Munarheim – Willens & Frei

Hokiest shit you’ll hear all year

If the combination of the goofball renaissance fair style band pic, that they have nine musicians including two flautists, and the fact that they play folk metal while being from Southern Germany isn’t a massive red flag, I really don’t know what is. I only discovered this because I was obligated to listen to it for an internet thing, and this is hands down the lamest metal album I’ve heard all year. Everything about this is just so incredibly hokey. From the constant faux-bombast of the keyboards to the generic power metal leads, from the saccharine non-riffs to the corny choirs, this is a total cheesefest and has essentially nothing in the way of redeeming qualities.

A lot of the riffs are non-entities, existing solely to back up the Disney-esque keyboards. Many of them would also fit in with a flowery europower band, and I really don’t have much to say about them because I forget them the millisecond they’re over. The rhythm guitar is generally mixed fairly low in the mix, because the point of this is really the ever-present bombast-lite of the keyboards. The showy lead guitar is ripped out of the europower playbook and I’m not surprised – the intent here is the exact same as the cheesiest band of that ilk. The same can be said for the keyboards, which are really grating. Like virtually everything else with Munarheim, they exist to fulfill a self-conscious quest to sound “epic.” We could go on about the flutes, the cheesy choirs, the big kitschy choruses – but all you need to know is that Munarheim are the musical equivalent to a shoddily written young adult fantasy novel.

The most inexplicable ingredient in Munarheim’s saccharine mix is the vocals. You do have some clean vocals in the big dorky choruses, but most of what we get here are death growls. Does anything of what I’ve described about the band so far seem like something that would have death growls? I’m surprised too, but here we are. Do they work? The short answer is no. They feel incredibly out of place and I’m not sure what the rational for including them was. That said, I’ll take them over the cheesy falsetto abuse that often accompanies this sort of music.

Munarheim are the type of mega-cheese that could only gain traction in Germany (don’t get me wrong I love a lot of German black metal and the classic Krautrock scene had lots of cool stuff, the country just seems given to certain strains of cheesy metal). They essentially exist for the Wackencore circuit. You know how the preposterous campiness of Twilight Force comes off as Disney europower? In the very same manner, Munarheim come off like Disney folk metal. I’m running out of synonyms for corny here, so I’ll just end by saying this is the most aggressively lame metal I’ve heard all year.

Rating: 20%

Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling

What the hell is a Rare Field Ceiling?

Yellow Eyes’ fourth album Immersion Trench Reverie was one of my black metal highlights of 2017, so I was pretty excited for the follow up. Rare Field Ceiling (what does that even mean lol) is a much thicker mixture of dissonance than its predecessor. While it’s a good effort, I can’t help but be left a bit cold, if only because of the weight of expectations. Rare Field Ceiling eschews the alpine atmosphere that kept me coming back to Immersion Trench Reverie. While I’ve enjoyed it each time I’ve listened to it, this one hasn’t become a staple in my black metal listening diet the way its predecessor has.

The Skarstad brothers, who lead the band, have said that leading up to the album there have been a series of devastating health crises in their family (God, I wish that wasn’t so relatable), and that it couldn’t help but have a big impact on the album. I think this makes a lot of sense. While you still have some subtle melody, as well as samples of bells, women’s choirs and the like, this is a much darker album than Immersion Trench Reverie. The production is intentionally rough and muddy and they lean much harder on their dissonant side than their melodic one. While Immersion Trench Reveries brought to mind images of forests and mountaintops, Rare Ceiling Fan almost has the atmosphere of an industrial wasteland. Actually, it reminds me a lot of the movie Stalker where it’s still in sepia and they’re sneaking through the industrial section leading up to the zone.

Yellow Eyes have long had an obscure streak, but I find the song titles to be particularly amusing here. With song titles like “Light Delusion Curtain” and “Nutrient Painting”, thematically they can be as obscure as the music sometimes proves to be. The production here is raw and muddy, the songs structures atypical and everything kind of congeals into this thick, molassesy stream of dissonance. We do have some off-kilter melody penetrating the murk, and it’s a welcome inclusion. Mike is as good as always on the drums, and the rasps are strong and pained. The album is a very dreary affair that kind of ends up blurring into one experience, rather than there being standout songs.

It’s pretty funny that one of the brothers takes on gigs like making commercial Christmas music for Reese Peanut Butter Cups commercials. The swirling shroud of dissonance that comprises Rare Ceiling Fan is about as far away from that world as you can get. While this does not reach the towering alpine peaks of Immersion Trench Reverie, it is still a welcome addition to the Yellow Eyes discography. Featuring a much more dreary and opaque vibe, it is good at what it does an still one of the stronger black metal albums I’ve heard out of 2019.

Rating: 80%

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