Porta Nigra – Weltende (Soulseller Records)Wednesday, 23rd August 2023
Historically existing firmly within the peculiar, Porta Nigra are one of the unsung heroes of avant-garde black metal. This subgenre usually personifies the phrase of ‘expect the unexpected,’ and these Germans aren’t keen on repeating themselves. Each album has contained varying sonic approaches and deliveries, while firmly focusing their foundation on robust black metal. On their 2020 album Schöpfungswut, Porta Nigra zeroed in on a more streamlined and direct approach, which was polarizing to some, though the band still delivered well composed and executed black metal that maintained a different shade than most of the crowded black metal scene. With the band’s fourth album, Weltende, the band have integrated qualities of all of their previous works, along with new purviews that result in a wholly distinctive record.
Co-founding member O is noticeably absent on this album, with Jöschu Käser – of Aara, Malphas, Throne, and others – taking the helm behind the kit, alongside vocalist Tongue partaking in his second recording, joining forces with primary songwriter/guitarist Gilles de Rais. Combined they are a formidable and fresh trio, with Porta Nigra never feeling more purposeful. Thematically, the focus is on the time period that led up to World War I, and many of the horrors of that dark conflict – a fitting narrative for the chaotic soundscapes on offer.
Opener “Es ist Krieg” commences with ominous synths, layered with spoken word pieces – which are sprinkled throughout the song – to set a mood of foreboding. A wall of rhythm guitars soon explode into existence, guided by Tongue’s tight growls and gritty cleans and shouts. “Götterblut” contains a speedy lead and quickly changing rhythms that drive the song, which is a ferocious yet hypnotic entry. Further spoken word and clean vocal arrangements compliment the palpable blasting energy and quirky leads that comprise much of “Völkerbrand” and “Die himmlische Revolution,” while “Triebgeschwärme” pounds away with sizzling riffage and notably beefy drum work to accent the ritualistic aura Porta Nigra conceive.
The title track batters away with gusto, but morphs into a faint horn arrangement with stomps of soldiers marching along to more spoken word pieces to provide a chilling aura. Weltende concludes with “Hora Mortis” and its subdued and methodical direction, layered with slick piano work and slow-yet-sharp leads that perpetuate the intended feeling of despair, accentuating what is an incredibly strong finish.
Porta Nigra have done an admirable job of adjoining the band’s earlier extremely unconventional leanings, with the direct-yet-eclectic ferocity of Schöpfungswut. Their latest is more direct than the band’s early material, while brandishing a relatively balanced equation of a forceful black metal skeleton filled out by a palatable dosage of avant-garde oddities. Weltende should please most by packing a serious punch while not sacrificing the uncommon elements, all while holding a consistent and powerful narrative that will surely impact those who pay attention to what the band is out to convey.