Ketzer Album Review: A Risky Album

German-based Ketzer have stirred up the black metal underground quite a bit so far. They gathered a solid fan base with their first to full-length albums ‘Satan’s Boundaries Unchained’ and ‘Endzeit Metropolis’. Now the quintet follows up with their third release in the form of ‘Starless’.

My first thought after I pushed the play button was that I had clicked the wrong track. Here was a happy pop-punk riff but I wanted to listen to the new Ketzer album. Then the grim vocals set in and after I checked again I was sure that I was listening to the new Ketzer album. It is fair to say that the band’s third album ‘Starless’ marks a significant turn in the band’s history, definitely musically. Only time will tell whether that’s going to be successful or not. Ketzer have taken speed and aggression down at least a couple of gears on their new album. Instead they added a lot of new influences like post-punk, doom and rock. That makes the album certainly a lot more diverse than the previous two releases. However, I am also sure that it will annoy a lot of their old fans. Historically, it has been proven time and time again that a rather radical change in music divides the fan base into new and old fans. In that regard, ‘Starless’ is a risky album. Ketzer certainly don’t play it safe.

After the album opener and title track announced the change, the second song ‘When The Milk Runs Dry’ starts with an acoustic, 2-minute intro. After the intro the track stays at a rather low-speed, yet it creates a cold, sinister and grim atmosphere. This is proof again that you don’t have to play at lightning speed to be extreme. Unfortunately, the weakest track of the album follows. ‘Godface’ is a pop-punk/post-punk track with some rock influences. The style doesn’t lend itself to creating this extremely venomous sound I was expecting from the album.

Highlight of the album for me is the epic, 11-minute ‘Shaman’s Dance’. The track is carefully constructed and leads the listener into an abyss of darkness. The play between doom-like slow passages and mid-tempo sections keeps the song interesting at all times. In the couple of breaks Ketzer venture into rock history with references to The Doors and their tracks like ‘The End’ and ‘The Unknown Soldier’.

Ketzer are taking a huge risk with ‘Starless’. Basically, the album is a bet on the open-mindedness of their fans and tries to attract a new audience. If you are here to find the outright black metal grimness Ketzer stood for with their first two albums you will be disappointed. You simply won’t find that sound on ‘Starless’. However, if you are interested in music that stretches boundaries, doesn’t give a damn about categories and tries to combine many subgenres into something new, then ‘Starless’ is the album for you.