A walk in the woods is a nebulous concept. The woods themselves are an inconsistent proposition: in Britain alone a walk in the woods can mean a heart-swelling exploration of an unearthly domain, or a mud-splattered scramble between horseflies and crisp packets.
Owing to the genre’s preoccupation with the natural world, black metal albums can arguably be approached in the same manner as a walk in the woods – we know there’ll be flora, we anticipate the elements will make a defining contribution to the experience, but the exact configuration only ever reveals itself on stepping over the threshold. Fluisteraars’ back catalogue is deeply entwined in their relationship with the forested Gelderland region of the Netherlands from which they originate, and to walk in their woods is to undertake a monumental trek replete with sleeping under the stars, foraging resources, and discerning uncertain pathways.
Fluisteraars are thorough with their inspirations. In 2018 they released the De Oord split with Turia (both bands are mainstays of the thriving Dutch black metal scene – home to Nusquama, Iskandr, Laster, Verwoed et al.) conceptually based on the Dutch rivers Waal and Rhine, and named after an old Dutch term describing where two rivers meet. Unsurprisingly, the influence of the natural world extends to their sound; their music has a pastoral quality and their songs wind in broad arcs. Instrumentation is designed here not to lacerate or punish, but to guide and reveal the way forward.
Those coming to their new album Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking having been introduced to the band through prior release Bloem might be surprised at its three song structure, but this direction is well established for the act, who’ve been active throughout the 2010s and whose debut album took a similar approach. Bloem was met with high fanfare and around its release Fluisteraars generated a buzz, subsequently one of their offshoots (Solar Temple) were invited to perform an original composition at Roadburn Festival.
The album is billed as psychedelic, but what’s here is closer to post-metal than say the repetitious improvisations of Oranssi Pazuzu; songs are tightly constructed despite their length, demonstrating a keen sense of composition that benefits the album. Further contrary to expectations associated with the psychedelic label, instrumentation is actually pared back from Bloem (as proudly declared by Fluisteraars Bandcamp page), which included a range of keys & synths absent here. Vocal variety however is smartly increased and the various wails, drones, shouts and screams here are used here to create texture in the spaces left by those jettisoned instruments.
The album was recorded live, and its third song ‘Verscheuring in de Schemering’ serves as a logical focal point and a towering climax. It makes up more than half of the overall duration of the record, nevertheless the duo retain focus and deliver a coiled campaign of ideas, the velvet on the record’s knotty antlers. The runtime allows Fluisteraars to take one of the album’s only pauses for breath, a misty interlude that serves as an inhale before the frenetic sprint finish, which in the context of the whole record is perfectly timed: we’re closing in on our destination, but with a ways to go. By the alternatingly jubilant and despairing tone of the song, we’re left uncertain as to whether we are destined to emerge from Fluisteraars’ woods, or disappear into them entirely.
Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking is out via Eisenwald on August 28th and can be ordered here.
Words: Luke Jackson