I’m a simple man. I like my beer cold and my metal evil. You’d think the two Germans in Verdunkeln would sympathize with a guy like me, especially with a band name that means “To Darken” and an album title that translates as “Insight into the Torture Case.” The blotted black-and-white cover photography screams “evil kvlt black metal!” and so does the faded picture of a dour-looking Verdunkeln in scary corpse paint, and in case that didn’t make this band’s true evilness clear enough, the demon-looking guy with the two horns who’s pictured slogging through a pond in the liner notes clinches it: Einblick in den Qualenfall is EVIL.
The music? Not so evil. Granted, there’s a lot that doesn’t cross the culture barrier so well, and I’m not just talking about the German lyric sheet. The folksy melody and massed vocals of “In Die Irre” is beer-hall fare to these ears, and the lusty power waltz “Auf Freiem Felde” will sound silly to those not weaned on Teutonic folk music.
But even when Verdunkeln pounds out sloppy drum beats and blackened doom riffs, it sounds more nostalgic than frightening. New-wave synths and standard-issue Mayhem rasps cast a longing eye toward 1990, when black metal was still new and the tedious black ’n’ roll of “Der Quell” would have been acceptable.
As irritating as Verdunkeln’s dips into Germanic black-metal monotony may be, the biggest disappointment of Einblick in den Qualenfall is that the devil seeds planted by its more inspired moments are prevented from germinating, thanks to the muddy production so common in the black-metal underground. “Im Zwiespalt” brings some truly nasty Gothicized doom, with more than enough momentum and variety to keep us going for its fifteen minutes, but its power is defanged by a runaway reverb knob. Drums boom into empty space and eat up every other instrument, even cannibalizing themselves at some points.
Maybe Verdunklen recorded Einblick in den Qualenfall through the walls of a cavernous cathedral, or inside a tiled bathroom. Who knows? Either way, it’s a damn shame that the horned demon-looking guy had to slog through that pond for this.