GERMAN EPIC/AVANT GARDE BLACK METAL
8/10 – KATIE METCALFE
Epic/avant-garde black metal band Fjoergyn hail from Germany and have been together since 2003. Monument Ende is their fourth album, and has been released via German label Trollzorn Records. I’m a big fan of the cover artwork. It’s suitably bleak but also feels very modern, artistic and ‘out there.’ It’s something a bit different. I have to say I like it much more than the previous album covers. There’s a real strength about it, and it can hold its own.
The intro is a curious noise, like the string section of an orchestra warming up, but then female choral vocals are introduced, and the background noise is forgotten about. They create this ambitious Lord Of The Rings inspired atmosphere and it makes me feel as if there’s a wave washing over me in a deep, underground cavern. The intro ends with what sounds like static, and it’s as if I’ve just woken up in front of a TV fuzzy with white noise.
Betonlethargie has a very stark opening, with picked guitar and lightly tapped cymbals. It’s all very clean and, despite the unhurried tempo, is something of a wakeup call. Other instruments are layered in, then, over the top of the almost mournful picking, there’s a guitar chugging out a doomy rhythm. It feels very dark and sinister. When the vocals come in, they’re deep and demonic, as if they’re being uttered by a creature that’s just crawled out of a cave, where it’s spent the past 4,000 years. I like the heaviness, and the slow, rugged tempo. The vocals take it up a notch, and the screams are harrowing and plough deep into the mushy tissue of my brain. This track is utterly absorbing. There are bursts of orchestral sounds, which take the track to a whole other epic level. I’m always a bit sceptical about clean vocals, but the ones in this track really work to maintain the dark atmosphere that’s been conjured. There’s a lot of styles at play here; black, doom, symphonic, but they all mesh together really effectively. Fjoergyn aren’t afraid to experiment. They cross boundaries, and kick down the wall on the way. There isn’t a dull moment to be found in this track. It drops down into a passage with ominous whispered vocals, which makes the atmosphere all the more intense and insular. There’s a riff towards the end that reminds me of Waters of Ain by Watain, a surprising influence. This song is practically faultless.
Leiermann kicks off with this extremely likeable riff, that sinks its way into my skull before I’ve time to do anything about it. The vocals are harsh, forceful and massively satisfying. They have this eclectic mix of atmospheres going on. There’s the heavy stuff, but then there’s these delicate, almost ethereal passages. The clear vocals on this track remind me, at time, of Negura Bunget. The feeling shifts from heavy and ominous, to lighter and less oppressive, and all of this happens in under two minutes. Talk about utilizing your time! The guitar at one point adopts this heavy metal feel, and adds yet another style to the mix. The guitar work on this album so far is fucking excellent. There’s another introduction to choral vocals, but they venture slightly too close to Nightwish territory. And for the first time the orchestral work does sound slightly overdone. It’s as far away from black metal as possible and unfortunately leaves a slightly sour taste in my mouth.
Monolog des Antichristen has a much heavier and distorted start. The riff is catchy and strong, though once the symphonic elements are introduced it loses some power. The pace for this track is all over the place, and at times it feels like all the voices in my head are speaking at once. The vocals chop and change, rough one minute, clear the next, and my head screams Rammestein.
Thanatos has a commanding intro. The brutalized guitars are strongly reminiscent of Marduk. There’s a fierce energy to it. The drumming is blackened fury. The vocals later on in this track utilise a death metal sound and show, once again, how successful these guys are at utilizing different styles. Just over midway, the track feels momentarily ethereal, and I could well be listening to a completely different band. The layering present within this song, and throughout the rest of the album as well, is masterful and brilliantly composed – even if I don’t enjoy all of it – and the production is spot on.
Antimensch starts off with an ominous crackling noise, the sort of thing you hear if you stand under pylons. The atmosphere is gradually built up to something elaborate, something very LOTR. The introduction of ethereal female vocals is a welcome surprise, as this time they sound wonderfully sinister. There’s a build up of multiple male voices and it’s quite unconventional, but also enjoyable.
Sin has quite a melancholic, progressive intro which brings to mind Alcest. The clean vocals don’t really do anything for me. I want them to kick it up a bit, as it’s lacking the oomph that previous tracks have had. It feels as if they’ve really eased off with this track.
Kyrie Eleison has a surreal, demonic intro. This is what I imagine it to sound like if I were to have an outer body experience. It’s quite dreamlike and innovative. It’s something completely different. With every track, they’ve twisted a different sound and feeling around it. This track is slow and soft. Fjoergyn have covered every conceivable angle with this record. I feel majorly relaxed by the end of it, and find that it’s totally mellowed me out.
The last and title track, Monument Ende kicks straight back at me, with a heavy, thrashy feel. There’s real conviction behind this track. It’s eally energetic, with all sorts going on. The structure continually shifts, and it’s quite catchy, despite them venturing out of the realms of black metal, and sounding much more like progressive metal. The clean vocals bring back that gothic inspired sound. At moments, there is some black metal influence again, and it sounds slightly Emperor inspired. Midway it gets very gentle and quiet and soft, with an emotive, subtle guitar solo. I find myself settling back in my chair to enjoy it. This track is followed by an almost calm bonus track.
Monument Ende was an entirely surprising album, which hoisted me out of my comfort zone multiple times. The range of diversity Fjoergyn have displayed with this release is really quite phenomenal and I’m looking forward to what comes next.