Semen Datura


German black metal is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. The past couple years have seen stellar new albums from Secrets of the Moon, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Endstille and even the much-heralded return of suicidal black metal pioneers Bethlehem. A good number of these releases have waxed progressive, looking beyond the usual black metal panzer assault and hinting at something more sinister bubbling away beneath the surface. East German experimentalists Semen Datura are a perfect example of this cross-pollination, as guitarist/vocalist Conrath made clear.

"Our main influence is the second wave of European black metal, but besides this, we discovered other [genres] like post-rock, avant-garde and experimental music, post-punk," he explained, unwittingly summing up his band's many-faceted sound rather neatly.

"I think our new album 'Einsamkeit' is very organic, dark, mysterious and as melancholic as it is furious. I think parts of the aforementioned styles fit very well with black metal. For me, the essence and the atmosphere is similar. Post-rock like Mono has many more parallels to our black metal sound than styles like brutal death or power metal. We try to create a musical picture that represents our feelings, and so we're always searching for tools of creation."

As for the state of German black metal itself, Conrath is a bit less enthusiastic. "Germany is a big country with very different states. In our area (Saxony) unfortunately doesn't exist so much interesting metal bands. Our local scene is full of uninspired copycats and stupid pagan or metalcore acts. I know, it sounds hard and maybe a bit arrogant but it's just my experience. There are a lot of German bands that deserve more attention, though -- bands like Todtgelichter, Fornost, Fleurety or Grabnebelfürsten for example."

Unlike Scandinavia or South America, the German black metal scene seems to be less concerned with religious matters, at least as far as this band is concerned. Semen Datura's lyrics and imagery are inspired by philosophical questions and their own desolate psyches, not a desire to desecrate the Nazarene.

"East Germany is no Christian country. After 40 years of Communism, the might of the church is nearly non-existent," Conrath opines. "There are no 'Satanic' or obvious 'anti-religious' themes on the new album. The lyrics are dealing with themes like despair, isolation, nature and darkness, taken from a metaphorical or a personal point of view."