Every year, I grow more impressed by the breadth of new ideas introduced into the world of black metal. I’ve long held the belief that the “blackened” prefix manifests in more unique ways than any other metal subgenre. Even the lightest introduction of black metal aesthetics can significantly alter the sound of an album, and relatedly, the black metal blueprint itself is perhaps the most malleable road map of any contemporary metal genre. Once innovative movements like post-black metal and blackgaze have now become staples of the genre, paving the way for strains of industrial, psychedelic, and otherwise avant-garde black metal to gain prominence.
With The Invisible Seam, Fliege prove they’re the perfect band for our current era of black metal. The “blackened hair metal” trio accomplish this with one of the strongest albums to kick off a year for a genre in recent memory. With influences pulled from industrial, heavy metal, post-punk and elsewhere, the bricolage Fliege conjures could have easily fallen flat as a failed experiment. Instead, it’s a genuinely bold, refreshing collection of songs that both honors and progresses everything that makes black metal great.
At the onset, fans are greeted by a moody, atmospheric intro on “My Flesh is Afraid (But I Am Not),” which could have easily fit on Joy Division‘s swan song Closer. The electronic-tinged post-punk dirge develops a sinister edge by the song’s midpoint, driven by sharp industrial tones and punchy double-kick patterns. Further expanding the track’s sonic palette are the vocals, a duet of black metal rasps from Peter Rittweger and anthemic singing from Coleman Bentley that actually justifies the band’s self-described “blackened hair metal” style.
Within all this experimentation, Fliege still make a point to emphasize their ability to write quality riffs. Bentley’s guitarwork takes quite the journey on “Four Suns,” opening with a suspense-driven tremolo before joining his bandmates on a blackened Godflesh romp and finally closing with some melodic black metal riffing that verges on ’00s melodeath. Again, it’s an odd collection of ideas on paper that the band executes beautifully. The trio consistently finds a way to progress disparate concepts in a seamless, impressive manner.
Take the following track, “A Confession.” What starts with some aggressive, industrial black metal riffing pivots into a blackgaze passage with heightened emphasis on the ‘gaze, complete with soaring, anthemic vocals you might find on a Falloch track. Choruses aren’t exactly a core element of black metal, but Fliege finds a way to make them seem necessary on the tracks that employ them. The heavy-melodic dynamic on “March of Whips,” “Blood of the Earth,” and “The Invisible Seam” are especially effective.
The latter half of the title-track in particular employs some of the most arena-ready moments on the entire album, akin to a perfect marriage of the blackgaze and alt-rock periods of Deafheaven‘s career. This performance is only outdone by “The Censer” later on in the album, which features some of Bentley’s most massive and flashy playing alongside a soaring duet of blackened rasps and belting vocals.
In a way, labeling Fliege as simply “industrial black metal” does a disservice to keyboardist Chris Palermo. Though he adeptly conjures an industrial mood throughout the album, his synth passages on tracks like “Love Plague” add further depth to an already dynamic album. His contributions are often subtle but prove essential to creating and maintaining the mood that Fliege is aiming to offer.
One of the most rewarding discoveries in music is finding an album that seems overly ambitious yet accomplishes everything it set out to achieve with stunning success. The Invisible Seam perfectly captures Fliege’s innovative, eclectic style, and more importantly, just how much enjoyment clearly went into their writing process. For all the complex moods on display across The Invisible Seam, the album at its core is truly a collection of fun, creative experiments within an overly serious genre that often needs an attitude adjustment. It’s a truly original way to kick-off the year for black metal, and hopefully, it foreshadows the ways in which bands will continue broadening the genre’s horizons.
The Invisible Seam is available Jan. 31 via Bandcamp.