The Dutch extreme scene — though not so uniform and lacking a real distinctive sound — has been able to give black metal fans plenty of bands with strong personalities, who have not found any problem to prevail in the international scene. Just think of Tolkien-ish Cirith Gorgor, shimmering Carach Angren, enigmatic Urfaust and Turia, and the dissonances of Dodecahedron.
Mink Koops is one of the main characters of the Dutch underground scene. Already active in many other bands (such as Solar Temple, Nusquama and Iskandr), he embraces the challenging role of mastermind and multi-instrumentalist in Fluisteraars (which means “whisperers” in Dutch), whose line-up is completed by the versatile vocalist Rob Mollema. Only two years after the split De Oord, our heroes are back with Bloem, a “floral tribute” to the Dutch tradition: the album title itself means “flower” and every track is inspired by a folk tale about flowers.
Straight from Bennekom, in the vast province of Gelderland, where urban areas and industries have taken over windmills and tulip fields (depicted in Bloem‘s front cover), Koops and Mollema pull their most complex and inspired work out of the hat; if in Dromers and Luwte their proposal consisted mainly of an atmospheric black metal inspired by Drudkh, Primordial and Agalloch, in Bloem the sound is enriched by several non-metal influences, from post-punk to progressive rock to more experimental jazz.
Bloem, whose length is a little bit more than 33 minutes and in which every single track never exceeds seven minutes (in the past works, the average length of a single track was about ten-twelve minutes), represents a new path where orchestrations take an ample space. Thus, they accentuate the pathos in some moments and harmonically complete guitar riffs, without prevaricating nor leading to arrogance. An example is “Vlek”, where the strings contribute to the crescendo which concludes the track. A measured and skilful use is also that of the trombone in the last track, “Maanruïne”, which ends perfectly between choruses, acoustic guitars and implacable drumming.
If “unconventional” instrumentation excels at creating atmospheres and emphasizing the most exciting passages, Bloem‘s foundations are built on guitar riffs, sometimes more traditional (as in “Nasleep”, where the initial riff resembles that of Darkthrone’s “Natassja in Eternal Sleep”), usually more melodic. The guitar work is remarkable: riffs and melodies intertwine very often, sometimes even creating dissonances and then reuniting in tight unisons or again resulting in rare but pleasant acoustic moments. Whether Koops is a good guitarist, he is certainly no less behind the drums, where he shows a varied style, going from blast beats to slower rhythms without any difficulty. Another great work is that of Mollema, who can perform from screaming to a cleaner style and even to do some nice choirs.
In conclusion, Bloem is an easy-listening record, in some ways catchy as well, which strikes from the first listen while being full of nuances and details, perhaps also thanks to the reduced duration of the tracks. This is the record in which Fluisteraars reach a real artistic maturity: the individual influences of the two musicians converge in creating a unique and recognizable style, which differs from previous releases while representing a natural continuation of them.