Membaris – Misanthrosophie (2020)REVIEW

No universal agency can be accepted if arcane equilibrium is the proposed will of the agent, though the (supreme) law persists there is no value in attempting to capture the natural order of all things under the notion that one great work will ever be enough. That is to say that consequence, equal and opposing, will naturally gather around a truly unhinged, unhindered streak of wild menace and create a necessary persistence in the ‘self’. When merging the ‘self’ with all there is no specificity warranting any elitism, in truth the ouroboric path that resistance offers is a virtuous motivation but adaptation away from ones permanent station is the only path forward. If the goal to upset and mutilate the face of the world in the eyes of men remains uncontrollable then the artist must diligently carve ahead, anticipating resistance and riding it like a wave, accepting that an equal and opposite force surrounds them and emphasizes them as if negative space. The duo of broad and wisened minds behind black metal act Membaris weave dark and light, shadow and reflection in creation of this their fifth full-length album, ‘Misanthrosophie’, yet the greater ordo of German black metal through the ages has been no more or less significant and only underappreciated within the span of these last two decades. In truth Membaris have been this good in the past, as early as 2004, and perhaps worse depending on the album (and your own preferences) but they have never extended their range so far, never pushed on without limits and never sounded so resolute in their goal, a lifetime that’d sum as great work in perpetuum. ‘Misanthrosophie’ is our chance to grapple on, and grip the handles of this greatness and see as they see, hear as they hear.

If you’d been keen to our investigation into the equally stunning merits of Porta Nigra earlier this year, you’ll recall mention of fine drummer Obscurus‘ (ex-Chaos Invocation, ex-Obscure Infinity) work there and mention of Kraal’s former presence in Weird Fate. The two originally formed Membaris along with Porta Nigra mastermind Gilles de Rais (as Boreas) on second guitar back in 1999. The trio’s earliest statements beyond an initial demo, a first (‘Poetry of Chaos‘, 2004) and second (‘Into Nevermore‘, 2007) album were gloriously atmospheric, enticing with a full-range approach that’d employed subtle keyboards and some unpretentious avant-garde aspects per the heritage of the German black metal style. From there their discography would deploy increasing orthodoxy between their third (‘Grenzgänger‘, 2010) and especially fourth (‘Entartet‘, 2012) albums which were appreciably dry as Membaris‘ avant-garde lobes would feed into the best of Porta Nigra and Weird Fate beyond 2013 or so. ‘Misanthrosophie’ is like their earliest work in many ways but also almost completely unlike any other album they’ve released when considering the great capabilities they have gained through seven additional years of experience and personal refinement. Stylistically speaking much of their personality as musicians still shines through despite the eight year break in between albums, hearkening as far back as ‘Poetry of Chaos’ in terms of melodic ideology and the distinct patterns within Obscurus‘ drumming.

What has changed? With each musician offering vocals, pieces like “Architektur fern Struktur” give the impression that the whole of ‘Misanthrosophie’ will feature a wildly ranged bolt of vocal performances due to the dual vocal approach. This is largely true to form though only a few songs employ that particular range of tones. The inspiring spoken word unto shouting intro to “My Path of Stars” whirls into an Absu-esque roll n’ blast before shifting towards an (early) Borknagar styled midsection, sweetly tumbling into suspenseful atmospheric black metal riffing afterwards. There is a real art to these more inspired compositions where it is clear these ideas were folded together and built upon with some great consideration. I wouldn’t say ‘Misathrosophie’ is entirely buttoned up and meticulously perfect, it isn’t, they don’t go whole hog with that level of detail for the sake of letting each piece breathe on its own; I appreciate the bursts of inspiration and restraint, as it think an album too purposefully preened would feel less sincerely adventurous. “Pulsar” is perhaps one of the more typically “Membaris” songs on the album though it likewise features both vocalists contributing unique performances to keep the straightforward instrumental from flattening Side B too profoundly. I was nigh underwhelmed by the second half of the album, the first half initially appears more lively and inspiring, but “Aus Tiefen empor…” picks things up to great effect with its 8+ minute epic, and often exceedingly melodic, push toward the celestial end of the record. The song also wraps around into the album opener, almost always convincing me to give the record one more full listen.

In the span of a couple of months I’d not once sat with ‘Misanthrosophie’ and listened less than two times, that is to say that I’d comfortably leave it on and never hit any particular hitch in the apparatus. With that said, there were only 3-4 songs that truly made me turn my head and I’m still on the fence when considering “Constant Companion” a highlight or an outlier within the tracklist. Despite some of its expression still rolling around in my head the value of Membaris‘ fifth album is not in question as it is a fine return and a very strong work of German black metal with elements of old and new schools of thought. A high recommendation and unquestionably one of the most compelling black metal records of the month.

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Artist Membaris
Type Full-length
Released March 24, 2020
BUY & LISTEN on W.T.C. Productions’ Bandcamp! Follow Membaris on Facebook
Genre Black Metal

High recommendation. 4.0/5.0

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