RÜBEZAHL – Remnants of Grief & Glory (2021)REVIEW

Romanticism aimed upon pre-Christian Germanic civilization, and associated naturalist belief systems, endures as the main modus for Alaskan pagan black metal trio Rübezahl who’ve further crafted an aesthetic which appreciates their own surroundings as a proxy for mythic animism of Bohemian/Silesian mountainous regions. Their approach is inarguably pagan-spiritual and made clear within imagery and symbolism presented, a yearning nostalgia for ancient culture by way of a bone-deep appreciation for the natural world. Though we will get lost in the woods pecking around notes on inspiration, taste and sub-genre ideals within, it is important to insist up front that their debut full-length, ‘Remnants of Grief & Glory‘, is most profound for the vistae it presents and certainly not the origin of the species. Death stained, folkish, triumphal, and ‘epic’ within a reasonably scaled experience these fellowes have crafted an inarguably strong debut statement which impresses via its decisive and inspiring sense of self.

The first and, yes, second Aeternus albums are perhaps the most important reference to be made in terms of conveying the rhythmic value and variety presented within ‘Remnants of Grief & Glory’, at least to my ear. Although we do get hints of ‘At the Heart of Winter’ to some degree, the keen ear should quickly flit over to the European pagan black metal underground of the early 2000’s otherwise by way of Walknut, Belenos‘ ‘Errances Oniriques‘, and the deeper death-attuned vocal of a band like Hate Forest (circa ‘Sorrow’) as we see some generational hand-me-down ideals beyond ‘Beyond the Wandering Moon’ here as well. This isn’t to suggest that these are all direct influences upon ‘Remnants of Grief & Glory’ but that their rhythmic arrangements are achieved with similar voicing, featuring differently pooling rise from melodic suggestion towards grand statement which is often distinctly flourished by juxtapositions of martial finesse and a “brutal” ease; Much of which is impressively set upon steady rails by drummer Bergwächter (Bound by Entrails, Druj), who directs the experience in tandem with the obvious leadership of the guitar arrangements. The tonal range available at this level of expression is what impresses most, from sonorous sentimentality toward the awe of their vistae rich surroundings and soon storming up the warrior fantasy of a banner-flailing battalion — The cadence of Rübezahl‘s action is fittingly engaging as minstrel poetry from ancient war-torn culture. To see the full picture spread before us, note the early Drudkh-esque glory of guitarist/vocalist Raróg‘s (Druj) phrasing on pieces like “Ether & Steel” and then the swimming brutality of ‘…and So the Night Became’ taking charge on “Accursed Victory” right afterward, arriving upon an impressive lung-deep roar and plenty of turmoil as it unfolds. The most impressive pieces on this record achieve both highs within a single narrative (see: “Bloodlines of Scorched Earth”, “Alas Phoenician, Despair!”).

The adventurer brandishing arms. At some point it makes sense to stop comparing old dead gods to the living and be set in the awe of their nudge beyond what’d already been impressive on ‘Tempering of Northern Iron‘ (2019) an EP which’d focused more intently on mid-paced almost folkish aspect of Rübezahl‘s sound as it’d developed. Not only has their oeuvre as songwriters within this point of fusion increased but we now witness the symptomatic expansion of palate, what can be broadly considered a high taste level within pagan black metal songcraft given form. At the very least we can recognize Rübezahl have chipped through each of these pieces with an impressive level of hatcheted detail without becoming lost in their own placement. Most all melodic statements are complete and the balance of brutality and sentimentality make for a righteous, satisfyingly vainglorious ride. It’ll have to be a perfect fit for a certain niche listener, those who’d likely been prompted (by public recommendation) to expect a dry ode to ragged-ass 90’s Slavic black metal and be pleasantly surprised by a much more original take on strident black metal heroism to the tune of a full ~50 minutes, wherein they’ve exhausted the possibilities via deeper plows into death metallic territory and folkish grandeur all while avoiding rote pressure-cooked maudlin melodic expressivity.

The listening experience is outsized, ‘epic’ in scope yet rich with events that are built up toward and presented intentionally. None of the bigger hooks and inspiring rides throughout appear casual by way of a mind on autopilot and the result is an engaging album which is easy to get lost within. Bass guitar presence is occasionally notable, serving as tonal thickener in most cases but riding the outside edges when it counts. There is some room available for more nuance or at least a few different song types along the way but, part of the thrill here on ‘Remnants of Grief & Glory’ is following the impossibly dark forest path presented by the band and this immersion is the right result for this sort of music. The important tipping point of consideration is that this is the sort of black metal adjacent music which I’d most like to see in a live setting, perhaps by way of these pieces being refined through physical gatherings or simply written together in the same space there is some consideration for how they land upon dead, sweaty air. Rübezahl have hit upon some serious resonance here right out of the gates, an impressive feat which leaves me inspired and on board for what comes next. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Remnants of Grief & Glory
LABEL(S):Self-Released [Digital]
RELEASE DATE:August 23rd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Pagan Black Metal,
Black/Death Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

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