There’s been a somewhat recent trend in bands that like to add new instrumentation and styles to the overall black metal sound. Obviously there are the more popular mainstays—the so-called “blackgaze” movement, with the likes of Deafheaven and Wolves In The Throne Room, and more folk-based projects like Panopticon and Saor—but, as innovative and experimental these recent turnouts have been, the push for progression is very much a double-edged sword, at least in regard for their reception. There is alway the comment that some musicians are stagnant in their growth as artists—Tortoise’s latest album The Catastrophist, for example, while remaining true to the band’s overall sound, does little to improve or innovate—and while said comment is a fair question, one must also ask: does progression always matter? In the case of Fuath’s debut album I, however, progression does not matter, as its goal is fulfilled as an homage to the more ethereal black metal releases of the ‘90s.
Fuath is a side project of Saor mainman Andy Marshall, but anyone familiar with Marshall’s work in Saor will perhaps be a bit taken aback at what is put forth here. Unlike the folk-based elements (very often directly influenced by traditional Celtic music) that put an eerie, almost positive-sounding sheen to albums like Aurora, Fuath is simply stripped down black metal. The basics of the genre—lo-fi recording, tremolo-picking, blast beats, screeched vocals and general disregard for traditional song structure—remain very much in play. Rarely (if ever) does Marshall deviate from these elements throughout the almost forty-minute run time; the guitars sound as if they’re plucked straight from early Darkthrone records, and the vocals are drenched in reverb, adding to the naturally atmospheric sound that black metal provides. The drums, however, seem to deviate from tradition; instead of endless blast beats, they often deviate for a welcome change of pace, switching between blast beats and more double-bass-inspired riffs that almost remind one of a traditional rock beat. The song structures as a whole are reminiscent of a classical symphony, as it meanders (arguably) without much forethought.
On the whole, though, I remains more on the atmospheric side of black metal, albeit without giving into shoegaze and/or post-rock elements. In an interview with the blog No Clean Singing, Marshall admits that the influences of the Fuath project coming from more stereotypical black metal, citing Darkthrone, Burzum, and other second-wave black acts. This, arguably, puts I in the field of homage, as previously stated. And like most homages, it doesn’t do much differently. The album cover—with its mysterious cloaked figure walking through what is assumed to be the deep woods of Norway—speaks of an icy, wintry night—something that Marshall admits to being a focus of the album, stating, “I always come back to [Second Wave Black Metal] when winter comes along and I feel their sounds are perfect for this time of the year.”
But is I‘s by-the-roots black metal sound a detriment to its quality? No. For a musician like Andy Marshall, whose experimentation ranges greatly on his Saor releases, this is a loving pause and meditation on a style of music that has considerably progressed in the past two decades. If you like standard black metal, or are even just starting out in the genre, this is an album to at least listen to. It offers none of the frills of Saor, and it is unapologetic of that fact. One must simply take it as it is: solid, traditional, black metal.
Fuath – I gets