Album Review: Folterkammer – Weibermacht

Album Review: Folterkammer - Weibermacht
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Folterkammer exploded onto my attention recently after a teaser track was dropped, and following which I immediately wished to check it out should the opportunity arise. Formed a number of years ago out of New York, United States, Folterkammer are a weird conglomeration of elements that combine black metal with soaring operatic vocals; I remember first hearing that teaser piece and being immediately on board with what the band were looking to do. The band’s first album, Die Lederpredigt, released in 2020 and, now four years on, the band are poised to release their follow-up, Weibermacht, through Century Media Records for an April 19th release date. I’m always down for different variations on extreme metal and therefore I was more than ready to begin Weibermacht to see what on earth this record was actually capable of.

The primary reason that turned me on to Folterkammer in the first place, was their implementation of operatic vocals amongst a blackened metal performance. We’ve heard this style of tenor vocals beforehand in death metal and other more avant-garde works of extreme metal, yet black metal is not a place I’ve heard them in much, at least not to this extent. As you listen, it’s unmistakable that the vocals possess a particularly high place within the band’s mix and, thusly, Folterkammer wished to impress upon us the significance the vocals hold amidst their record. While the band crash and perform visceral riffs around you, the vocals maintain this stationary position by which you can keep returning to. They’re definitely a grounding feature here, aiding the band at keeping their instrumental performance level, never allowing our engagement to wane or wander. Additionally, these operatic vocals don’t try and quicken the pace of the band either; the rest of the band might be playing fast but the vocal work ensures it never feels like it’s outrunning us; we’ll always feel like we’re alongside the band as they play even when they’re dishing out blast beats.

Speaking of the band, their own performance is fantastic. While their songwriting exhibits numerous instances of speed and greater intensity, much of our time spent with Folterkammer is with steadier segments that help build solidarity between ourselves and the operatic element herein. But I appreciate how the band didn’t double down too greatly on the blackened aesthetic because this is not your conventional black metal band, and their knowing what they are massively benefits equally themselves and us listening in. There’s enough black metal within to entice fans familiar to the subgenre, yet Folterkammer’s identity is flawlessly established as scores of new fans will likely come to the band’s sides. Furthermore, I have to respect the band’s choice for a cleaner polish to their record seeing as their riffs, drums etc are perfectly audible and crisp even as the tenor vocals are performed with full clarity. A muddied production would have dearly diminished the impact the songwriting and vocals possess; though not conventionally aspired for within black metal, the cleaner production quality works wonders for Folterkammer’s warped serenity.

Album Review: Folterkammer - Weibermacht

I adore the aesthetic the band are vying for too. Looking at the cover, the track titles and even the lyrics, it’s abundantly clear the band were aiming for a European style, reminiscent of the great concerto halls of Renaissance Italy and France. You can feel the influence of such ideals dripping from their performance, for the operatic vocals aren’t typical to your run-of-the-mill performance, even amongst operatic circles. This is much more bombastic and theatrical in the classical fashion of an opera where it was an actual performance on stage as opposed to merely a lone tenor delivering their vocals. You can envision the band’s stage as strewn with props, smoke machines, background action, a narrative and multiple acts to follow. It’s massively grand but the audience always knows what’s occurring and can follow along without difficulty, even with the lingual differences inherent. There’s also the fact the band appear to sing exclusively in German, whether that be their primary operatic delivery or the more typical blackened, speaking performance. It only continues to cement the immersion Folterkammer provide as you’re sucked completely into their world with not a crack of light to suggest there’s anything other than this performance.

Folterkammer’s tracks are also longer than your typical piece too, but I feel it was necessary for the band to adequately get across the full breadth of what each track could provide us with. Shorter tracks wouldn’t really get the majesty and scope of their sound across. Each track also has some form of opening and ending that only furthers my idea of this being aligned with a European operatic performance where each track seemingly features like an “act” and as each one closes were treated to some bass work or an audio piece or some harpsichord. That extra time helps deepen the immersive element of Weibermacht as it feel continuously less like a band merely playing music, but a thoroughly planned performance and entity of its own accord. The songwriting also benefits from the longer tracks too since the band never finish a track in the same vibe that they begin it in; whether the band start a track with a steadier tempo before closing with something more visceral, or the other way, a track never maintains the same feel for long as the band are deadset on ensuring their music evolves with time.

In conclusion, Weibermacht is an utterly sensational record that has the balls to try something different. Knowing they have guitarist Zachary Ezrin among their ranks, who work is synonymous with Imperial Triumphant and the sender side of extreme metal, I am not surprised with how Folterkammer’s second full length album sounds. This is one of the most unique and captivating albums I’ve heard in some time, and likely will remain in my memory long after this review goes live. There are few comparisons one can make to Weibermacht; it manages to be a thoroughly satisfying black metal record yet still invoke the avant-garde fashion its songwriting vies for. It perfectly embodies the Germanic Expressionism that was so prevalent in the early twentieth century and I can easily imagine this being an alternate soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s own 1927 masterpiece Metropolis, such is the German vibe this record possesses. If Fleshgod Apocalypse is an orchestra, Folterkammer is that European Opera. An exquisitely powerful yet focused album, Weibermacht is an amazing experience.

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