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Finsterforst - "Mach Dich Frei" (CD)

Finsterforst - "Mach Dich Frei" CD cover image

"Mach Dich Frei" track listing:

1. Abfahrt
2. Schicksals End'
3. Zeit für Hass
4. Im Auge des Sturms
5. Mach Dich Frei!
6. Mann gegen Mensch
7. Reise zum…
8. Finsterforst

Reviewed by on January 21, 2015

"[The album] will place you inside a dark, primordial forest and you won’t want to come out."

Although Finsterforst sings every song in German, nothing will be lost in translating the music and feelings. “Mach Dich Frei,” the German band’s fourth full length, relates pagan and folk movements set to epic cinematic backdrops created through accordion, keyboards, and multiple layers of vocals and guitars. The band weaves a diverse tapestry into lengthy songs, with the album clocking in at an hour and thirteen minutes, the longest song being nearly twenty-four minutes in length.

Most of the tracks contain a cinematic interlude at the beginning or ending. A couple of songs such as “Abfahrt,” “Im Auge des Sturms,” and Reise zum” are purely instrumental segues. “Abfahrt,” the first of this sort, has a shamanistic, tribal quality with faint drums and other instruments I can’t make out, which were most likely made through keyboards. “Im Auge des Sturms” shows the band playing guitar notes in a rattling sort of fashion akin to spaghetti western soundtracks. “Reise zum…” picks up where “Mann Gegen Mensch” ends. This track contains eerie keyboard sounds that open into sounds of beauty and nature. Thunderstorms and loon calls set the listener firmly in the woods to hear the sound of campfire instruments such as flutes and accordion.

While the album is rife with serene stillness, it isn’t a new age recording. There is plenty of distorted guitar, bass, and drums not of the tribal sense. The title track starts with an Iron Maiden-like guitar harmony. It sounds like the band is using three guitars or multiple tracks to create layers. This track contains a personal favorite riff, a string bending, deep groove. “Zeit für Hass” and “Finsterforst” show the band at its fastest with some blast beats. While the album hinges on atmosphere, it could use a couple more doses of speed.

Even when Finsterforst plays fast, these parts work together with folk harmonies. The guitar often conveys a certain mood like the one heard around the 7:30 mark of “Schicksals End.” This guitar relates a solitary feeling. There is plenty of clean guitar to keep the folk vibe going. The group also makes use of accordion and flute, which probably came from keyboards. Horns and fleet give the album an ancient quality.

Although the album contains black metal vocals, the music doesn’t convey this style. Also, don’t expect danceable, mug-swinging songs like Turisas and Finntroll. Even though most readers will not understand the German-penned lyrics, there is a philosophical understanding on “Mach Dich Frei” that will place you inside a dark, primordial forest and you won’t want to come out.

Highs: The ancient, woodsy atmosphere.

Lows: The album could use a dose or two of speed.

Bottom line: If you can take a flute in your metal then you can't go wrong with this album.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)