One of the limitations of being a prolific artist is that it is easy for your fans to pass by an album. Christoph Ziegler defines the idea of what it is to be one such prolific artist, with only a few surpassing him, and fewer doing it while continuously releasing quality material. Most of his projects are quite different as well, with Atomtrakt being martial industrial, Nebelkorona experimenting with folk ambient, and Vinterriket usually alternating between sister genres black metal and dark ambient. In recent years, however, it seems that Ziegler has altogether abandoned most of the elements that make Vinterriket fit into the loose definition of black metal, perhaps saving that solely for yet another project in Battle Dagorath. Since Entlegen, it seems that Ziegler has merged the familiar Vinterriket sound with Nebelkorona, raising the question of having two projects in the first place if they sound so familiar. Because of all these projects and multiple releases, it became all too easy to take Vinterriket for granted, even more so because of a sense of stagnation with previous releases.
What sticks out about Hinweg, however, is that it would hardly be fair to place it under the labels that we are familiar with when it comes to Ziegler’s work. When you are a black metal musician, the tropes of the genre tend to haunt everything you do, as they should. The ambient aspects, too, are certainly still prominent. More so is a traditional vocal approach, though, which is interspersed with whispers that quite strongly remind me of other Germanic groups such as Forseti and Jannerwein. This is more clearly present in Ziegler’s vocal patterns, although it is difficult to tell if real or synthetic violin is being used in songs like the title track, or even if it’s acoustic guitar in “Nebeldunst.” All of which adds up to that organic folk sound akin to the aforementioned acts.
Still, this remains very much a Vinterriket album, with whispers from both his throat and the wind—an elemental characteristic that has become all too prominent on past albums. Above all, Ziegler is an ambient artist, whether he is giving a nod more towards folkish sounds or metal, and all things are with that backdrop in mind. I am still unsure at this point what separates Vinterriket and Nebelkorona (admittedly, perhaps it’s simply the freedom of the former to do an album like this), or if he wanted to return to either the more straightforward ambient or black metal. The two are quite alike, of course, and it makes me curious how Ziegler will choose to proceed into future recordings. His prolific nature has certainly slowed down in recent years, hinting that he may be be concentrating on complexities here in the late years of his career. Being that the German folk sound is one of my favorite styles, I would certainly appreciate it if he brushed up on his guitar skills a bit, perhaps giving synth a bit less of a prominent position. For the moment, however, Hinweg is certainly a nice surprise so late into an artist’s output, with sections that could be sung to with a bit more melody than usual. Ziegler has shown us that he has a few tricks left up his sleeve; let’s just hope he has a few more instead of fully returning to safe territory.