One of the guys on the board mentioned this one in the Avant-Garde Death/Black thread, with the description “progressive black metal Opeth.” Those are three of my favorite metal-related terms, and I’ve always been on the lookout for something that fits the bill. However, aside from moments on last year’s excellent releases by Janvs and Artefact, nothing’s really ever hit home. Seems the progressive black metal Opeth beast is destined to be a bit of a musical unicorn (and by that I mean rare and mythical, not queer and magical). But let’s see where this German outfit winds up.

“Unter Baumen” kicks off with a big, swinging, rollicking riff and wet, gargly blackened vocals before a whiplash shift into a herky jerky passage that’s just this side of calliope goofiness. And then, just as abruptly, it calms to something much more sublime and graceful. So Opeth’s multi-segmented approach is definitely here, though Klabautamann’s shifts seem much more jarring and erratic. The softer sections really are lovely, though – especially the song’s quieter core, which is as rich, lilting and pensive as anything off of Damnation.

“When I Long for Life” features more of a traditional black metal churn, but laid atop jazzy, playful martial drum fills and the occasional acoustic guitar echoing above the blizzard. The layering is definitely Opeth, but the sound is not – and then just as I write that, the songs shifts once more into another headlong, swaggering riff, followed by a delicate interlude.

Every song on Merkur is an experience unto itself. Wait for the dueling jazz lines at the center of “Herbsthauch,” the deep, sonorous clean vocals that briefly arise during “Der Wald Ist Ein Meer,” or the clattery dream-within-a-nightmare-within-a-dream of the title track (and the Steely Dan gig that crops up halfway through). Moment after moment makes me go, shit yeah, that’s Opeth – but enough of the comparisons already – this is definitely what I was hoping to hear.

And before you cry copycat, let me say that Klabautamann is distinctly black metal and bizarre and a mythical beast all their own, without ever being aggressively ostentatious like so many other avant-garde outfits. Instead, they’re just consistently inventive and surprising – and talented as hell – in the same way as that… other band is. I won’t mention their name again, but chances are, those of you who are also rabid fans are no longer reading this anyway and are off trying to find this gem of a release.

Top 10 of the year for sure and a hell of a find. You can thank Dimaension X yourself on the boards.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 11th, 2009


  1. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    This is a great album. I think Enslaved is a better starting point for musical comparison than Opeth though.

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    yeah if I could go back and touch the review again (I submitted it two weeks ago) I’d reference Enslaved and Ved Buens Ende as well.

  3. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Later-period Enslaved is also a good description, when they really let their prog-roots shine.

    I really enjoyed this album, and hopefully lots of other folks will too.

    Thanx for the mention.

  4. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    Also: Just FYI they have 2 other full-lengths and 1 EP released before this. All excellent.

  5. Commented by: Shane

    Yeah I heard samples from the earlier material. Good stuff. Great review, Jordan

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