Review Summary: In a voice all their own, Austrian folk-metal trio mark a milestone with a celebration of freedom.
It’s tricky trying to name other acts with a sound comparable to that of Austrian outfit Dornenreich. Theirs is an undulating, progressive admixture of dark folk and black metal delivered with a fervor and intensity that often allows them to artfully transcend the tropes such genre tagging would imply. This deft mingling of the seemingly dissimilar has carried frontman Eviga and company through almost 20 years of fruitful music-making. Prior to their announcement of a short sabbatical, the band fittingly rounded out a chapter in their history with their eighth studio offering, 2014’s Freiheit
The closing statement is decidedly more folk-oriented in nature than its forbearer, Flammentriebe
, and restraint and dynamic control, although certainly not absent from previous outings, are its uttermost achievements. The full spectrum of Dornenreich’s character is carefully seated within the ebb-and-flow framework of a breaking wave, rising from near-silent splendor and gaining momentum with the jaunting acoustic guitar and ebullient violin figures of "Im ersten aller Spiele", and cresting with barked vocals, belaboring rhythm and churning, electric instrumentation in centerpiece "Das Licht vertraut der Nacht" before sprawling serenely along a shoreline in a calm coda. Each song echoes this overarching oceanic form with the flamenco-tinged solo section of "Aus Mut gewirkt" and the wistful central melody of “Des Meeres Atmen” emerging as notable highlights along the way. Regardless of whether one finds the overall musical direction appealing, it’s difficult not to marvel at the level of attention to detail the band lends to their craft. The aforementioned moments of almost complete stillness seem as intentionally placed and vital as the most ornate ones.
Performance-wise, violinist Inve’s bow-work is remarkable as always, adeptly embodying the spirits of numerous emotions, from bittersweet and yearning to exultant and aggressive. Eviga’s swift strums reinforce his hushed rasp and sparse lyrics, which meditate on the attainment of inner freedom and self-awareness. Electric guitar, bass, and drums, the primary elements stylistically differentiating Freiheit
from 2008’s In Luft Geritzt
, do serve their purpose within the record’s thematic context, but often somewhat lack individual charisma, unfortunately.
Retaining artistic integrity over the course of nearly two decades is uncommon and, as a result, commendable. Freiheit
is a more than suitable testament to and denouement for this rich period in Dornenreich’s career. It is frequently beautiful and euphoric, sometimes off-kilter and disorienting, but never insincere. It is indeed refreshing to observe an artist presenting their interpretation of the folk-metal paradigm using a voice that is identifiably all their own.