Pagan / Black Metal. That was the first tag that came up when I started looking for information on German outfit FIRTAN. Since that is a broad tag for music and I don’t know any German besides “Danke”, I went straight to the music. Right off with the opener ‘Faðir’, FIRTAN got me hooked with a great melodic (dare I say “majestic”) and Black Metal song. Personally, that first riff reminded me of a faster version of BATHORY’s ‘Twilight Of The Gods’. Not a rip off at all, mind you, but with that epic feel. Where did that come from? I don’t know, but that was my first impression. So, from that moment on, I was sure that “Marter” would be a good listen. Before moving onto the music, production and everything else, I must say that, in my humble opinion, the cover artwork is superb: elegant and fragile, yet unnerving and unhinged. That painting grabbed my attention right away and it fits the music perfectly. Now, onto the music itself. I think Phillip Thienger’s vocals are one of the highlights here. Besides some higher pitched shrieks, clean vocals and spoken word, his main mid grunt is amazing. It feels desperate, so to speak and it gives the band an identity. At least in this album, which is my first exposure to FIRTAN. He also handles the guitars, adding a few interesting leads here and there. Along with guitarist Christian S., the string department is solid, intertwining haunting melodic riffs with clean parts that first feel out of place, but when contextualized, make perfect sense. I keep wondering how these segments have such an impeccable transition. Oliver König’s tight bass lines adjust perfectly to the harmonic and melodic riffing. Last, but not least, David Kempf’s drum work is exceptionally detailed. I was not expecting this level of constant yet subtle variations and inventive fills, particularly in such an extreme form of music. The production is up to par. Clean and well rounded mix, with vocals and drums pushed a bit to the back to add to the lingering and nostalgic atmosphere. Luckily that does not hurt the overall sound. The guitar tone is not that dense and it gets clear and crisp when needed; understandable for this type of music. The bass guitar adds the low rumble, although I would’ve liked a little more low end. I absolutely dig the natural and organic drums and the rounded-off cymbals. “Marter” is a solid Black Metal album. It is based around the early 90s savagely fast style. However, its stunningly well written songs also incorporate clean parts that evoke an expressive and nostalgic atmosphere. Absolutely recommended for any and all Black Metal fans, but also for any Extreme Metal fan that enjoys well crafted music. Follow the band at www.facebook.com/firtanofficial and get this album from their label www.facebook.com/aoprecs.