The Swiss have been producing some wonderful black metal as of late. The likes of Paysage d’Hiver, Ungfell, and Aara have been amongst the names of bands whose growing list of recent and notable black metal releases are breathing their own blend of dark eccentricity into the genre. A uniquely demented vibe breezes across each release. It must be something in that mountain air, because the black metal currently pouring forth from the small European country is drenched in a particular sense of urgency, purpose, and perhaps most importantly, a strong reassurance of genuinity.

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Geist und Hexerei, (translated as Ghost and Witchcraft) is the debut album from Ernte, a duo hailing from the hills of Switzerland. The band is made up of V. Noir (guitars, bass, drums, and programming) and Witch N (vocals, bass, and bows) and together, they channel a dark and compelling brand of black metal which they deem as "True Helvetic Black Metal."

Embarking upon the Geist und Hexerei journey, "Prozession" is an introductory greeting. Opening in ritualistic fashion with twinkling chimes and mournful bows before distant, witchy roars and staggered drums lumber forward. There is instantly a presence of something ancient and otherworldly amongst the brooding and foreboding atmosphere.

Of the intro, vocalist Witch N says: “Prozession is sort of an initiation for the listener – join us and we will show you our ghost and witchcraft.”

The mood turns colder just before "Betyle (The Holy Stone)" erupts into a furious storm. Ghosts that were present before now become screaming ghouls. The scathing assault begins amidst a freezing torrent of sonic weight and a barrage of blast beats. Witch N commands her furious shrieks with a special type of strength and conviction that is not seen enough in black metal as a whole. Her spells are cast scornfully through V. Noir’s bleak tunnel of ice.

The guitar passages are like sifting glaciers, colossal and cold, punishing and uncompromising. At times they slow the pace down but only to increase the nihilistic tension – and to great success. The despair and anguish really begin to creep out as one progresses through the chilling soundscape Ernte have created. Album closer "The Ending Void" leaves you hexed, vexed, and gasping for air. At times it is melancholic and bleak, at other times it is relentlessly pummelling.

Primarily rooted within the realms of a primitive sort of black metal, Geist und Hexerei occasionally leans into post-black metal without relying on any of the tropes. The production is on point and manages to carry the atmosphere and authenticity beautifully. Everything can be heard crystal clear while none of the intensity or magical atmosphere is compromised.

Recorded at Inferno Studio in Switzerland between October 2020 and February 2021, the album perfectly captures real world frustration while calling back to a distant past with an invoking of its energies and esoteric substance. At times it can feel like retreading a familiar ground with a new perspective and heightened senses, but at other times listening to Ente’s ‘Geist und Hexerei’ is akin to one unsuccessfully navigating their way through a kind of glacial asteroid field.

—Líam Hughes

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Geist und Hexerei is out now through Vendetta Records.

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