Review by Fernando on November 8, 2023.
Polish black metal has always been a steadfast and consistent scene of great classic bands and artists, but interestingly enough, between their underground, the explosion of black/death metal and their thriving death metal scene, there seems to be a new trend within the scene. Maybe inspired by the rise of Mgła, a new wave of black metal bands has risen and they are pushing the boundaries of black metal into weird and unorthodox places, while still keeping the primordial essence of the subgenre. And thus we have Totenmesse, and their long awaited sophomore effort Fiktionlust.
Hailing from Krakow, Totenmesse first made themselves known with their debut To wherein they displayed their style of black metal that was cold and dark but also weirdly progressive and very complex. The main standout being their off-the-wall cover of King Crimson’s classic banger ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, however, despite such a strong start, the band would be quiet save for 1 new song titled ‘Scrum’ for the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack, and exactly 5 years later they finally returned. Not only is Fiktionlust the band’s grand return, and they are still displaying their demented and rabid style of black metal, but they’ve also improved on all their strengths and more.
The band’s biggest strength is how concise and impactful all their songs are. They manage to have bombastic and utterly dark songs with a lot of moving elements, from decrepit melodies, soaring riffs, dynamic drumming and new vocalist Mold vomiting screeds of death and existential dread while keeping the songs on relatively short run times of 3 to 4 minutes, and in the 2 instances of this record where they do go on for longer, 5 and 9 minutes. They make good use of extra time, the former 5 minute track ‘The Emperor’ masterfully displays how the band can keep a mid pace whilst still sounding massive and oppressive, akin to a relentless funeral dirge the song commands your attention and with enough burst of anger and an explosion of drums and riffs at the halfway point to end the song triumphantly, while the latter title track is the band has the band apply all the best elements of the album as a whole, and even has a minute or so of silence before ending the record with utter insanity and derangement.
Though the most striking element of the record is how weirdly psychedelic it sounds, the band’s dynamic and progressive leanings, combined with their pure black metal brutality give the album a disturbing psychedelic edge, not in an overt fashion like Oranssi Pazuzu, or the other avant-garde bands. The members are also involved in bands like Gruzja or Loathfinder, but it is there and it really gives the record a distinct sound and vibe. Furthermore the band with their playing and their songwriting successfully make this record sound modern yet timeless, since they make good use of modern production techniques while keeping their sound intense and without embellishments, everything you hear is the bare minimum, guitars, bass, drums and vocals and the band still sound massive and engrossing all the same.
It may have taken them half a decade, but Totenmesse truly returned with a vengeance, revitalized and more deranged than ever before, while the new wave of unorthodox Polish black metal may yet to catch on, Totenmesse can surely rise to the same heights as their countrymen Mgła and without being copyists to boot.
Rating: 9 out of 10541