Label: Amor Fati Productions
Genre: Black Metal
Release Date: February 7, 2023
For Fans Of: Chaos Moon, Skaphe, Blut Aus Nord
Häxanu are another side project from Alex Poole. If you don’t know him, he’s the main force behind Chaos Moon, and is also involved with Guðveiki, Ringarë, and Skáphe, among other groups. I don’t know why one man needs this many side projects, but as long as they all continue to sound great I won’t complain. Totenpass is the band’s second release, following 2020’s Snare Of All Salvation. Häxanu has some big shoes to fill with its creator’s impressive discography.
The music on Totenpass consists of long-form atmospheric black metal. Atmospheric focuses on this record include emotional outbursts, mainly through the proclamations of the vocalist, and slow build ups that never lose their intensity through their repetition and shifting forms. The album shifts between an acoustic sound, a symphonic sound, and a more traditional atmospheric black metal approach throughout the record.
Emotional poignancy remains the heart of Totenpass no matter what else the record brings forth at any given moment. This emotional message is mainly told through the vocals. The howling, extravagant passages from the vocalist work well as the centerpiece of Häxanu. The vocalist remains dynamic, coherent, and interesting throughout the record.
Totenpass contains some well-written riffs to supplement the vocals. There are some interesting moments of hesitation throughout the record, and good use of restraint. Some of the non-tremolo passages make the louder and more frantic tremolo sections feel earned. Everything on this record feels very intentionally placed rather than done in the name of convention, and the record is quite satisfying as a result.
Another satisfying facet of Totenpass is the seemingly intentional use of dissonance to support the album’s emotional presence. The tension and resolution created by dissonance in the melodic lines aren’t overbearing and never sound like the focus; rather they serve to support the rest of the record. Other miniature sources of resolved tension continuously pop-up throughout the record, including it’s the drums dropping out of a blast beat until you’re ready for them to come back, and the guitars entering a distinctly non-black metal phase for a moment only for the tremolos to pick right back up. These serve to prop up the longer musical resolutions that take entire tracks to figure themselves out.
Despite the length of the tracks on Totenpass, I never felt bored listening to this record. Häxanu use their track length well. Layers get slowly added or peeled back, and different passages get repeated in new contexts. The centerpiece of the record is a pair of two ten-minute tracks, which both fly by. Even the instrumental intro and interlude are worth their time.
With all of these positives, one major flaw kept intruding on my enjoyment of Totenpass: I had absolutely no desire to put this record on ever. When I started listening I remembered that I actually quite like this album, but the record repelled me hard whenever I had to choose what to listen to. I think it was just my mood and not the record’s fault. However, the creeping issue that got worse over repeated listens is that at its core, Totenpass is just another black metal record with nothing that really stands out. The songwriting and vocals elevate it, but the record isn’t that far away from getting lost in the orbit of another, larger release.
While Totenpass may be just another atmospheric black metal record, turns out it’s an excellent one. Alex Poole must have plenty of creative juices to keep pumping out releases for all of these different bands, but judging by the quality of Totenpass he doesn’t seem to be overextending himself at all. I recommend this to anyone who thinks that atmospheric black metal can be too repetitive, but would otherwise like the genre. Top two black metal release of the year so far.
- Death Euphoria
- Thriambus – Threnoidia
- οὐδεὶς ἀθάνατος
Total Playing Time: 45:21
Click here to visit Haxanu’s Bandcamp