Review Summary: Color-by-numbers dirty black metal of surprising quality, despite its single-mindedness.
Unru have had an interesting stylistic history as a band: Beginning as more of a dirty blackened crust band on their first demo they quickly shifted into a much cleaner, atmospheric/post-black metal style for a two-track split with Paramnesia. Keeping to this pattern for their first full-length album, Unru chose to more or less abandon their previous works and change their style once more, unsurprisingly. The most recent stop on their directional wanderlust is Als Tier ist der Mensch nichts
(German for “As an animal, man is nothing“), a mostly dirty black metal/doom record.
Running at a rather brief 36 minutes and divided into four tracks, Als Tier...
follows a rather clear structural arrangement. Rather than write more dynamic pieces amalgamating their new chosen styles into a more-or-less single coherent product, the band opted instead to write pieces that, more or less, either stylistically paralleled or opposed each other and stuck to one idea each; doomy middle-piece “Hēdonḗe” snarls and drags itself forward at a dirge-like pace for ten minutes, for example, while previous piece “Das Anna-Karenina-Prinzip” occupies a similar runtime but finds its duration devoted to howling and blasting at full-speed. The record’s bookends continue this pattern by more directly mirroring each other; while half of each entertain more snarling black metal, their first and second halves open and close the album (respectively) with combinations of dark ambience and static-laden noise.
While this sort of structuring (“intro track/fast track/slow track/outro track”) is fairly “color-by-numbers” simple, Als Tier…
is so brief and well-executed a record that its rudimentary format never feels like a problem; with four tracks spread over thirty-six minutes, Unru make the most of their time by never dragging out ideas for too long, or ever allowing them the space to wander. The succinctness of their writing is also backed up and highlighted by the rawness of the record’s sound quality, with its audible fuzz adding an additional sense of size and menace to the guitars and an echo to the howls, snarls, and screams. And while the production isn’t perfect per se (the drums often seem to get lost in the back somewhere during more frantic parts), it still works well enough to help make “Als Tier ist der Mensch nichts” stand out as the surprisingly effective black metal record it is. Despite the baffling album art, even.