Oh, how nice it would be to understand the lyrical part of this album. The fantastic artwork that this debut album from German symphonic black metal band Totengeflüster has, shows the central twists in the story, but it's still badly left open. Is it a ghost story, or is there more to it?
Totengeflüster mix epic, soundtrack style horror music with rather raw black metal. They do not exactly sound like Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir or Agathodaimon, though. The soundtrack parts follow the story, following the story and fluctuating between calm and event-oriented. There is no real symphonic orchestra or players on this album, but symphonic parts were created by using sound banks' samples. The creation process must have been considerable in effort, as there are so much happening at times. It does sound artificial, but not extensively so. Various organ, piano and strings sounds can be heard, creating a tuneful wall of symphonic music element.
What emerged as sounding synthetic is the drum machine (or samples). Target probably was to make the drums sound real, acoustic, but it wasn't achieved. The drums sound like a machine, which does lessen the general ambiance of the music. Now, the band have a session drummer in their ranks, but I wish the drum parts here would have been played by flesh and blood drummer.
The songs do not lack of melodiousness. The raw semblance of black metal riffing is accompanied by more melodic playing. The riffs are either very heavily played, or then trebly in form, and sound like German branch of that stuff. Even though this is filled with catchy melodies, riffing and orchestral parts, this isn't easy-listening in any way. The soundscape is often very crammed. The songs are rather labyrinthine, or then it is the band's congested way of writing music, that causes this feel a bit over-blown every now and then.
The main vocals sound demonic. Surely, they were hugely inspired by Dani Filth (Cradle Of Filth). Often when trying to sound evil, horrifying or wicked, they tend to end up being funny. Sometimes this happens here, too. Screamed and growled voices are main styles, many times combined with hissing ones. Multiple simultaneous vocals tracks are more like a rule, not an exception. This makes it hectic and rough. Three guesting vocalists offered their talents here. Often, these guesting vocalists perform dreamlike, haunting singing, especially the female one. Not forgetting choirs. It's a very Cradle Of Filth style mixture.
There are two different formats of the album made: 6-panel digipak (limited to 150) and a LP-sized, hard cover artbook edition (only 25 pieces made). The digipak looks bloody good, but the artbook is simply outstanding. And the band logo, designed by Christophe Szpajdel, is also fantastic work of art.
'Vom Seelensterben' can be recommended to the fans of epic symphonic black and dark metal. Yeah, aforementioned bands' followers should definitely give this a chance. A big effort from a new band, and not a failure, even though there are some flaws in it: Epic compositions, crammed production and awe-inspiring artwork combining photography and computer-generated visuals. A promising debut, for sure.
Rating: 7- (out of 10) ratings explained
Reviewed by Lane