After six years in the making, atmospheric black metallers Unru are ready to release their new album, Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten on the 4th of March via Babylon Doom Cult Records.
Founded in Bielefeld, Germany in 2012, Unru made an immediate impact with their monumental MMXIII demo (re-released on vinyl by Supreme Chaos Records in 2018). They built on that momentum with split recordings with Paramnesia, Sun Worship and Tongue before dropping their debut full-length album, Als Tier ist der Mensch nichts, in 2016. Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten, German for The Return of the Repressed, has been a long time in the making as the reinvented Unru devoted countless hours to revise, retain, revolt, reinvent and survive. Crafting a worthy successor to their excellent debut Als Tier ist der Mensch nichts was always going to be a hard job but the 5 piece finally feel Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten is ready and up to the task.
Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten delivers a grandiose, expansive statement of intent from the highly driven band seeing them dive headfirst into deep blackened gloom and fury while balancing dissonance and harmony to create an enveloping soundscape that you should feel, as much as hear.
As mentioned, Unru are a five piece and go under a single letter representing each member. They are E on synth & vocals, H on drums & percussion, L on guitar & organ, S on guitar & vocals and T on bass & vocals.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten hits us with five emotional songs fuelled by the question of, in their words:
“What actual freedom and revolution is within the individual, as well as the societal, I”
Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten comes with a brilliant cover painting from Jani Kaunisto, titled “I’m on my hands and knees” and was mixed & mastered at Goblin Sound Studio, Cologne by Andy Rosczyk. While the track list is short at 5 songs, they come in at a whopping near 55 minutes in length and we get underway with Kråkstad. An atmospheric start builds us in and sets the mood with a deep rumbling sound extending on into the night. That is joined by angelic, and almost elvish, female vocals. They have a slight echo to them and really do set a mood that is full of emotion, beauty and sadness. The backing music starts to evolve with some harsher tones breaking through the beautiful walls. Like tentacles reaching out towards you, they offer both intrigue and threat in equal measures.
In a way, it is an extended intro for the following track, the title track, Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten. Kråkstad leads straight into it with Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten being where the overall piece switches into full threat. Deep, rumbling bass with thunderous drums forms the rhythm. The guitars blaze out a powerful black metal riff and the vocals tear through you in traditional black metal guise.
While the verses definitely have a traditional vibe to them, that is thrown away for a much more expansive chorus that sees clean, choir like backing vocals join and doomy riff with a very post feel. It really works. The track is a ripper, feeling even more violent and aggressive than it is due to the mood set by the album opener. That’s intelligent writing and jist wait until that last instrumental section drops – that’s a real “try not to headbang” failing section right there.
Continuing the flow of the album, Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten fades out while Ein Haug der Freiheit fades in. A 13 minute whopper of a track, it starts off with continuing menace and darkness. The music really keeps that dark black metal raw sound with a bit of a fuzzy feel but the vocals are mixing between guttural growls and clean shouts. The sounds keep evolving too with atmospheric joining the crashing thunder. I love how the song seems to offer something new with each transition. Always interesting and exciting is a great label to have as a band. It plays with your emotions with verses that drag you into a curled up ball of fury and despair before a switch will suddenly leave you feeling tall and empowered.
Moments of those sorrowful clean female vocals turn the track in a different direction yet all the while, the drums, the bass and guitars are hammering out riffs to go nuts too. The anticipation grows as they drop into a groove metal section with a wicked beat and, shortly after, a layer of orchestration that is mystical and epic. An extensive instrumental that sets your mood again before then ripping your guts out with an explosive return to the crushing heaviness Unru bring. This is a twisting and turning, writhing beast of a track. Pure genius.
Hungersteine has a high bar to reach and the band have given themselves nearly 16 minutes of song to do so in. Again it starts as the previous song is still fading out. A lot of songs do this but Unru have stitched the whole album together really well. At nearly a minute in, you can still hear the ending of Ein Haug der Freiheit walking away. Hungersteine takes a gentler approach to it’s start. It is still dark, it is still heavy just more in an emotional way. A slow drum tempo, clean melodic guitar line gets your head nodding along as you truly get lost in the music. Unru really are delivering morose beauty that reaches deep into your consciousness.
Layer upon layer of meticulous craft join the track – clean vocals, sparingly used orchestral touches, a few more cymbals. I’m in awe of their creation. The drums start playing rolls, the vocals turn to demonic growls yet the music retains it’s subtlety. A lengthy orchestral brings in folk like, symphonic quality to the middle of the track again setting the tone for an explosion of riotous black metal with drums that could generate power for a small country. It’s hard to fully understand and appreciate the absolute brilliance of this song, and the album so far.
The fact it has to end is a huge disappointment but it does with the final track, Eintausend Stimmen. Another long song at 12 and a half minutes but to be honest, it feels like this whole album has flown by in less time than that, so easy is it to get lost within the sounds. Eintausend Stimmen is what I have come to expect from Unru now. A volatile mixture of intense black metal with ferocious riffing, terrifying vocals and insane drum skill. While that would be all the hallmarks of a quality song there, Unru have so much more to offer. More melodic guitar lines permeate the darkness, the music drops back part way through to allow you to breath before coming back with another section of vicious delight.
It transitions later into a more stomping groove section that allows you to headbang along. Clean vocals join, the drums start ramping up again and we let loose one last time before fading out on an extended note that plays out for over a minute allowing you to sit quietly and reflect on the mesmerising music you have just been treated to.
Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten is a phenomenal album. Unru have absolutely smashed it and it makes their decision to take the 5 or 6 years they felt necessary to perfect it seem a very wise one. Musically the album delivers in immense ways being both a treat for your ears but also your soul. I left the album feeling intensely emotional, hugely respectful and full of admiration for a band what have delivered what will surely be one of the best albums you are likely to hear this year. Amazing.
Pre order yourself a copy of Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten now on CD from here and Vinyl from here. Note that the Vinyl release date is not yet set due to the ongoing industry issues with queues at pressing plants.
Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten by Unru (Babylon Doom Cult Records)
The Final Score - 10/10