Rainer Landfermann made his name as the virtuoso bass player in German tech death mavericks, Pavor, who released two cult records (A Pale Debilitating Autumn in 1994 and Furioso in 2003) and now receive more recognition as the years progress. The German underground also knows him as the vocalist for Bethlehem’s 1996 LP, Dictius Te Necare. He first came to prominence outside of Deutschland with 2019’s Mein Wort in deiner Dunkelheit, which caused as much incredulity in the metal press as amazement thanks to his unique take on extreme metal vocals. Now, he returns with a two-track EP to continue from his last record, and it’s yet another lunatic piece of art that defies categorisation.
You might believe you’re in a Depeche Mode paradigm of analogue and digital synthesisers at the beginning of the title track until Landfermann vomits his words like a person reacting to a poison. Vocal inflections grunt and groan over the most serene keyboard arrangements. The composer’s eviscerating pain finds expression as a triumph of the mind over the body. Listen how the sorrowful textures and gothic choirs capture the mood of the human soul waiting to reach heaven while still trapped in corporeal form. The vibe is extreme metal; the instrumentation is not. Think of Arcturus without guitars but expressed in the most masculine and guttural language in the world bequeathed to us in the tongue of Göethe. It’s easy to overlook the emotional sophistication of the music underneath the wailing death metal voice aberrations. Ethereal keyboard strings oppress you in an entanglement of grief. But it’s a grieving for the past that can be mended by seeking more light (“mehr licht”) in the future.
‘Originalstimme’ (transl. original voice) is almost intelligible as a Frank Zappa meets death metal composition. Fans of the legendary American will recognise guitar passages that seem ignorant of Western music scales but exist somewhere between jazz, blues, and improvisation. Of course, Landfermann’s instrument of choice is the bass guitar, which explains why a fret-ripping solo takes the song off course for a tangent of skank beats and rapid string manipulations that sound like a bumble bee trapped in a biscuit tin. The agonising voice expressions could pass for a defilement of the opera style. Naked City come to mind during the brief avant-doom menace at 01:55, where a guitar-free morose threatens to take over until splashes of classical piano set the direction towards a climax of liberating screams. If you’re not laughing, it’s because you’re too scared to react. See if you can avoid frowning during the three minutes and seventeen seconds of musical madness.
He looks like an eccentric professor, and he composes music like one. Mehr Licht is bizarre and brilliant at the same time. Rainer Landfermann is a unique voice in the extremes of experimental music.
Release Date: 23/06/2023
Record Label: Self Released
Standout track: Mehr Licht
Suggested Further Listening: Naked City – Grand Guignol (1992), Frank Zappa – Uncle Meat (1969), Henget – Beyond North Star (2023)