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Album review: DORNENREICH Freiheit

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Austrian three-piece Dornenreich have existed since 1996, releasing seven studio albums while dazzling us with their neo-folk infused take on black metal and chamber music. Never ones to shy away from experimentation, 2014 sees them releasing their eighth album entitled Freiheit. Unfortunately, this will reportedly be the last one they put out for the foreseeable future. A Dornenreich album can encompass a wide spectrum, with some of them crafted from a pagan black metal template with an atmosphere steeped in poetry and euphoria. Others have been acoustic suites, told in violin and acoustic guitar over top of passionate German spoken vocals. How is Dornenreich choosing to go out with Freiheit? One hopes this new album can deliver the goods as strongly as their material has in years past.

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Pleasingly, Freiheit offers the open-minded fan a real variety of aural delectation, as "Im ersten aller Spiele" begins with almost Zeppelin-like acoustic guitar and whispered German lyrics. It is quickly uplifted by a spirited violin movement, only to come back down to where acoustic guitar and violin wreak sublime and emotional havoc on the listener, to most satisfying effect. "Von Kraft und Wunsch und jungen Federn" ratchets up the intensity as Dornenreich embark on what could only be considered extreme chamber music. Although the clearly enunciated German lends a nice depth to the proceedings, one cannot help but be swept up in the aching splendor of the material. The violin playing is superb, emotive and intense all at once.

With a keen eye toward dynamics, Dornenreich soothe us with "Des Meeres Atmen" before we reach the album's centerpieces. "Das Licht vertraut der Nacht" turns up the metal quotient with anguished, screaming vocals, heavy percussion, and distorted guitars. The title translates to 'The Light Trusts the Night,' a clever phrase referring perhaps to the concept of our duality. Melding classical and metal is not easy, but these Austrians do it like they were born to. "Aus Mut gewirkt" has an almost danceable bass-line and beat, the violin ghosting around the tune as both acoustic and electric guitars build up a nice palate of sound. A very cool guitar solo punctuates the song quite beautifully around the 1:15 mark.

The next three songs are much calmer in delivery, though no less intense. Violinist Inve drags his bow across the strings and, like some kind of sonic alchemist, he turns sound into pure emotion; bittersweet, longing, even triumphant. This album has it all. The bonus disc available in book form through Prophecy Productions will feature a collaboration with Thomas Helm of Emyprium as well as some acoustic and metal versions of songs, and translations of the lyrics as well.

One cannot pigeonhole a group like Dornenreich, whose musical and artistic acumen transcends genres and languages. For every straight ahead metal band out there, its refreshing to absorb such off-kilter musicians as they. For best results, listen to Dornenreich alone, with headphones, preferably near some sort of dreary forest. Be moved, absorbed, and enraptured May 5th, 2014.

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