the acoustic guitars get more technical and the singing becomes more established, together all of this gives the song an amazingly atmospheric sensation, where everything comes together into this flurry of technicality and splendour. Dornenreich don’t leave it there though, soon after this enchanting crescendo, they introduce screamed vocals for the first time and bring in a ferocious black metal section to bring you towards the end of the song, which ends in really tranquil acoustic playing.
Sound confusing? Well of course, as I previously established, when heard all of this flows and moves along at a brilliant pace, yet it is incredibly hard to write about. This is an album that prefers to draw you into its rich atmosphere and drown everything else out instead of trying to impress you with one off gimmicks and hooks. Maybe the fact that it is separated into eight chapters, rather than songs helps to make sure that you need to listen to it all to truly appreciate the greatness of the album. Although admittedly, there are unmistakable highlights in the album, like the already mentioned second chapter, and the fifth chapter, with its huge emphasis on different dynamics, you really get more out of them when you listen to every other chapter as well, as every single not seems to build up to something else, ending with the simply breathtaking final chapter.
Throughout the album there are two entirely different moods; complete despair and hope. Of course, the former always outweighs the latter, but that just makes it so much more special when the beautiful parts come in to motion and make the album a whole lot less daunting. Actually, despite the long length, and the lack of real identifiable songs, this album isn’t really that
much of a daunting task. It is really easy to listen to this as background music, and it’s absolutely perfect to listen to at night when you’re tired, as it is the atmosphere which sticks with you after listening, and not any particular riffs or melodies. In fact, if you go into this expecting to find memorable moments within specific songs you might end up somewhat disappointed, as instead, this album needs to be digested fully. It has been meticulously composed to the point that everything fits and flows perfectly, every ambient build up has a point, every tortured scream is placed there for a reason and any time the tempo drops to barely a crawl you’ll be hard pressed not to be impressed by the way it moves into another part of the ever-changing story.
The production in this album is simply perfect, there are so many layers yet nothing gets drowned out. The acoustic guitars manage to be audible at all times, the droning riffs are at the perfect level, and the vocals, even when whispered are always easy to hear. In particular, I love the quiet ambient parts, where everything settles down for that moment of splendour and beauty, when contrasted with the sometimes completely choking atmosphere of the black metal passages it is truly an excellent achievement indeed.
With such a non-linear approach to the song writing throughout, a few hiccups can be expected. There are times when the music will seem to meander on without a purpose, and there are times when a particular segment may drag on and bore the listener somewhat as they wait for the next stunning climax or haunting interlude. But when you finally get through the entire story and reach the final chapter, it truly doesn’t matter at all. VIII is, dare I say it, one of the most appropriate and stunning endings to an album I have ever heard in my musical exploration (call it what you will). With gorgeous melodic coming from the normally bleak electric guitars and the keyboards providing a melancholic layer of sound just underneath, the whispered vocals seem to be at peace with everything unlike before, where they could show so many different emotions. At the end of such a atmospheric and constantly changing album, to have a wonderfully peaceful and beautiful closer is a stroke of genius, and as the final notes fade away into nothingness, the album finishes, but the atmosphere and mood stays with you for hours afterwards. That is why this is such a great experience, despite the flaws.