For those who haven’t followed progressive black metal force Der Weg einer Freiheit from the beginning, this is a band who have both a keen understanding of what makes black metal viscerally enjoyable as well as a desire to break away from convention. The stylized “v” is not a kvlt/cult reference for the Norwegian loyalists, but is instead a nod to Noktvrn being the German band’s fifth album. There are certainly nods to many of the style’s greatest influences and movements, but Der Weg einer Freiheit slither in and out of many subgenres. There’s always been a solid post-rock influence (most pronounced on this excellent record), but deafheaven or Wolves In The Throne Room this is not. Melody is of the utmost importance to each song’s success, but this isn’t melodic black metal. Lastly, there’s definitely a thread of war metal/death/thrash running through the most vibrant portions of Der Weg einer Freiheit’s music, but it always feels like the band are best centered in the machinations of top-tier black metal.

So where do we find the band on this nocturnally-themed fifth record? This one’s for the night owls, those of us who thrive when the sun goes down. However, the thematic emphasis on darkness, night, and dreams feels like a bit of a ruse. Adorned with a stunning purple and black album cover drenched in shadow, Noktvrn is unabashedly playful, even by the band’s standards. Do you want the harshest blastbeats yet from these Germans? Check. Do you want post-black metal gorgeousness? Check. Do you wonder what genuinely progressive extreme metal would sound like? Noktvrn will be your jam.

Much like the best times had at night, go into the record with no expectations and an open mind. Rigidity is the bane of fun, and though it’s quite odd to call a black metal album about the night “fun”, that’s exactly what Der Weg einer Freiheit have accomplished here. Their pensive lyrics shine brightest here (surely in part because there’s some in English for the first time, and in a move that would disappoint my Schneider ancestors, I do not know German) – revealing a greater sense of depth and scope than previous efforts. The freedom we often associate with dreams is a connective tissue here – whatever you think might happen certainly does. Having The Devil’s Trade’s dark folk is the perfect addition to “Immortal”, and the haunting shoegaze of “Haven” is a masterful way to finish the record, like the morning sun peacefully stealing you from the dream world.

For a band as unique and assured as Der Weg einer Freiheit, expectations were high when you invoke Chopin, the night, and dreams as influences. Few could’ve expected an album as expansive, expressive, and impressive as Noktvrn, the result of a band at the height of their powers. This feels like album of the year material for sure.
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