Band – Totenmesse

Album – Fiktionlust

Country of Origin – Poland 

Genre – Black Metal

Release Date –  November 3rd 2023

Label – Pagan Records

Author – Rz


So long at last we have the long anticipated sophomore album from Polish black metal riff machines Totenmesse. 2018’s To really launched the band into the forefront of the Polish underground, at least for me. The album, featuring members of Odraza, Kult Mogli, and Massamord, has a very unique sound, melding modern black metal with the all too familiar cold “kvlt” sound. Now, after five years, lineup changes and a new vocalist, can Totenmesse create an album that is as compelling and original as To? Let’s find out!


Totenmesse doesn’t waste a second showing you what they’re about on this album. The album’s opener, “The Great Simplifier” starts with a snare drum four count before firing in on all cylinders. The riffs jump all over the place from “kvlt” minor progressions to angular and dissonant passages. “Bastard”, the album’s second track ditches the “kvlt” approach for an even more modern approach. I think this is in part to some of the lineup changes on this album.


During the interim period between To and Fiktionlust, we see vocalist Stawrogin (Odraza, WTZ, Gruzja) move from vocal duty to guitars. A lot of the song structures on this album sound like lite Odraza riffs, where Stawrogin handles guitar and vocals. “Bastard” is not the only example of this. “Impact Resistant Ego” is a perfect example of off kilter Odraza style song writing, with slower single note riffs chiming over these angular progressions.


For the fans of the “kvlt” sounding tracks don’t get down with this modern approach do not despair! There are plenty of nods to the old ways here. “Incipit” is a mid tempo track that reminds me of “Sign of an Open Eye” or any other mid tempo Gaahl era Gorgoroth song. “The Weight of Uselessness” jumps all over the place from being a modern black metal riff monster while also harkening back to the norsecore sound we all love. “The Emperor” for whatever reason SCREAMS Dimmu Borgir, minus all the symphonic nonsense. Also Stawrogin handles the lead vocals on this track so it has a much harder, more aggressive atmosphere. Stawrogin actually handles a lot of co-lead vocals on this album, which made me a little skeptical going into this. I think his vocals are very unique in black metal, a little more guttural and pronounced, and for me at least, are very recognizable…..Transition time!


As I mentioned above I was a little skeptical that Stawrogin wasn’t handling all of the vocals on this album. I think his vocals made To unique, as his vocals are objectively more “brutal” than the majority of black metal vocals. Enter Mold on vocals. I couldn’t be happier with Mold’s addition to the band. The harsh brutality is still present that made To so enjoyable through Stawgrogin’s vocals, but Mold’s absolutely harrowing and demented vocal delivery really elevates this album above its predecessor. From his harsh yelling on “Incipit” to his excruciating and agonizing vocals on “Confrontation Looks Like Hope” and the end of “Fiktionlust”. 


Now let’s jump into the drumming and overall production on Fiktionlust! The drummer isn’t credited on the bands entry on Metal-Archives (dork style) but whoever they are they fucking killed it. The dynamic shifts between brutality and intricacy are crazy here. “Impact Resistant Ego” and “The Weight of Uselessness” have some of the craziest blast beats I’ve heard in awhile, while “Fiktionlust” has some really nice midtempo and even laidback drumming that allows the tracks to breath. The production here is also stellar. It’s much brighter than To which had a darker, muddier and sludgier approach to it. The guitars here are bright and polished sounding which is needed because I think the riffs are more dynamic and layered. The bass is pretty audible too, which is really nice. It’s not doing anything crazy, but it’s doing its job and that’s all that matters. 


So, how does Fiktionlust stack up against Totenmesse debut? And where does it land in the grand scheme of 2023 releases? Fiktionlust is not really what I anticipated from the band after To. To was slower and brooding. It was darker and more melancholic throughout. Fiktionlust on the other hand, is aggressive. It’s bright and sonically dominating. It doesn’t hold any punches and it lets you know what it’s going to be from the first seconds of the album. I think the lineup changes benefited the band a lot here. Having Stawrogin move over to guitar really developed the bands sound into something more dissonant and interesting and Mold’s vocals really add this horrific and anguished element that I don’t think Stawrogin can capture with his vocals. The writing is more mature and dynamic and the songs are just a little more interesting. I think To had a better groove to it because most of the album was mid paced but Fiktionlust is more concise and doesn’t have any hiccups in the tracklist…ehrm King Crimson cover…. As far as stacking up against other black metal albums this year and other albums in general, I guess you’ll just have to wait for my list at the end of the year. 

Biography:  If you play drums hmu, I really need a session guy for the new Varanak album like bad. That’s all I got in the bio for this one.