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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review: Totenmond - Der Letzte Mond Vor Dem Beil


Totenmond (Moon of the dead) has been around for quite a while. Being formed in 1984 as Wermut by singer/guitarist Pazzer and drummer S.P. Senz, still the backbone of the band, they changed their name to Totenmond in 1990. Their debut full-length ‘Lichtbringer’ dates back to 1996 and since then they have released six more albums, an EP and a few compilations. Whatever you can say about them, they sure take their time to compose an album, because only now, eight (!) years after their last release ‘Thronräuber’ they’re back with a new album called ‘Der letzte Mond vor dem Beil’ (The last moon before the hatchet). Totenmond plays a gripping type of crust punk, with plenty of variety. Despite this they are not well-known throughout the metal world, save in the German speaking countries, which quite likely has something to do with the language in which they sing, which is, of course, German.

They are a trio, and the list of current and past members is remarkably short. Apart from the two members of the first hour, there’s only Senf, who is the current bass player, and Roberto Garcia, the previous bass player. Having so few personnel changes usually means the band is a well-oiled machine so the signs are good for this one. Technically, that assumption holds true. The songs are solidly composed, with a well thought out structure with both expected and unexpected variety in them. Their play is impeccable, without the one instrument getting favored over the other. It is said they play a mean live gig, which is one of the main reasons they have a good reputation in the aforementioned German speaking countries, which I am determined to find out for myself after hearing their latest release.

‘Der letzte…’ opens with ‘Die Entheiligung des blasphemischen Josef und der ewige Rege’ (The desecration of the blasphemous Josef and the eternal rain), which is basically an intro that, like its name, goes on and on. It starts friendly, with birds, but pretty soon the rain sets in along with a short repeating bass riff that gets spun out further and further as the song progresses. After a while the guitar joins followed by a whispering Pazzer and some undetermined shrieking sounds, giving it a black metal feel. It reaches the climax towards the end, with Pazzer no longer whispering, but instead growling provocatively, until thunder stops him. A peculiar song compared to the rest of the album, but definitely interesting. After this somewhat misleading opening, the guys ram the pedal to the metal with the high-voltaged ‘Hölle mit Hof’. The speed goes up a dozen of notches, with drums that double that speed at times. A neck breaker if ever you have heard one, to be placed at the opposite end of Totenmond’s musical spectrum as where the opener is located. Here’s for setting boundaries…

There’s eight more songs on the album, exploring every corner of the set musical boundaries, which, I might add, are set pretty damn’ wide. Many different styles are to be found on ‘Der letzte…’ even within every single song. They change styles so fast you’ll be seriously challenged to keep up with it. The doomy sounds of ‘Giftköder’, with its thrashy end, the stirred up ‘Blut auf Krank’ with its heavy bass lines and its weird-ish outro, the slow, heavy riffs in ‘Kehrwoche’ that pick up speed along the way, the more accessible ‘Tötet den König’, the aggressive ‘Zu den Waffen’ with its high speed, there’s something for almost everyone here, without sounding chaotic or incoherent anywhere. To conclude this, they came up with ‘Die Salbung’, in which I suspect you are being cursed by a backwards speaking, insane-sounding Pazzer on the sweet, twisted tones of a church organ rather than receive your unction.

Like I said, ‘Der letzte…’ is a varied album, set within the wide musical borders the guys of Totenmond allowed themselves to wander around in. Though their core business remains crust, people who don’t like that particular style are in no way to be discouraged by that. It really has a lot more to offer, I think metal fans with a wide variety of tastes will find something to their liking on this album. And that might be the album’s only flaw, if there is one in the first place: It’s not an album that has preset musical outlines, it’s a journey through styles, so the number of people who like all of it might be limited. Regardless this, I’d strongly suggest anyone to give it a try, I for one actually did enjoy all of it. A lot.

Written by Henric van Essen

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