Sudden shifts in tone and style are a risky venture for any band in any genre. There are very few examples of it having worked out well (KATATONIA being a brilliant one) and a lot of examples where it results in an alienating experience or, at worst, a total embarrassment for both listeners and the band. FOSCOR‘s new album, which sees the band nearly completely abandon their more traditional black metal sound in favour of a more atmospheric one, unfortunately falls securely into the latter category.
Having started out as a straightforward black metal band FOSCOR have, beginning on their last album and now entirely on this one, shifted away from blast beats, furious tremolos and sharp shrieks to a more ambient, blackgaze sound with fuzzy, effects- laden guitars and wailing cleans to create a dark, dreamlike atmosphere. This album sonically calls to mind a mixture of ALCEST during their more overtly blackgaze moments, KATATONIA’s Discouraged Ones, and PRIMORDIAL’s later work, with the vocals belonging somewhere between all three. In fact, A.A NAMTHAENGA actually does guest vocals on Ciutat Tragica, which is (not coincidentally) one of the strongest tracks on the album. Furthermore, there are mild traces of OPETH running through Espectres al Cau. However, whilst a mixture of those bands sounds appealing, FOSCOR do not have a firm enough grasp on their new sound to capitalise on it, resulting in an album that is flawed, derivative (the opening of the title track shamelessly rips off ALCEST to the point where you expect NEIGE’s vocals to appear at any moment.) and has all the bite of a toothless geriatric. Bar Ciutat Tragica and De Marges I Matinades, this album fails to dig its hooks in on virtually every level and instead crawls along in an overly consistent and forgettable haze.
Even this album’s high points only register as vaguely enjoyable. Some of the more progressive guitar solos are mildly engaging, and the piano is largely the album’s MVP, but it only turns up at three different points in the entire album. The rest of the time it’s all interchangeable atmospheric metal riffs, tremolos and droning cleans.
FOSCOR have committed the artistic equivalent of a cardinal sin. This album is not good or bad. It’s just unbelievably boring, which is even worse then bad. An album may be good or bad but at least it makes an impact on you, and you have the pleasure of either happily singing its praises or therapeutically savaging its incompetence to your friends or online. But this album is almost devoid of impact or character, which means not only is it a joyless listen, describing or, in this case, reviewing it becomes flat-out irritating, since you have to re-listen to these songs over and over again to make sure you are talking about the right ones, because each one falls completely out of your head after five minutes. And if you compare it their earlier work (which is surprisingly accomplished compared to this, even their last album Those Horrors Wither managed a nice balance of savagery and ambience) this album’s relentless mediocrity and pretentiousness just becomes offensive.
In summary, FOSCOR will hopefully write this album off as a heavily misjudged detour and make a move back towards their far superior original sound. However, if they continue down this path, they are about to become the IN FLAMES of Catalan, and not in a good way.
Les Irreals Visions is out now via Season of Mist.
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