Review Summary: A mixed bag, but a bag worth digging through nonetheless
In black metal, controversial albums appear with startling frequency. Some of these albums garnish such a controversial legacy that they are still talked about nearly two decades after their release. Nargaroth’s 2001 sophomore release, Black Metal Ist Krieg
, is surely one of the aforementioned albums. Often the butt of jokes and hastily dismissed as an album completely embodied by it’s infamously bad title track, Black Metal Ist Krieg
has had a tough life in the scene to say the least. It’s quite a shame too, as this album is so much more than just the aforementioned title track. Packed with the emotions of a man who is seeing his community crumble around him, this album is, to put it simply, underrated.
Upon starting the album, it's not hard to see why Black Metal Ist Krieg
has garnished such a poor reputation. The first thing a listener hears is two and a half minutes of guitar feedback and static with vocalist/guitarist Kanwulf’s nonsensical screaming layered on top. Even if a listener has enough sense to skip the track and move to the next song, they would be greeted by the laughable title track. The title track on this album is possibly one of the most maligned songs in black metal, mostly for it’s lyrics. It’s true that the lyrics are totally uninspiring and silly, consisting almost entirely of nothing but “black ***ing metal ist krieg”. Looking past the lyrics, the first two and a half minutes of the song is the same riff and blast beat, courtesy of both Maniac Butcher (from Maniac Butcher) and Occulta Mors (from Moonblood) that never seems to end. Even more damning for the album is that, if the listener checks the tracklisting in this time, they would see that there are four cover songs present on the album. Based on these initial impressions, Black Metal Ist Krieg
isn't shaping up to be too good of an album.
While this album may sound deserving of all the hate it has received so far, that would be completely neglecting the original songs present later on in the album. After Kanwulf’s first cover of german black metal, “Seven Tears Are Flowing To The River” is like the light at the end of a tunnel. Lasting for nearly fifteen minutes, this song contains a visceral embodiment of sadness and loss that most black metal bands never reach or even attempt. The heart and soul imbued in this track is nearly second to none. Despite the negative reception the album has garnered over the years, “Seven Tears Are Flowing To The River” is often considered to be Nargaroth’s best song. Some fans even say it is one of the greatest atmospheric black metal songs of all time. This song alone makes up for the poor decisions of cover songs.
As good as Seven Tears is, that alone isn’t enough to warrant the rating I gave the album. This is where the other original tracks come in to redeem the album. Tracks like “Erik, May You Rape The Angels”, and “The Day Burzum Killed Mayhem” both deal with deceased black metal musicians and both are finely crafted black metal songs. While “Erik” has courted controversy over its incredible similarity to Immortal’s album Pure Holocaust
. Kanwulf has even gone on record to say that this is completely missing the purpose of this album. These songs, in their broken english, contain personal lyrics that show just how impactful these deaths were on Kanwulf and the black metal scene as a whole. Musically speaking, the album’s sound is surprisingly varied. It’s easy to pick out which track is which. In fact, it almost seems like Kanwulf can’t pick a certain style to stay with. “The Day Burzum Killed Mayhem”, for example, focuses more on a brooding and sinister sound while “Erik” takes a decidedly colder and more melodic approach to songwriting. Neither of these tracks have the atmospheric and sorrowful tendencies that “Seven Tears” had.
To say this album gets overly criticized is an understatement. If this album gets brought up in conversation it’s usually in reference to the lyrics on the title track. Yes, this album has its fair share of flaws, but Kanwulf succeeds in his goal of creating black metal emblematic of what he felt was the “desolate state of the German Black Metal scene at the turn of the millennium”. If you have been staying away from this album thanks to the negativity surrounding it, give it a try. Black Metal Ist Krieg
has surely had its true nature buried under jokes and controversy, but that doesn’t make the songs contained any less listenable.