In earlier reviews I have vented my disregard for albums without proper song-titles, as it gives the listener nothing to "hang" their musical experience on, making it harder to remember which melody belongs to what song. German band BROCKEN MOON (courtesy of the aptly named Humanhater) is not exempt from this frustration, but apparently "Das Märchen Vom Schnee" consists of a single 50-minute song divided into six different parts. This sort of concept album is not a very common encounter, as most attempts fail miserably and become unfocused trainwrecks without direction nor highlights. Even though it might seem as if I'm horribly biased against this album right from the start, one must also consider the mammoth balls it takes to embark on such a challenge, or maybe it all boils down to pure pretentiousness? Let's find out.
In the vast halls of what you can call the "Black Metal library", BROCKEN MOON should be filed directly into the section marked «depressive». From the opening chords of the first part, "Das Märchen Vom Schnee" reaches out a frigid skeletal hand and leads the listener through a cluster of dead trees and shattered dreams. The journey is a heavyhearted one, but there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel after all. "Part II" introduces a folk-influenced acoustic guitar, and suddenly birds are chirping joyously, but there still seems to be a mournful drapery hanging over our heads. A freezing wind blows and chills you to the marrow, and suddenly the acoustic plucking is overtaken by a sorrow-laden riff, as "Part III" takes its forlorn hold. At this point tortured screaming vocals arise from the previously sinister whispers, and even though Grim (of AASKEREIA infamy) is apparently out of the band, they sound suspiciously like his twisted cries and lamentations.
The beginning of "Part IV" signifies a departure towards the aggressive, and suddenly you're being pummeled by hammering riffs and completely inhuman distorted screaming. This is also the first truly weak point of the release, since the vocals are now so over the top that they border on the ridiculous (and this is coming from a fan of SILENCER), while the more traditional Black Metal approach pulls us out of the previously well-established mood. Fortunately, the fifth segment of this epic brings the listener back to the shadowy woods, as everything is brought down to a more sombre pace and the vocals are toned down without losing their ferociousness. Then, half-way through, all hell is released as the music reaches its dramatic climax and total consciousness is obtained, taking the listener along as it plunges straight into the void.
At this point "Das Märchen Vom Schnee" feels like a brilliant entity that has taken us through a mesmerizing pilgrimage to the depths of isolation. The problem is that we're still only on the 30 minute mark, and with one track left clocking in at more than 20 minutes it's hard to imagine what else can be added to the experience, sans for a epilogue of sorts. In a way this is exactly what it feels like, as the gentle strumming of the acoustic guitar from "Part II" calms everything down and leads us back into the daylight, or more likely into death and salvation. This would have worked out perfectly as a short passage of closure to the album, but when this strumming goes on in the same tone for almost as long as the rest of the album combined, the track is doomed to turn out as anticlimactic and ultimately boring filler material.
Herein lies the true tragedy of BROCKEN MOON's best effort yet, since what was already positioned to be a genre masterpiece ends up in a seemingly never-ending loop of staleness that would best have been summed up as a three-minute long outro track, like a failed attempt at reproducing BURZUMs "Rundgang..." or "Tomhet". However, if you manage to ignore the last twenty minutes and the ludicrous shrieking in "Part IV", "Das Märchen Vom Schnee" is a testament to prove that playing depressive Black Metal doesn't necessarily equate to flogging a dead mare.
(Online June 19, 2008)