Written by Kep
Leiþa – Reue
> Black metal
> Releasing January 13
> Noisebringer Records
Die Worte, die du hättest sagen sollen
Die Fragen, die du hättest stellen können
Die Liebe, die du hättest geben sollen
Die Taten, die du hättest tun können
If you happen to follow me on Twitter for a while it’s very likely that you’ll see me post about Kanonenfieber, the WWI-focused black/death metal solo project out of Germany. In fact, if you read my 2021 AOTY article then you might recall that I gave Menschenmühle, their debut LP, the number 3 overall spot for that year. It’s possible, though, that you might not be aware that Noise, the man behind the outfit and its label Noisebringer Records, has two other solo projects as well: Non Est Deus and Leiþa, the subject of this review.
The sounds of these three projects have similarities, of course, but their concepts couldn’t be more different: Kanonenfieber seeks to set and share wartime stories, Non Est Deus screams incensed blasphemies at the heavens. But Leiþa, though, is something different. It’s all inward-facing, lyrically and musically focused on guilt, self-loathing, and disappointment. Noise calls it “cathartic black metal” and I’m not sure I could create a more apt term for the music of Reue, which is the project’s sophomore effort. It’s deeply affecting, extremely personal, and utterly dripping with the morass of negative emotion, and yet it’s a listen that leaves me feeling somehow cleansed rather than discouraged.
The album’s 39 minutes are a deep well of dark emotion, one into which it’s easy to lower yourself and submerge. Lyrically, emotionally, Reue (which translates to “Regret”) feels almost like DSBM, and yet the actual music doesn’t trend in that direction outside of a few teary moments of quiet contemplation. It’s easy to hear and feel that Noise is pouring his inner self into these songs. Opening track “01.09.2015” is a perfect mood-setter, beginning slow and somber in C minor with clean tone arpeggios in 6/8 and the sounds of increasingly anguished weeping. A primal scream of grief leads into the song’s main body, that painfully deliberate arpeggiated riff, now tremolo-picked, still leading the way over racing double bass. Noise’s signature screams are harrowing, punching over and over again on each beat and demanding the listener’s ears as his words press forward urgently over what boils down to a straightforward chord progression. “Sie nahmen die Träume / Und gaben mir Leere (They took the dreams / And gave me emptiness)”: the lyrical content is intimate and yet very open to interpretation, far more relatable than much depressive music.
So many of the musical elements that work well in Kanonenfieber‘s material are here too: a riveting vocal performance, driving rhythms pushing relatively simple chords excitingly ahead, plenty of calm moments that allow for reflection. And, perhaps most importantly, there are tons of evocative melodic lines in the guitar that manage to convey as much emotion as the vocals. There’s a bit of a formula to it: they always enter a couple segments deep into the song, and they nearly always add to a more basic riff that’s already in play. “Reue”, the heartwrenching title track, wholly embodies that feeling of regret and is moving for many reasons, but there’s this desperate melody just short of halfway through—a more expressive variation of a riff that first appears lower, within a turmoil of blasts—that flies octaves above the unrelenting tumult, desperate for release. It cries out, begging for peace, before relaxing resignedly into a moment of rueful quiet that allows the listener to really absorb the heartache they’ve just heard. Passages like that, or like the tired, hopelessly beautiful descending line that sails behind the chorus in “Schlaf” (“Sleep”), stick with you for a long time.
Leiþa excels at creating moments that do that: they sweep you up in a rush of feelings, holding you captivated at the high point of those feelings, and then drop you into a terrible brooding stillness where all you can do is try to absorb the sorrow you’ve just experienced. “Fremdkörper” (“Foreign Body”) does this too, perhaps better than any other track on the album, when it uses a monstrous low bass tremolo to drive into an absolutely searing guest vocal spot from Los Males Del Mundo’s Dani T., and then falls into a weightless liquid stasis before returning with blow after crushing blow on the words “Wer bin ich / Ich verlier mich / Fremdkörper / Ein selbstmörder (Who am I / I lose myself / Foreign body / A suicide)”.
Noise’s performances across the album are all stellar, as you might expect, and the production is very good, substantial but not overly packed with layers. The tremolos are tight but have some warmth along with their bite, the clean guitar tones are exquisite, and the drums are ideal for the songs in that they lead the way with power but never overshadow the vocals or guitars. I really enjoyed some of the little hi-hat touches on cymbal-heavy grooves with more space in them, like in sections of “Abgang” (“Exit”). There’s a particularly cool moment near the end of “Tier” (“Animal”) where the bass gets a long duet with the vocals, but otherwise it stays mostly unobtrusive in a quality support role. The instruments, just like the songwriting, point to the words and emotions more than to anything else; Reue is about the human condition, as filtered through one man.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Reue is an outstanding, gorgeous album, and a notable step forward from Sisyphus, the first Leiþa full-length. It’s the sort of listen that’s impossible not to connect with on some level, brimming to overflowing with the doubt, fear, and insecurities of us all, delivered in touching and heartwrenching musical form. Be sure not to miss it.