I’m not a huge fan of black metal. I know many bands, and I am familiar with their music, but not in the kind of extreme way that many fans of the genre will be, with their encyclopaedic knowledge of the movements between bands, the history of each group, and the detailed analysis of the back catalogues.

I say this because I find black metal a challenging genre to describe and review. Plenty of similarities, too often blending into mere variations on a theme, often a very narrow theme. So, I knew nothing about ERNTE, their past, or anything about them when I pressed play on Weltenzerstörer.

There is a history to this duo, who cloak themselves under the name ERNTE. ‘Trve Hellvetic Black Metal’ is how it is badged. Formed by the enigmatic and mysterious Häxär, and completed by Askahex, the duo combines melodic passages with harrowing darkness. Both have history and experience. Askahex with previous doom band shEver and as frontwoman in the Swiss doom outfit Ashtar. Häxär takes lead songwriting, guitar and production roles.

Weltenzerstörer comprises seven songs, all spewing a disdain for the world. Opening song The Witch (Was Born in Flames) switches from deep, doom-soaked segments to explosive, tremolo riffing. It’s Askahex’s devilish howls and screams that take the attention, as she wails her way through the seven-minute track. This continues during the thick riffed Ruler Of Chaos, Bringer Of Storm, which draws on the early black metal styles of those early legends. The songs are well crafted, solidly delivered if a little cliched. This is certainly the case in We Wander The Winter Forest, which takes every black metal trope and brings it together in what is admittedly a captivating, sprawling movement.

Whilst there is little unique about the approach throughout this album, Häxär’s songwriting does work on many levels. The ferocious Trip To A Solitary Moon is memorable for the blistering pace, whilst the opening part of Vessels Of Sacrifice allow a change of tempo that edges towards elements of folk before the brooding feel and atmosphere takes over. It arrives like a dark cloud that slowly envelopes a sunny day, and with it, any feelings of joy or happiness.

I’ll admit that on first play I wasn’t over enamoured with Weltenzerstörer, finding it far too routine and dated. But repeated listens have allowed songs like The Fire Lake (Death Of Souls) to work their magic. The sinister, oppressive feel can on occasion suffocate, the claustrophobia that it prompts overpowering. But that’s part of the emotive approach that is essential to this genre. The spoken word on The Fire Lake (Death Of Souls) sees a brief respite from the frenetic roars, and the constant switching from fast burnout segments to deathly, semi-funereal passages maintains the interest.

Of course, if you don’t like black metal, then this won’t be of interest at all. Yet, despite my reservations, Weltenzerstörer did weave into my psyche. I’d probably need to be in the right mood to stick it on again, yet there was something appealing in a dark and foreboding type of way. Whether my view is the same as those who follow the code in a more intense way is debatable, and I’d be interested to see more discussion.

Paul Hutchings