Her Von Welken Nächten

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The best thing about Her Von Welken Nächten is its liner notes. Shadowy cover artwork shrouds The Exorcist in fog; inside, black-and-white photographs show the members of Dornenreich cavorting in rivers and snowy woods. Next to them appear voluminous German-language commentary and lyrics, which seem to include "dialogue" like a musical or an opera. The visuals are über-metal, but the sound doesn't match. About half of this record is a mix of goth and melodic black metal. The other half is meandering acoustic guitars and strings that sound out of place next to the metal, whether in the songs or their sequencing. The acoustic bits are super-pretentious -- the vocals make the Sisters of Mercy sound like Suzanne Vega -- but they're mostly harmless. When metal comes in and tries to take them by the arm -- that's when things get hairy. The metal, too, by itself is serviceable; "Trauerbrandung," in particular, is a storming blitz of heaviness. But when jammed together with little rhyme or reason, metal oomph and gothic drama feel overwrought. It's like combining Oreos with pizza; just because you like both doesn't mean you should try them together.

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