KANKAR – Dunkle Millennia (2021)REVIEW

“[…] the saint attempted, in the place called Gaesmere, while the servants of God stood by his side, to fell a certain oak of extraordinary size, which is called, by an old name of the pagans, the Oak of Jupiter. And when in the strength of his steadfast heart he had cut the lower notch, there was present a great multitude of pagans, who in their souls were earnestly cursing the enemy of their gods.” Willibald, The Life of St. Boniface

Even when splintered into a thousand pieces the sacred value of the arcane persists, in the character of its followers and their lineage or, in the repurposed planks fashioned of tradition’s corpse. The treacherous construction of cancer-ridden, Earth salting churches long burnt, forgotten or crumbled along with the usurping Christians, who’re made saints for their crimes, will continue to dissolve beneath auld curses in defiance. The heart of central German paganism was rooted in adaptation, acts inherently appreciative of man’s place within nature wherein the most inspired folk would go as far as ritualistic shape-shifting, entering the mind and body of beasts to better appreciate the threads of the Gods throughout all. We see these characteristics of pagan man even today in even the inadvertently the ancient-minded music from Thuringia today, an ability to innately adapt without losing one’s own imposing fire, patiently cursing the opposition. Black metal duo Kankar wear the stratification of generations past and present in every movement, sourcing both our current modern dark age and their eclectic taste to inform this stoic yet flexibly achieved debut full-length, ‘Dunkle Millennia‘.

Presence and force, an attack that is physical yet voltaic is the major ingredient that foams up first when considering what characterizes this German duo’s notable status thus far. Formed in 2016 between vocalist, guitarist and bassist Stríð and drummer Plágan it would be safe to say that the amount of work put into their craft thus far has eased away the rough edges of obviate influence that we commonly find in so many ‘quick to full-length’ extreme metal projects today. This makes it harder to box Kankar into a certain grouping and slightly more difficult to ascertain what their signature movements will be going forward. Though their suggested sphere lends itself to modern atmospheric black metal ideals I’d say this is maybe fifteen percent of the whole even if back-tracking to their ‘Elemental Fury‘ EP back in 2018. The amount of polish and style here seems to aim for the standards set by Taake in the last decade. A withering point but necessarily made as we approach some clear influence from Inquisition‘s ornate, heavy rock influenced guitar phrasing; Specifically the left hand techniques most ears would associate with Dagon‘s signature starting around 2010. I focus on this aspect for the sake of several songs (“Zerfall des Lichts”, “Neid” and parts of “Festmahl für die Krähen”) which feature these elements heavily. It isn’t necessarily plagiaristic, labelmates Uada (and many others) have used some similar chord-bending techniques on past albums to likewise great effect and some of this technique ultimately stems from Abbath, anyhow. Variety dilutes some of these strong associations as we progress through the record but ‘Dunkle Millennia’ does eventually find its own voice in hindsight, especially considering their effective use of Scandinavian black n’ roll elements such as those found on “Vergeltung”. The average black metal fan can safely approach ‘Dunkel Millennia’ expecting aggressive, guitar-forward music arriving at a moderate pace and with a strong German black metal perspective, taking several relatively current formats in mind and selecting sophisticated, ornate but never precious moments to emphasize with their own performative intensity.

With a pumped and proper production value in hand no aspect of Kankar‘s sound is buried, without any rough edges to hide from the present and prime production by Markus Stock (Empyrium, Secrets of the Moon) a deeper scouring of the full listen reveals some additional death metal influence and strong use of clean vocals. The aforementioned “Festmahl für die Krähen” provides a memorable highlight by way of these elements emerging as the piece progresses, leading with bellowed cleaner vocals before sliding into an alternating tarantella of deliberate, mid-paced black metal riffing and some death metal stomps interwoven (see also: “Der Schütze”). These elements are sharply threaded throughout the album, falling short of a full black/death metal tag yet providing enough variety in movement to suggest the progressive nature German black metal often bears. This pushes us away from what might’ve been fairly comfortable comparisons to Grá (or Svederna for that matter) whom present classic Swedish black metal with modern n’ roll bombast; Though Kankar does ultimately present a German black metal spirit with similarly robust and commanding sound, they’ve managed freedom from self-conscious cult obscuration lending a certain confidence to subject matter that wouldn’t dare sends us stumbling into “retro” or too deeply nostalgic territory.

Side B‘s contemplative and slightly more daring feats spark alongside an uptick in pagan metal movement had me leaning toward it in terms of favorites from the first listen. Kankar present a strong argument on each side but by the time I’d hit “Pilgerreise” the complete oeuvre accessed within ‘Dunkel Millennia’ had been unveiled. Around the fifth or so listens I’d more or less hit a wall in terms of appreciating the on-display influences the band carries and began to take stock in distinctly Kankar moments such as the almost traditional heavy metal striding about a minute into “Die Sonne über Ikarus”, this’d end up being one of the more remarkable pieces during moments of reflection upon the whole listen. The promise of bigger, more accomplished and personalized work in the future is writing on the wall at this point yet as a complete listening experience ‘Dunkel Millennia’ leaves a strong mark for an unassuming debut album. In terms of render, performance and songwriting this is work on par with an average black metal band’s third album after having ironed out all but their most key inspirations in reaching for a spiritual result. Plenty of room to improve yet an altogether seamless debut. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Dunkle Millennia
RELEASE DATE:March 19th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Atmospheric Black Metal,
Black n’ Roll

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.