Past and Present
Essenz: A Retrospective
Berlin has a really cool extreme metal scene right now. Necros Christos is going strong, and Drowned have taken off following the release of their debut album, Idola Specus. It is actually through Drowned that I was introduced to another tremendous act from Berlin. The name of the band is Essenz and their path, even though it lies within the extreme boundaries of metal, is quite different from the works of Necros Christos and Drowned. Essenz find themselves in a hybrid state between doom and black metal, releasing long albums filled with towering ambiances and colossal riffs, as well as aggressive outbreaks and destructive tendencies.
The band was founded back in 2007 and has so far released one EP entitled Metaphysis, and two full-lengths, KVIITIIVZ – Beschworung des Unaussprechlichen in 2010, followed by their sophomore album, Mundus Numen. Apart from that, the guys from Essenz have also been busy with other acts. G.ST and T.NGL, bassist/vocalist and drummer respectively, have become also members of fellow Berliners Drowned, while G.ST also performs live bass for another great German black metal act, The Ruins of Beverast.
The first EP from the band came out in 2009 as an independent release. Despite its raw sound, the signs of greatness could not be missed. Essenz carefully build up their ambiance, something that becomes quite obvious from the very first minutes of “Ufer.” The opening song is particularly interesting from that aspect, with its atmosphere being reconfigured and reshaped for the duration of the song, reaching an impressive majestic presence from eight minutes onwards.
Then there are some instances when their sound becomes a bit more abstract and lucid, as is the case with the clean start of “Essenz,” an aspect that works quite nicely with their overall sound. And on top of that you have certain aspects of the vocals further enhancing this unreal ambiance. Mainly, that is the whispers in “Untergang.” But even when the voice needs to be straight up extreme, the versatility of G.ST is quite apparent. From the standard black metal shrieks of the opening track, to the deep growls of “Untergang” and the wolf-like screams of “Raush,” the vocals always work for the band perfectly.
The core of Essenz is torn between doom and black metal. The slow, torturing riffs of the opening song appear with an almost funeral-like pace, with the sound as heavy as it can be; while in other instances, they travel as far as the drone side of doom, with ferocious feedback and the pace losing any meaning. But Essenz seem to also have an appreciation for the more straightforward side of doom, having some Sabbath-ian moments, for example in the beginning of “Rausch.” And then they go and perform straight-up, bitter black metal to the core. The opening song soon erupts into a black metal outbreak, as do parts of “Rausch.” Especially in “Rausch,” the band takes a turn for the more chaotic, resulting in one of the most extreme moments of the album. And then in the closing track they seem to be throwing some death into their black metal, resulting in a hybrid death/black approach in “Untergang.”
To top all that off, Essenz also show quite an interesting affection for the more groove moments. It is actually quite impressive how the band is able to pass from doom to black metal and then to groove. That happens in a couple of instances in the opening song, resulting in devastating outcomes. “Untergang” in general has a much stronger groove than the other songs, while the part near the end of “Rausch” has an infectious vibe to it.
Despite its raw sound, the ideas of Metaphysis showcase a great extreme metal band in the making. Their ability to manipulate the different aspects of doom metal and black metal is impressive, putting all of them together through their twisted visions.
KVIITIIVZ – Beschworung des Unaussprechlichen
Just one year after Metaphysis was out, Essenz return with their debut full-length, which encompasses seventy minutes of extreme music, wrapped around the darkness that this band transmits. Even though sonically it is not such a huge leap from their EP, Essenz seem to be doing everything better. Especially remarkable is the way they control the tempo of their tracks. The band starts things off with a slower tempo in the opening song and then slowly builds it up, while at the same time their repetitive concepts slowly grind your brain with their circling nature. The groove is still present, with moments in “Der Atem Genesis” giving the music more of an upbeat perspective. But even on their slower part, the band still keeps the interest of the listener intact, with the more on-the-edge feeling of “Weyzzez” and the ritualistic pace of “Lavitae.” Whispers are still present here, but also some clean vocals are found within KVIITIIVZ adding an additional dimension to Essenz’s music.
And it is not just creating ceremonial-like ambiance as they do in “Lavitae.” Essenz throw together moments that are straight out menacing, as is the case with “Vivat Entitas Okkulta,” with their use of effects really aiding in this instance. And in a similar manner as to “Ufer,” Essenz is able to build up the ambiance of their tracks, as they do for example in “Quae Trans,” and sequentially forming towering sonic structures. And their affinity for the more abstract still carries on strong. In a more doom-infused moment for instance halfway through “Der Atem Genesis” and in “Sophia,” while in “Quae Trans” the lucid vibe of the track is just on a whole other level. Oh! And talking about abstract and strange, you should check “Silenzium 4’33”” with the band paying tribute to the great John Cage and his composition. Cage’s vision was to create a song that would be comprised just of rests, resulting in silence! You don’t think that’s cool? Actually, the rationale behind the song was to give the listeners of an orchestra the opportunity to experience the environment in which the concert was played, stripped of any music. Now that is a cool concept!
The guitar work itself has stepped up its game, and Essenz make sure they are using the guitar in whichever way seems fit for their music. From the heavy and at the same time abstract work in “Der Attem Genesis,” to the more rock ‘n roll vibe near the end of the song, the creativity has reached another level. Even implementing it as a feedback generator in order to increase the tension for their songs, D.RK really nails it with his performance. And even the doom riffs seem to have evolved a touch, fr the more retro licks in “Weyzzez” and “Lavitae” to the drone/sludge hybrid state in “Quae Trans,” the whole vibe has reached another sonic high.
And what about Essenz’s black metal side, you say? Do not worry, it is still there and really doing its work. Especially the last part of “Weyzezz” and the destructive “Absolution Maligne” showcase the ugliest side of Essenz. And they even hold a surprise in there for you, with “Moon (Cover ov Mayhem).” And yes you guessed it; it is “Freezing Moon” from the monumental De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, with Essenz’s version of the colossal song adding some weight, revealing the doom mentality of the band, while the black metal parts and G.ST’s vocals give a ferocious performance.
In KVIITIIVZ, Essenz make the most out of their sound. Their songwriting has improved and the different influences of their music co-exist in a much better harmony. It is just preparing us for what comes next.
Now this is the moment that we have been waiting for. Just a couple of years after KVIITIIVZ was released, Essenz put out their latest album, this time through Svart Records as well, Mundus Numen, with the cover of the album designed by Manuel Tinnemans. Apart from the fact that the production is superior to their two previous releases, the band itself seems to be performing much better. They just play tighter and more in tune with each other in Mundus Numen.
The inclusion of samples is not something new for Essenz, since they had made use of them in KVIITIIVZ as well. This aspect helps the band build their atmosphere much easier and more directly, and some of those sounds are seriously strange here. About midway through “Extinguishing Shapes: Innermediate,” the multiple samples of a woman speaking are seriously chilling. It is just quite impressive what this band can actually achieve with such simplistic and straightforward samples. And they exploit that in other instances as well, for example in “Seae of Light: Pleroma” and “Extricate Spirits: Amor.”
Essenz have done some sonic experimentation in their two previous releases, but the case is quite different with Mundus Numen. In the opening track as well as in “Extricate Spirits: Amor,” the use of effects enhances the overall experience of the sound, adding an extra layer to the music of Essenz and making their songs more intriguing. The more abstract approach in “To The Bone: Mania” and “Observed by Specters: Paranoia” come in perfect contrast with the chaotic nature of “Observing Specters: Schizophrenia,” with the band is not being afraid to add some noise influence in the closing moments of “To The Bone: Mania.”
Guided by D.RK’s guitar work, the album is filled with interesting ideas. The great leads in the beginning of the opening song hook you immediately in to the album, while the overall approach is similar to KVIITIIVZ, but even better. The doom riffs have even more weight to them. Heavy as fuck in certain instances, such as “Extricate Spirits: Amor,” and even flirting with a sludge sound. They still have that slow, torturous vibe that they have acquired since Metaphysis, for example in “Observed by Specters: Paranoia,” but there seems to be an even stronger underlying darkness, something quite apparent in “To The Bone: Mania.”
On the other end, the black metal approach has been further enriched with the inclusion of some really cool sonic dissonance, as is the case in parts of “Amor,” giving the band a much more distinctive sound and an additional aspect of sonic extremity. The furious and relentless side of Essenz is still at large, something very noticeable in the closing track, adding tremendous impact to the song. And of course, the chaotic side of the band is always just a step away, and in this case it is found within all its glory in “To The Bone: Mania.” What is quite interesting is that the black/death hybrid approach that was first introduced in “Untergang” from Metaphysis really takes flight here, and especially in “Seae of Light: Pleroma.” Those are the parts where T.NGL really shines. When the black metal parts are coming full-blown towards you, his drumming patterns are signaling the assault, while when the doom riffs are at large, he provides a strong foundation for the parts.
G.ST’s vocals are as versatile as ever. Spitting pure evil with their more gnarly character in “Seae of Light: Pleroma” and in” Observed by Specters: Paranoia,” while his deeper growls in “Seae of Light: Pleroma” and the double vocals in “Extricate Spirits: Amor” give more power to the songs. Whispers are present, of course, enhancing the ambiance alongside the clean vocals, commanding forth a more grand aspect of the band.
Essenz have had an amazing run go so far. From the first steps in Metaphysis, it was quite obvious that this band was destined to achieve greatness. Through the ferocity of KVIITIIVZ and the sonic depth of Mundus Numen, this band has shown what they are capable of. The only thing that remains is to see where they can take it from here. The future definitely looks bright… or dark… depending on where you stand.