Antrisch is a 4 piece band from Würzburg, Germany. They formed 2020 and EXPEDITION II : Die Passage is their debut full length album (April 2023) which follows their first EP Expedition I : Dissonanzgrat (April 2021).
The album has an overall playing time of 38 minutes and 6 songs or chapters. Chapters, because it is a concept album based on the historical events known as "The Lost Franklin Expedition".
In the year 1845 a two-ship expedition led by Sir John Franklin sailed from England to the Canadian Arctic in order to search for and chart the remaining unknown parts of the North-West Passage, a sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Both ships, the "HMS Terror" and the "HMS Erebus" were lost and all 129 crew members died. Following expeditions were launched and many artifacts were found that gave rough evidence about the course of events. The shipwrecks, though, were found only in 2014 and 2016.
What exactly happened to the inauspicious expedition no one knows, but these fateful historical events inspired Antrisch to create their album EXPEDITION II : Die Passage. They tell the story like a kind of theatrical narration or audio drama dealing with the physical, mental and emotional challenges that are involved when you're trapped in an extremely inhospitable environment and what it takes to attempt the painful and exhausting escape to survive including the realization that you won't.
The major direction in terms of genre is definitely Black Metal, but they use elements from Doom and Ambience f.e. or whatever serves their soundscapes and atmospheres.
The opener "FESTGEFROREN - Packeisfalle" begins with sounds of scrunching ice, menacingly creaking wood and ominously spoken/whispered words as a preluding narration. The lyrics and their delivery are instantly spellbinding.
"Der Gott der Finsternis trägt sein Schicksal tief hinein ins kalte Herz der weißen Hölle" (The god of darkness carries his fate deep into the cold heart of the white hell)
Bleak single guitar notes appear, "Rule Britannia" briefly emerges and disappears again and - bam - one minute and 40 seconds into the song and you're a crew member breathing the complex atmosphere of a depressing nightmare with despair, trepidation and even a sense of mutiny. And then a storm of bone-chilling piercing riffs rips the last remaining shred of warmth, hope or strength out of you. From here the song enfolds its overwhelming atmospheric and emotional density and impact through its different elements of Black Metal, Doom, Ambience, the melodies and the extraordinary use of the vocals. There are harsh screams, almost clean vocals and spoken/whispered/snarled words and I can't decide which of them are the most terrifying.
"WAHNRATIONEN - Saturnusparusie" starts right off with propelling drums and you don't have to wait for long for the icy riffs and croaky/screechy vocals to join in. The atmosphere here gets a sense of urgency and insanity and reflects the growing mental strain when deprivation overwhelms and demands the first deaths.
"Oh verfluchtes Herz Du Feind im eignen Leib. Giftpumpe, dückst Wahn und Tod durch meine Adern" (Oh cursed heart. Enemy in my own body, venum engine, pushing delirium and death through my veins.)
And suddenly there's (almost) silence and a lone unanswered sonar blip echoes only hopelessness and gaping void. From here a new soundscape and atmosphere slowly builds around the blip again with eerily spoken words, an acoustic guitar melody and drums join in and layer by layer a new dense texture of sound and new horrors emerge.
"IN PERPETUUM - Ewiger Schlaf im Ewigen Eis" is comparatively heavy, slow and monolithic with a solid Doom groove, almost dirge like. Yet, relentlessly it gathers momentum and unleashes a storm of aggression. As the song describes Franklin's funeral, admittedly it's characterized by grief and despair, but there's also a good deal of anger and scorn involved.
"VLTIMA RATIO - Anthropophager Frühling" picks up the Doom feel and builds a depressing, gloomy atmosphere and all of a sudden a blast of sheer Black Metal fury descends upon us, fast and aggressive, again tinged with a sense of insanity, totally reflecting the mental situation when you're forced to eat your deceased comrades to survive.
"Der Maat kaut auf dem Offizier, genusslos, doch er schlingt in Gier. Und jeder Biss nagt gleichfalls an der Membran zwischen Biest und Mann" (Mate chews on the officer, without pleasure, but he bolts in crave. And every bite gnaws on the membrane between beast and man.)
"EXODUS | TUNDRATAUMEL - Croziers Bürde" is about the decision to leave the dubious safety of the ship(s) and to dare the trek across the tundra although all hope is lost. With its almost 8 minutes this is the longest song of the album and it may contain the most erratic changes of ferocious and quieter passages. It begins with plain spoken words.
"Ein Hoffnungsfunke flackert wie ein Irrlicht auf dem Eis, bald schwach, bald fahl und stirbt, weil niemand ihn zu nähren weiß." (A spark of hope flickers like a ghost light on the ice, faint, then pale and it dies, for no one knows how to fuel it.)
And then an ambient sound wall rises, somber and bone-chilling, evoking images of a vast, empty ice desert. And then you get hurled around with the brutality of a snow storm. Spoken words alternate with shrieks and screams as well as the dark moody Ambience does with the Black Metal ferocity. And with each layer of sound the darkness gets a shade darker. And this reflects the narrator's physical and mental situation as his time has come to die. The agony, the delirium that lie between refusal and consent. Towards the end of the song the sound layers are taken off bit by bit until the only sound you hear is the snow storm.
Obviously the closer " 68° 15′ N 98°45′ W – 68° 54′ N 98° 56° W" is an instrumental. The title are the coordinates of the places where the shipwrecks were found. It begins with sea sounds, bubbling water, sonar blip, the breaking of ice, and a warm (for the first time warm sounds) acoustic guitar melody appears. Here Antrischs ability to set a mood, atmosphere and even a scene for the songs by ambient elements shows extraordinarily well. The shipwrecks are found and this entire song feels as if the recovery crew senses the magnitude of the dread and horrors the expedition members must have endured. The sound layers surge like the towering waves This is a glorious, symphonic finale.
There are so many brilliant aspects about "EXPEDITION II : Die Passage", be it the tight and intricate song structures, the really stunning ability to create almost visual atmospheres and soundscapes with various sound effects and experiments, the masterfully layered elements that create intensity, complementing the harsh Black Metal aggression with the gloomy Doom vibes... , or the excellent lyrics and their vocal delivery. It all boils down to the band's overall compositional skills that bless us with an album of emotional complexity and intensity.