WORDS: Tim Chisnall

Born as a new project from Andy MarshallFUATH sets to explore the darker and more melancholic side of black metal. Now the debut record, I, is finally here. Does this new project carry the style into new territory?

Before even playing the first track from the album, the cover art makes a striking impression. Reminiscent of classic black metal albums, it’s mesmerising, simple, and sets a chilling tone of what is to come.

In the halls of the Hunter begins with a haunting, tremolo picked melody that is accompanied by plenty of whacks to the snare drum, with very little introduction. This is quite typical of the genre and whilst at first sounds aggressive, the listeners ears soon adjust to appreciate the subtleties that lie within. This could be described (amusingly to some) as a softer song. It doesn’t bombard the senses with overly complicated riffs, the music progresses slowly; gentle alterations to the guitar and bass parts whilst the drumbeat really gives the entire piece a sense of direction. The melancholic atmosphere is also encouraged by the production. Vocals lie low in the mix, providing them with a sense of being drowned out which in this case really does work. You’ll be lucky to make out any lyrics though. Other tracks (synthesizers, possibly extra instruments) could perhaps be boosted in the EQ, as they can barely be heard with any clarity. It isn’t fun straining to hear the hard work that has been put in!

Blood begins to drag the album into a more evil direction. More upbeat and it gets heads banging with no trouble. The drums seem to be tighter too, relentless double bass pedals pound with astonishing skill. Synthesised sounds play a far more prominent part: quiet chilling echoes to stand by the whirring guitars. With tons of reverb and atmospheric composition, the sounds FUATH produce are like a sorrowful calling to the landscape depicted in the cover art. This song stays true to the album’s haunting feel but deviates enough from the first song to keep things interesting. With track lengths of 9 and 10 minutes, they require some time and attention spent to be fully appreciated. Potentially boring to the impatient, but greatly rewarding to those who have a taste for this kind of music.

The Oracle stars sounding very similar to the early songs but brings a new artistic expression into the album. A similar tempo, structure and even notation to earlier parts of the album. It somehow conveys a more hopeful feeling than the utter bleakness of previous songs whilst maintaining the droning, yet hypnotic flavour that the other extended instrumental sections convey. It’s truly amazing how simple parts of this can be and yet they remain so powerful. 16 bars of nothing but a simple guitar riff, echoing and slowly building begins approximately half way through. As the rest of the band joins in, it works its way to a thundering, jaw dropping, crescendo. With very few vocals, it still requires the patience that most listeners would have who made it this far through the album, but the way it rounds itself off would leave them speechless.

The final song begins predictably similar to the others and clocks in at twelve minutes, it seems more reliant on interesting effects at times rather than creative riffs. It could be said that a truly great album should whack you in the face with its awesomeness from the outset, but there is certainly something to be said for extended atmospheric, even repetitive music. FUATH‘s experiment avoids being boring, but only just. Building atmosphere doesn’t always excuse the lack of interesting musical ideas being played over the course of a twelve minute song. Whilst once again gripping in its own right, Spirit of the North is not vastly different from the others.

I on the whole is a great composition. Clearly appealing to atmospheric black metal fans, it’s far flung from anything we’re ever likely to hear on mainstream radio (possibly a good thing), but perhaps relies on this niche audience too heavily and could do with introducing a more diverse range of melodies. The important thing is that it wonderfully conveys it’s intended emotion: a spine tingling emptiness that will leave you with a distant stare and ringing ears.

Rating: 8/10

I is available now via Neuropa Records.