The first three minutes of Endstille’s fifth record, Endstilles Reich, contain some of the most exciting pure black metal in recent memory. That trebly guitar blur, tremolo-picked so fast you might develop carpal tunnel just listening to it? Awesome. Those blastbeats, clattering like rusty artillery? Perfect, especially for a band of Germans so obsessed with war, god, and declaring war on god. And whatever demons vocalist Iblis has to channel to rasp “Lifeless! Hopeless! Invalid!” like that, let’s keep those guys satisfied, because it’s working.
Then something strange happens after those furious first few minutes: nothing. Endstille continues blasting away in almost exactly the same way for the remainder of the album, and what started as a harrowing gun battle soon becomes a war of attrition on the ears. Taken by themselves, “No Heaven Over Germany” and “Erase” are organic blazes of energy that get the point across without triggers, keyboards, or overproduction. But listen to Endstilles Reich in its entirety and the impact begins to fade in the gunsmoke.
The album’s final track, “Endstille (Realität),” takes us on a sightseeing tank ride through the rubble of a bombed-out city, capping Endstilles Reich with slow, spacious riffs and crackling electric atmosphere. It would have been nice to hear more variety of this sort throughout the rest of the album, but the relentlessness is all part of the plan. War is hell, god is dead, and Endstille makes both points very persuasively.