Album Review: DER ROTE MILAN Moritat
There are a lot of great black metal bands coming out of Germany these days, many of them with a melodic yet still aggressive sound. Trier's Der Rote Milan (translates to simply "The Red Milan") is one of those bands. On their second album, Moritat, the band offers up a wealth of riff-driven songs for audiences to explore.
Der Rote Milan certainly chose some interesting subjects to use for lyrical inspiration. According to the band, much of the material here is inspired by the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), perhaps the most pivotal time in German history prior to the 20th Century. The war began as the effect of the Protestant Reformation swept across Europe, leaving several German states pitted against each other on religious lines. To make a long story short, several other countries got involved and the war left central Europe devastated. Although these events took place centuries ago, they have an echo in contemporary geopolitics, giving them an eerie relevance to our own time. On a less grave note, the album is also inspired by Schinderhannes, who lived from 1778-1803. He is basically known as the “German Robin Hood,” and was famous for robbing lands controlled by the French and making a famous prison escape.
The band claims influences like Dissection, Alcest, and Dark Funeral—this is certainly evident right away. Their countrymen in Eis come to mind as well, as they have a similarly muscular approach to modern black metal. The sheer ferocity of the band's sound even reminds me a bit of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, especially when the vocalist uses his higher pitch screaming technique. But the similarities to a more orthodox black metal cease considering the overall feeling of the music. It wouldn't be quite right to call the band's sound "evil" in the occult sense. At the same time, the sound is still fast and bright enough to set them apart from "atmospheric" black metal. The use of palm-muting and certain riff patterns betray a slight penchant for melodeath and bands like Necrophobic and Naglfar as well. It's melodic and thoughtful—a very powerful sound.
Normally, I shy away from material that's as well produced as Moritat, but in this case, the clarity helps elevate and propel the music forward. Again, it's not Lucifer and lycanthropy here. The drums and bass on this record—typically more of an afterthought in such a guitar-driven style—sound so good here. Check out the work the band puts in on "Gnosis der Vergänglichkeit," a contemplative song that really lets the music (and thus the listener's imagination) roam and explore. Or if that's not your thing, you could always dive into blasting terror-fests like "Drohende Schatten," easily my favorite song on the album. I know this music is all about building an atmosphere, but this song is so crushing, it's impossible not to picture fist-flying moshpits when the song lets loose the palm-muted guitars and kick-drums.
There's just so much to enjoy about this album. The vocals are absolutely ferocious, and the guitar tone is bright and clear without losing any teeth and grit. You can also tell that the band is trying to craft their own identifiable sound. The influences are there, sure, but the band knows how to use variation effectively. There's enough quiet parts, alternating vocal approaches and well-executed tempo changes to keep things from becoming monotonous. This is a band with a great mind for drama, riffs, and rage. Keep your eyes and ears on Der Rote Milan.
Favorite songs: "Moritat," "Drohende Schatten" and “Die Habsucht”