|3.9 (2 votes):|
Darkness Falls Over Hellas Once Again…
Oh Greece! Beautiful country with beautiful music that barely anybody speaks about these days. The birthplace of genre stalwarts Varathron, Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh (I refuse to write their band-name as one word in this context, since their legendary material stems from a time before they chose to nonsensically combine the two detached pieces, thus creating a septic recipe, diluting their…I digress) still has some great music to offer these days and people would/should know if they’d just take a closer look.
I have a petite connection to this band here, since I already know the vocalist’s previous band Typhon from many years ago, which already showed a lot of promise, but Fovitron‘s Altar of Whispers operates on a completely different plane of professionalism.
Starting off with a nicely crafted symphonic introduction aptly titled “The Grieving King” we are soon being offered a compelling slab of massive riffs and some perfectly suitable orchestral arrangements. While the riffing here is not always spewed forth from the most complex breeding grounds, there is a lot of palpable variation between intense chugging, which lets the orchestral sounds lead the way and pretty amazing melodic lines that show a degree of resemblance to the ancestors of the Hellenic black metal genre.
For easier understanding on how these songs present themselves, think back some years and try to remember what Varathron did around the turn of the century, up to the mid-2000s. This era wasn’t exactly their most successful period in terms of sheer quality, because their flirtation with symphonic elements didn’t work out all that well. Varathron‘s main issue in the creation of both Lament of the Gods and Crowsreign was that their riffing suffered from the overpowering outside influences and the production followed suit, feeling somewhat hollow and faint, meaning it wasn’t exactly cut out for what they were trying to achieve back then.
Fovitron knew what they were doing here. Sure, 15+ years of recording technology have made the process of constructing a fitting production base a lot easier, but it should still be noted that a comparatively small band managed to have many active elements popping up simultaneously and yet they are not drowning out each other, but rather accompanying their neighbors really well in the mix (apart from the bass guitar, which is barely audible, but more on that later).
While the individual performances are definitely adept, the writing and said presentation of Altar of Whispers as a cohesive product is what brings this one into the upper echelon of newer extreme metal bands. With an average song length of around 7 minutes, one could easily fall into the common trappings of tedious repetition, but this is not something the listener will encounter here very frequently.
Skillfully placed calmer parts, such as the clean guitar break in “Remembrance” – which changes the mood of the song into a quite different, mourning kind of atmosphere – add a lot to the overall diversity of the record. Right after this, “When Darkness Falls” starts on a similar note, but almost immediately introduces a great buildup, turning the foggy sadness into raging symphonic black metal epicness, steadily increasing the influence of the orchestral ingredients, as well as the prominence of the more urging tremolo-picked melodies, which are all but completely superseding the quieter opening moments. Within this frenzy, a deep male choir is soon being utilized, adding even more weight to the already towering, epic composition.
“The Deathbringer” starts out with a slightly safer approach to melodic black metal, keeping it less complex and a little more repetitive in its execution, but before I’m starting to question the versatility of this record for the first time, the band uses a collective power break unit to switch into a heavily percussive, war-drum section with some stellar work on the tom-toms that reminds me of what once-great bands like Amon Amarth used to do in their heyday (Once Sent from the Golden Hall – sans the symphonics of course).
Altar of Whispers manages to keep your attention throughout its whopping running time of over an hour, without the necessity to use the skip button. That’s fairly impressive if you ask me, but does this mean that I’ll continue praising this album to the endless skies, perhaps even deeming it a modern classic? No, not entirely, but it’s not like these guys need a truckload of changes to achieve such merits in the future.
In fact, there are only a few things I can actually complain about; one being a clear lack of bass guitar, which definitely takes a backseat to the intense uproar of everything else surrounding it, the other being the occasional absence of breathing room for the guitar as a main instrument. As said, the orchestral instrumentation is certainly well done and almost always busy, but sometimes I’d just prefer a blistering guitar solo and/or more lead guitars in general over the rigid execution of the symphonic machinery.
These are just minor complaints though, because everything else I haven’t focused on before in this review is top notch as well – be it the forceful, gritty black metal rasp piercing through the massive wall of sound (skillfully trading parts with a clean female guest singer on “Endless Whispers”) or the very solid, seasoned, yet massively pounding approach of the man behind the kit – every performance displays competence and conviction.
I’ll be sure to keep my eyes and ears open for this band’s progress, and you should too if you happen to have any interest in non-vocal-centered symphonic (extreme!) metal with actual weight, both in terms of guitar chops and orchestral splendor. If you think that Limbonic Art doesn’t have enough oomph and Septicflesh (…) relies too much on the proverbial chug these days, then Fovitron might just be the right band for you.
It is for me.
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