The Female of the Species
(I, Voidhanger Records)
I generally have two problems with black metal (putting aside the political and religious issues that go hand-in-hand with anti-God fascists making music from the depths of Scandinavian forests…). First, either the production or the music feels soulless. Sometimes this can be intentional and work, but in 2015, simply making the sonic equivalent of an occult worship session doesn’t cut it anymore. Second, it’s too often about gimmicks, whether it be corpse paint (numerous) or the act of not having a gimmick (deafheaven). A certain metal label paraded out a certain one-lady band as the future of black metal (your thoughts on Myrkur are a different issue), creating another style of gimmickry. Women in black metal are just about as rare as flasks at a Baptist Convention, so it’s worth noting and highlighting new female acts, obviously. However, it’s even more important to make note when one is as talented and impressive as Dagny Susanne.
Outside of the masterful drumming of Martrum on the record, Dagny handled all of the writing and performance on The Female of the Species (get it?!), and she did a masterful job. The guitarwork is stunning, both in its simplicity and how layered the melodies are. One of the ways black metal, at its best, is so wonderful is how beautiful it can sound in the right hands. The band’s name translates from its German roots as either “carols” or, literally “night songs”. It many ways, the songs on the album do feel like hymns, praying to the god of desolation. There’s a wonderful darkness throughout the record, but it doesn’t feel necessarily evil (it probably is); it feels much more introspective and sinister, much like humans tend to be. “Eve” slows things down to give the sound a dripping menace. What’s most impressive about this album is how cohesive and clean everything sounds; sure, this will piss off the “TRVE” purists, but the choice to employ somewhat modern production techniques allows Dagny’s vision to shine.
This is definitely one of the best black metal releases you’re likely to hear this year. Sure, she may not have a completely different take on traditional black metal, but I’ll be damned if The Female of the Species isn’t a fantastic listen and much more compelling than most recent black metal. By embracing the cold feel of black metal’s storied past with limited reliance on gimmicks, Nachtlieder has crafted a highly commendable album worthy of looking past any conceptions of “oh hey, look, it’s a female!” No, this is damn good black metal, period. (Nicholas Senior)