Germany is one of the biggest producers of black metal. It doesn’t have huge commercial acts such as Dimmu Borgir (who stopped playing black metal years ago, by the bye), but the underground scene has always been very active in the land of sausages, Sauerkraut and ugly women. This does mean, however, that there’s an uncanny amount of utter aural diarrhea you have to wade through before you find something that’s remotely worth listening to. To put it less metaphorically: the odds are rather high that you’ll have to listen to a dozen of musically handicapped bands like Priestermord before you stumble across a project such as Luror.
Perhaps it is not entirely coincidental that many of German bands that DO know how to play their instruments are connected to Absurd in one way or another. This Thuringian band, that enjoys infamy due to several of its members being connected to a murder in the early nineties, as well as national socialist beliefs, has been very important when it comes to defining an authentic German style of playing black metal. Loud, not too mellow and – above all – clearly intelligible vocals; thrashy, mid-tempo riffs without too much hysterical tremolo picking; neofolk/acoustic influences and elements – there are legions of German black metal bands that fit this description.
Heldentum is no exception. This formation, which already split up quite some years back, consisted of just two members: Managarm of Wolfsmond and Wolf, whom we all (should) know from his involvement in – surprise surprise – Absurd. Shortly after the release of their 2003 album Waffenweihe, their first and only full-length, the band called it quits. Waffenweihe consists of 7 songs, making for a modest half an hour of black metal in the traditional Thuringian style that you would expect from projects related to Absurd. Compared to other bands from this region in the Easternmost part of Germany, however, Waffenweihe is a bit more laid-back. The songs aren’t too fast, there is barely any use of double bass and with an unusually high amount of guitar solos, Heldentum is mainly characterised by a focus on melodic rather than rhythmic aspects.
This style is already presented with the first song, Wildsaulied, a short but very powerful opening track with multiple guitar solos and different tempos, and the characteristic vocals of Wolf leading the assault. The second song, Kyffhäusersaga, is somewhat slower and darker, and features some more tremolo-like riffs and a melodic bassline, providing the song with a more ‘epic’ vibe. Add to that the reasonable variation of near depressing riffs, and Kyffhäusersaga can be justly called the highlight of the album.
Unfortunately, the other 5 songs do not contain anything overly amazing. The intro to Aus Schmiedes Hand sounds cool and Der Waldmarsch showcases, like Kyffhäusersaga, a decent variation of riffs, and is structured rather well, but other than these moderately remarkable moments, Waffenweihe seems, more than anything, a pretty routine exercise of Thuringian black metal. Even the ballad Der König von Thule, based on a poem by Goethe, doesn’t really get a point across despite its originality, partially because the track fails to build up to some sort of climax. With everything taken into consideration, it is not wholly unfair to say that Heldentum does nothing really new or surprising apart from being a bit less hectic than bands such as Absurd or Totenburg.
The lyrics also largely fit into the mold of German black metal, as they largely deal with paganism and related themes, all with a naturalistic, völkisch approach. Heldentum also is a bit more light-hearted when it comes to the lyrics, though. Even when aggression towards christianity is brought up, it has an ironic, near humoristic tone. In Wildsaulied, for example, Wolf sings: “Ein Pfaff, der uns bekehren wollt’ / Sprach rätselhaft von Hirten und Schafen / War nicht gerad’ erfreut darüber / Als ihn die Schwerter am Schädel trafen!” The sample from Conan the Barbarian at the start of Kyffhäusersaga, as well as the paganised ‘Hail Mary’ at the end of album closer Rragnarrakk further establish the light-heartedness of this album when compared to the more serious, explicit blasphemy of related projects.
Even so, Waffenweihe still is a pretty standard German black metal album in every aspect. It is very listenable and fans of other black metal bands from Thüringen will certainly want to add Heldentum’s record to their respective collections, even if they needn’t expect a masterpiece. With the exception of Kyffhäusersaga, Wildsaulied and Der Waldmarsch, the songs on this album won’t leave a lasting impression. So unless if you’re very into the Thuringian style of black metal, Waffenweihe definitely isn’t a must have.
Managarm – Guitars
Wolf – Vocals
Beastwood – Bass guitar and drums (session)
1. Wildsaulied (3:02)
2. Kyffhäusersaga (6:51)
3. Aus Schmiedes Hand (4:10)
4. Waffenweihe (3:52)
5. Der Waldmarsch (6:33)
6. Der König von Thule (3:27)
7. Rragnarrakk (4:11)
 My own shakey translation: “A Pfaff (derogatory term for Catholics) that wanted to convert us / spoke mysteriously of shepherds and sheep / [he] Wasn’t overly joyous about it / When the swords entered his skull!”.
– Spaced out text to make the review more readable