EP Review: Jenseits by Finsterforst (AOP Records)

Finsterforst emerge from the Black Forest with a new EP titled Jenseits due for release on the 8th of September via AOP Records.

During the Covid pandemic, Finsterforst asked their fans to help fund a new mini-album with only one song, clocking in at almost 40 minutes. The fans came to help, and Jenseits was born. Arguably the band’s boldest statement to date, Jenseits may not be ideal for streaming, but those who enter this ominous yet awe-inspiring forest of sound will be infinitely rewarded: their characteristic Black Forest Metal here unfolds with a mesmerizing majesty that takes many twists and turns, but always with superlative songwriting acumen. Although the mini-album is broken up into four parts, Jenseits is undeniably an immersive experience that requires attention to its totality, and the 3D production itself renders that experience incredibly cinematic.

Founded in 2004, Finsterforst have released five albums and two EPs thus far. Starting as a folk metal act with heavy usage of accordion, the German band have evolved their sound to an epic, cinematic mix of post-black metal, traditional black metal, and folk metal featuring an enormous range of different singing styles and always-heavy riffing. The quintet calls this sound Black Forest Metal, referencing their roots in the Black Forest region.

Finsterforst are Olli Berlin on vocals, Simon Schillinger on guitars, vocals, synth and orchestral arrangements, David Schuldis on guitars and vocals, Tobias Weinreich on bass, Cornelius Heck on drums and vocals and Sebastian Scherrer on keyboards and vocals. Such is the scale of Jenseits, there is still room for guests and more vocals with Johannes Joseph adding accordion and vocals and Sevan Kirder adding duduk, flute and vocals.

Jenseits music was composed and arranged by Simon Schillinger with  lyrics written by Olli Berlin. It was produced and mixed at Iguana Studios by Christoph Brandes and Simon Schillinger and was recorded and mastered at the same place by Christoph Brandes. The excellent cover art comes courtesy of Yaroslav Gerzhedovich.

Jenseits by Finsterforst band art
Photo Credit: Marco Sorrentino

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With Jenseits being a whole piece, but split into 4 sections, I will write about it from both angles and so we get underway on this quite mammoth adventure with Kapitel I – Freiheit. Booming folk vocals echo a call to arms setting the scene. Additional backing vocals join in, no music yet, but it’s musical, and both eerie and beautiful simultaneously. The guitars and drums crunch into life with huge orchestral backing. It sounds big before suddenly dropping into a banging metal section with punchy drums and grooving riffs. The variety on offer, within a minute, is insane and as the drums hit ferocious speed, the lead guitars start blazing and choirs add another dimension. This is amazing.

Black metal vocals start barking us through sections, followed by spoken word while crunchy riffs pummel us. There are so many twists and turns, we drop into a folkish singing section, all while the bass and drums still go on full attack. The orchestra grows as horns blaze – there is a lot going on, and a lot of directional changes, but it works so seamlessly and shows a level of musicianship that most bands can only dream of. And as I write that, an accordion has taken over followed by some quite majestic clean singing. The first section fades out nicely actually. I was wondering if the splits would be really obvious but I can see how that works as a seperate track or as a joined up song. That’s cleverly done.

Anyway, we head off for round 2 with Kapitel II – Dualitaet. It flows onwards of course from Part 1 starting with the same backing but changing to a slower, more ominous drum beat and chunky riff. The orchestras add more grandeur behind the riffs and drums with keyboard melody and guitars all forming a foundation layer as choir vocals join as well. Heavy growled vocals get your head banging away in a seriously dark section that, aside from the many, many layers, is the most straightforward metal part of Jenseits so far. Of course we don’t stay standard for long as synth adds a few unexpected effects.

The heaviness continues though with plenty of blackened metal on offer yet always with something else interesting and exciting as well, from the synth effects to huge horns and then the change up into epic cleans that drop us into a tapping drum section and a twanging melody that exudes atmosphere.

We are soon back in the blackened metal again with growled, barking vocals and blasting riffs before a guitar solo takes a turn, fading out into echoing spoken word that ends magically in a huge roar introducing a massive orchestral section. It is so hard to explain the size and complexity and genius of what I am hearing here from Finsterforst. Cinematic is a good word for it but it seems bigger than even that. This second section closes out with a piano melody that again offers a clearish ending for this as a track but leads directly into the next part nicely too.

Kapitel III – Reflexionen takes up that piano melody before dropping into reflective, subdued folk melody with flutes, gentle guitars and orchestras. It’s quite traditional and ancient sounding, heavy on the folk and acoustic side and very engaging. Deep,  clean, forest worthy vocals take up the song blending nicely with the acoustic melodies. This third part is the shortest on Jenseits but it has real impact, with stunning vocals in a more true to folk song that lives up to it’s name, offering you that time for reflection. 

We move now though into the longest and sadly the last part of this epic journey with Kapitel IV – Katharsis. The folk melody fades back and is replaced by electric instruments and spoken word that feels like it is building to something big. And it is, as the drums explode into life and the choir vocals take the lead in a fist pumping section of epic proportion. It gets harder, gets heavier with huge riffing and vicious vocals for a while before a sudden enough drop into melody transitions the song back into a combination of folk melody through accordions and crunchy guitars. 

There is of course still so much happening as we walk this twisting and turning path with Finsterforst. The orchestral arrangements are powerful and exciting, the vocal styles are plentiful and always evolving, huge drums, bass, guitars all combine with the traditional folk instruments and keyboard melody yet it never feels busy or too much, it is a wonderfully worked composition that keeps delivering with each passing minute. As Jenseits continues with this fourth and final part, we get more black metal in a verse that really hits with heaviness, plenty of rhythmic grooving riffing and melodic backing.

It grows and grows as a song, giving you one hell of a pay off as we head into an epic section where every single offering Finsterforst bring all hits at the same time. Heavy vocals, choirs, orchestras and metal combining to create the sort of music that almost seems too big for your small mind. It reaches a pinnacle just before your head explodes, stopping for a few seconds for you to catch your breath before returning with stunning clean vocals, more meaty riffing and starts building itself towards the close. First switching to choirs, slowing the drums and adding more melody as the guitars scream quietly, fading slowly until the end leaving you feeling both grateful and a bit breathless.

Finsterforst hit like no other, offering a combination of styles and sounds that delivers atmpshere and emotion time and time again and Jenseits may well be the pinnacle of what they have to offer. It’s an EP of the utmost quality, with 1 track that is almost too much to handle but also works well as 4 tracks too. Really though, try to listen to it as 1, with headphones on in a quiet space where you can really focus on it and experience it in it’s natural form.

It’s hard to describe and summarise – there is too much happening for mere words to express, too many twists turns and transitions so let me just leave you by saying that I feel like I left reality for a while there, compleltely hypnotised and mesmerised by a composotion that is cinemtatic, grand, majestic, heavy, dark and gorgeous. What talent, what a band and what a track/tracks – Jenseits is the bar setter for epic music.

Grab yourself a copy of Jenseits from AOP Records or Finsterforst’s Bandcamp by hitting the appropriate link.

Finsterforst Links

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  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

Jenseits by Finsterforst (AOP Records)
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