German one man band Skratte cover a lot of ground on new album Akt II: Des Wolfes Klagen, from coruscating black metal traditionalism to farmyard animal impressions. It’s mostly in German, so I’ve no idea what’s going on, but it’s also a hugely enjoyable, engaging album to listen to. So, put all your preconceptions to one side, and come and join me for a strange fifty minutes of madness and mayhem!

It’s difficult to know where to start, so perhaps the most unusual song, Vidéki Ballada, might be the best place; The first and last three minutes of the track sounds like a middle-European version of English folk-punkers The Levellers. The mid section – the part with the animal impersonations –  morphs into something French avant gardists Carnival In Coal might have had a hand in. It’s intriguing and it’ll make your head spin, but it’s hard to see the band’s long standing fans, brought up on the band’s more traditional black metal fare, having much toleration for material like this.

Similarly opening track Kältetod might be the cause of a bit of head scratching with it’s opening gambit – no-holds barred, unabashed goth metal – bound to confound those not approaching this release with an open mind. It does erupt into something approaching black metal eventually, but it takes a while to get there and the less patient may have given the game away before the real heaviness kicks in…

The semi-balladic epic Der Waldgeister Tanz veers all over the place too, though in a recognisable folk metal framework that’s easier to keep up with. As someone not particularly invested in the black metal genre I have to say I found the whole thing pretty refreshing, with the raw but punchy production keeping things simple and uncluttered. Each song is thoughtfully constructed and contains enough in the way of twists and turns to keep the impartial bystander interested at all times. Not for traditionalists, by any means, this is however an album that’s well worth a listen.

Akt II: Des Wolfes Klagen Releases on February 3rd.