There is much to be said for the artist that shirks the rapidly increasing trend of constant and steadily meaningless musical output. As so many young musicians learn so little between releases they not only lower financial returns, and stagnate their potential, but most produce disingenuous music as they hope to capitalize on any small niche left on the internet. But to blame the artist is foolish when you consider the spoiled faux-consumer, the ‘metalhead’, who often can’t even be bothered to enjoy (much less pay for) anything for more than an evening amidst a flood of cheapening expression. The few artists that ‘take their time’ in service of craftsmanship exist on every level of rock music’s admittedly low-level potential for success but most thrive here in the suggested extreme metal underground; Idiots, such as myself, dwell on obscure and beautiful things that come from bands that wait, fester, and only iterate with meaning. The latest example finds the ‘bigger picture’ of Norwegian black/doom metal project Faustcoven revealing glorious progress, this time with a six year wait. An ever clarifying vision of horror and heaviness, ‘In the Shadow of Doom’ is a new bar set for any and all hoping to stamp doom’s heritage with the black mark.
Soaked in the ancient’s blood and spewing psychedelia’s darkest spirals from their inception in 2002, this Trondheim based project begins and ends with the vision of musician Gunnar Hansen as he applies the ethos and sonic aesthetics of Quorthon to early doom metal structures. Faustcoven‘s sound is immediately recognizable as their heavy use of vocal effects (‘The Halo of Burning Wings’ (2003) being the roughest example) and epic doom metal’s stomping beats persist through various refinements across an impressive discography; Most important, and of note, isn’t so much the mix of sub-genre but the compositional values on display, this is where Hansen‘s genius is both subtle and immediately gratifying for the initiated. Spend twenty minutes with any Faustcoven release and I can guarantee that it will have appealed to the most primal ‘metalhead’ interests you might possess, at least those that exist outside of sheer speed.
Whereas early releases were lumped in as extensions of Goatlord and Barathrum the project evolved with significant influence from the classic spectrum of doom metal a la Trouble and Candlemass. Not only do these demonized rock-rhythms blissfully intone the chilling atmosphere of Norwegian black metal’s early frighteners but also grant some greater replay value to each successive release; This is felt most clearly on ‘Hellfire & Funeral Bells’ (2012) and gains greater complexity on ‘In the Shadow of Doom’. The album begins to usher in a serpentine treatment of the riff, not far from the heightened musings of Revelation or Hour of 13, but without losing the core musical statement of each song. Though you might not know it from my description, Faustcoven‘s latest isn’t some polished proto-doom turd with a black metal snarl but rather an organically produced, thoughtful and incredibly heavy beast that takes the band’s sound from it’s proverbial altar of disgust and spreads an incurable pestilence with constantly shifting movements.
As far as I know drummer Johnny Tombthrasher (Ghoul-Cult, Valemon) has been involved with Hansen‘s vision since 2006 but I don’t think he’s been challenged quite like this to date. His performance is uncharacteristically glorious, a twisted cathedral of battery that represents olden Candlemass as much as it does Head of the Demon. It is certainly Hansen‘s dark hand and incredible vocal ruin that drives the finer art of Faustcoven‘s latest but the flourishes of lead guitar work from live guitarist Einar Berg (Valemon) give one more layer of finesse towards the great sum of care put into ‘In the Shadow of Doom’. The guitar work is meticulously detailed and effortlessly taut as it embodies Hansen’s sinister themes with an almost ‘modern’ sense of movement that builds upon theme beyond hammered repetition.
If for all of these last twenty five years since first hearing ‘Master of Reality’ I’ve mistaken the power of the riff for some sort of personal ecstatic psychosis then at the very least “As White As She Was Pale” is the perfect example of a trigger for that endorphin release; It also serves as a clear reminder of the duality that drives the conception of Faustcoven, black metal’s puritanical blasphemic rebellion and doom metal’s powerfully resonant existentialist yearning. I found myself hesitating to move on from ‘In the Shadow of Doom’ as I’d been intrigued by past releases but didn’t expect my own enjoyment to surpass that of ‘Hellfire & Funeral Bells’ as I reached well over a dozen listens in the space of a month. The tension of “Yet He Walks”, the mystifying guitar work of “Sign of Satanic Victory” offer just two of many peaks of interest as the album plays. Most tracks do involve some amount of build-and-release so, if you’ve no patience for doom metal’s nuance and pacing ‘In the Shadow of Doom’ might not be for you. As a fan of doom, and a patient follower of Faustcoven, their latest album descended at exactly the right moment quickly reestablishing and refining the project’s unique sound, high level riff-craft, and consistent value.
|Released||July 31st, 2018 [CD, Digital] | August 31st, 2018 [Vinyl]|
|BUY/LISTEN on Nuclear War Now! Productions Bandcamp!||Faustcoven on Metal-Archives|
Screams will soon fill this dungeon. 4.25/5.0
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