Of all the different types of metal, black metal is probably the most prone to the pitfalls of cliché: a cold, nihilistic soundscape of blast beats, tremolo guitar riffs and distant, shrieking vocals, black metal is very vulnerable to sounding generic and repetitive. So thank the metal gods for bands like FURIA, whose take on black metal in their album Księżyc Milczy Luty captures the nihilism of its sound in a way that is anything but generic.
Creating fresh ideas within music often requires subverting genre tropes and marrying different sounds to create something new. Blackgaze forefathers ALCEST, progressive death metal legends OPETH and violin wielding extreme metallers NE OBLIVISCARIS are all wonderful examples of a base metal sound being built on with numerous other genres to create something stunning and original. But the way FURIA achieve uniqueness appears to be a subversion of what these bands did. In contrast, FURIA use a base of several different genres, ranging from jazz to prog to stoner, with traditional black metal laced sparingly over it, to create a sound that is unquestionably black metal in spirit. For example, there are thumping stoner riffs and swirling post-rock tremolos on Za ćmą, w dym, and Zwykłe czary wieją’s breakdown sounds weirdly like MASTODON. And yet throughout, FURIA somehow make their alchemical mix of sounds work in a way that is nothing short of masterful.
In metal, disturbing sounds and subject matter are like Samuel L. Jackson swearing a lot: its consistently entertaining and still fun, but the novelty is non-existent by this point and its easy to become jaded by it. So to create music that is genuinely unnerving, that really works at its audience on that unspoken, deeper level, in this genre takes real artistry, and that is what FURIA have done. A lot of Księżyc Milczy Luty is like a taster of SWANS scoring a Silent Hill game, and shows that FURIA, like both SWANS and Silent Hill, understand that genuinely disturbing art is about disorientation and destabilisation. A good example is it’s second track Ciało: the deceptive, atmospheric tranquillity of its opening disarms the listener whilst it slowly builds the tension with a single, sustained, wailing note to the point that it becomes unbearable. And then the sonic version of Hell breaks forth to assault and punish, with swirling guitars that genuinely sound like the wails of the damned. And then the bass re-appears, sounding vicious and predatory, and those haunting, accusatory vocals begin and for the rest of the song the music feels like it’s trying to chase you into a corner and murder you.
This is what Księżyc Milczy Luty often feels like: a psychological attack rather than a passive listening experience, and it gives you no other choice but to engage with and challenge it. It creates an underlying tension even through the more spacey, ambient sections, like the teasingly mellow first half of Tam Jest tu before it explodes out of nowhere, with buzzing guitars and a guttural growl nothing short of ungodly, briefly lulls back into ambience, and then explodes again. FURIA turn tonal shifts and pointed moments of silence (such as in the finale of Grezj, following what can only be described as the musical portrayal of being sucked into a black hole) into vicious psychological warfare. They tauntingly draw you in with soft, mesmerising passages, but you don’t want to let yourself relax because you know another unforgiving sonic assault could strike at any second. And when they do, they are relentless. The instruments sound like they are either in physical agony or embodying the apocalypse, with Sars’ incredible ability to hypnotise and horrify with his bass deserving special mention. And then there are Nihil’s powerful vocals. He roars, growls and snarls his way through the album like an angry goth colossus sent to punish you for the foolish crimes of hope and faith. Across the six tracks within this album, these four relentlessly brilliant musicians create an atmosphere that perfectly reflects its minimalist, haunting cover art: of being devoured by the hideous, overwhelming existential void, and what few rays of light there are will not save you from the darkness.
Księżyc Milczy Luty is out now via Pagan Records.