L'Acephale - Stahlhartes Gehause
Parasitic Records
Avant-Garde Black Metal
4 songs (71:49)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by James
Album of the month

L'Acephale's follow-up to Mord Und Totsclag has been a long time in the making, especially considering their debut was originally recorded four years ago. The band seem to have made up for it however, by releasing two albums almost simultaneously. First up, we have Stahlhartes Gehause, the oft-delayed full-band follow-up (Perdition appeared on the band's Myspace well over a year ago). And we also have Malefeasance, a collection of offcuts and cover versions that is essentially a solo venture by mainman Set Sothis Nox La (which to be honest, looks a bit wobbly). Stahlhartes Gehause, however, is a far more cohesive work, and once again there's an incredibly weighty, high-brow concept to the album. Whereas Mord Und Totsclag dealt with the writings of Georges Bataille, Stahlhartes Gehause looks at the ideas of German philosopher Max Weber (the title is a phrase he coined meaning “hard steel casing”). I haven't the foggiest how Romanian and Estonian folk traditions tie into all this (you'll notice a strong Eastern European influence throughout the album), but I'm sure it all makes sense in the mind of Set Sothis Nox La.

Indeed, the first thing that hits you when listening to Stahlhartes Gehause for the first time is how much L'Acephale have ramped up the folk influence. A good chunk of the title track is taken up by recordings of Eastern European folk music, with the piece's middle section being an Estonian magical rite, apparently. The band's furious black metal assault is still present, however, and expanding to a full line-up has improved their sound no end. Although the hideous chainsaw of Mord Und Totsclag has been replaced by a far shinier sound, the rhythm section sounding full and powerful in the mix. There's been a trade-off in atmosphere in favour of tighter, better songwriting, each track on Stahlhartes Gehause being a twisting, complex beast. Mord Und Totsclag standout Psalm Of Misery shows up again in a reworked form, this time fitting comfortably in with the folkier tones of the rest of the album. Whereas the band's debut was spartan and brittle, essentially being all guitars, vocals and drum machines, this time the band have utilized a plethora of new sounds, including samples, pianos and violins. This makes for a far more engaging listen, as his time even the quieter moments have a lot more going on. The album is an ever-shifting work, taking you on so many twists and turns there's scarcely time to figure out what's going on, let alone get bored. On first listen, Stahlhartes Gehause is a baffling release, yet an utterly compelling one, and it won't take long for you to realize it's one of the black metal releases of the year.

For what it's worth, the CD version of this comes with a remastered version of the Book Of Lies EP, previously only available on vinyl. I've not factored it into my final score, but it's a nice little bonus to have.

Mord Und Totsclag was a criminally under appreciated release, being ignored if not flat-out hated. But Stahlhartes Gehause is exactly the sort of experimental, forward-thinking black metal that's all the rage these days. This is a band who have really grown in the past few years, and there's still the feeling their best is yet to come. Watch this space, black metal fans, as L'Acephale could really make a definitive black metal release in the next few years. The title track is an absolute classic, and if the band can make a whole album up to that standard (the rest is very very good, but feels almost straightforward compared to the title track) then we will have a masterwork on our hands.

Killing Songs :
James quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by L'Acephale that we have reviewed:
L'Acephale - L'Acephale reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
L'Acephale - Mord und Totschlag reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
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There are 3 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:42 pm
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