One of the best albums of 2020 was a debut; Echoes From Deep November by Fires In The Distance. The album didn’t sound like a debut, it had the feel of an album that had been made by an established band, with lots of time and experience working together. The album had quite an impact as well, the deeply melodic Death/Doom had a nicely original sound and was a very well rounded album, that after multiple listens is still as powerful and affecting as the first time I heard it. To say this ratcheted up the pressure on the band to produce something truly amazing for their follow up, is an understatement. Have the band, made up of Craig Breitsprecher on bass and vocals, Jordan Rippe on drums, Yegor Savonin on guitars and synths and Kristian Grimaldi on guitars and vocals, fulfilled the almost ridiculous promise that was made by their incredibly impressive debut?
The sound on Air Not Meant For Us is broadly the same as on Echoes From Deep November, however this is not the band rehashing a successful debut, what Fires In The Distance have done with Air Not Made For Us is to perfect the style that we first heard three years ago. All the elements that made the debut awesome are here, big doomy riffs, really great harsh vocals, atmospheric keyboards, beautiful piano and all wrapped up in almost ridiculous amounts of melody and tunefulness. Whats different on this album is experience, they’ve done this before, and have that to draw on, plus they’ve had three years to work on making this as good as they can. The album is just short of an hour and is split into six long songs, ranging from six to nearly twelve minutes.
Although I’ve referred to this as a death/doom album there are places where the pacing picks up and the style is closer to melodic death metal, there is a far bit of riding the intersection between the two styles. Wisdom Of Falling Leaves is bookended by faster riffs and has a feel that is closer to melodic death metal, the middle section of the song has a much softer feel with lots of atmosphere, and some very nice piano. The other track that is a bit too fast for doom, is the final track Idiopathic Despair, which is mainly mid-paced melodic, the track does have a few interludes that are soft and minimal with piano, but they quickly drop back into a faster style. The song also has a spoken word sample that appears at the beginning and re-appears near the end.
Of the softer songs that fit into a death/doom style Crumbling Pillars Of A Tranquil Mind is very good, it’s got a fairly simple structure compared to some of the tracks on Air Not Meant For Us. The song is a mix of big doomy riffs with atmospheric keyboards and a delicate piano tune and much more minimal sections with just piano and drums. Adrift, Beneath The Listless Waves is another of the tracks closer to a doom sound, the song has a great melodic riff with guitar and piano, there are some more driving and purposeful sections, but this is mainly about the interplay between guitar and piano.
Another stand out element of this album is the guitar solos. All the songs have them and a couple of lucky songs have two or three, they are all incredibly lyrical, tuneful and just dripping with gorgeous melody. In fact just about everything on here is deeply melodic, the number and quality of all the melodies the band have used is staggering, I can’t think of another album that sounds this melodic and beautiful, where everything sounds and feels this natural and nothing is out of place.
As you might already have worked out, this album is stunning. Fires In The Distance made some big promises with their last album, they have fulfilled those promises completely. This album is extremely good, if you liked Fires In The Distance’s last album, my god you are in for a treat, if the band are new to you, then dive in, you have an amazing band to discover. Keep a place open in your top fives for the year, as this is going to be at the top of lots and lots of lists at the end of December. 9/10
Enforced - War Remains (Century Media Records) [Matt Bladen]
Richmond, Virginia band Enforced play aggressive music, as aggressive as possible, fierce and furious thrash metal, frontman Knox Colby saying that they didn't overthink anything in the making of this album. A D.I.Y ethos has always been the way Enforced handle their business, no frills, no production trickery just riffs, shouts and 32 minutes of thrash metal mayhem. This record is actually shorter than their Century Media debut Kill Grid, making it much more forceful and direct, a crossover thrash record that dives right in to the pit and starts kicking.
Elvenking - Reader Of The Runes: Rapture (AFM Records) [Mark Young]
Right – Fans of pagan melodeath remain seated. Everyone else please leave the hall.
Still here? Ok, here we go.
Rapture comes in with the expected instrumental moment before launching into one of the biggest sounding power-chords ever captured on tape. I mean its colossal and took me by surprise as it flies along, powered by a sense of unbridled joy. The Hanging Tree continues with the high tempo melodic metal attack, keeping the pagan phrasing to a minimum allowing the exceptional musicians to shine. It is almost perfect music to drink strong ale to, which is something I never thought I'd type. Ever. Bride Of Night keeps on track with the major sounding melodies here, with the vocals soaring and keeping pace but never overshadowing the music. Every track tells a story and there are some cool dual guitar harmonies straight from the Iron Maiden book of dual harmonies, volume 2. There is also a touch of Queen in there too, especially on The Cursed Cavalier.
I must admit that I thought I would hate this. I mean absolutely detest it but it, you know it was pretty good. What helps is the fact that they seem to be having a blast in playing these songs, and as I’ve said above you can imagine what it would be like live, with the crowd 4 or 5 beers deep getting into it. It hasn’t changed my mind on pagan metal, I must be honest, but this is a cracker, and will go a long way with fans of this genre. 7/10
Fatuous Rump - I Am At Your Disposal (Brutal Mind/Fat Tub Of Lard Records) [GC]
They say that you should never judge a book by its cover but in this case, I have because the cover of the new album from Taiwan Based Fatous Rump, I Am at Your Disposal gives you no misunderstanding as to what this is going to be, it’s the body of a dismembered woman shoved in a toilet with a gratuitous tit showing for good measure, not a great start and frankly the song titles sound like a toddler has come up with them. I Almost feel like reviewing this is pointless but, I’m here so let’s do this.
Starting off with the classic sounding The Toilet Is The Person with a sample of someone who describes how they groomed and molested a child isn’t a great start and makes me almost just not bother as there is nothing funny or edgy about this, its just fucking pathetic and it goes on for over a minute, when the music does finally kick in its exactly what you expect slam death metal full of brie brie brie vocals from Larry Wang that completely almost drown out the music and sound fucking ridiculous and I find it difficult to believe there are actually lyrics for this, when you do hear the music its all very standard slam and fine but nothing remarkable, following on with Whenever Were Opened Were Red its more of the same, minus the shit sample but this song is slightly better and has more of a groove running through the song with some nice pitch harmonics littered around the chugging riffs of Hank Peng and the slowed down sections mix in some punishing double bass drumming from Kane Chen that is actually very impressive but it always comes back to the vocals which are again nothing short of comical at times.
You Melt The Plastic In My Underwear continues with the wacky song titles and I wonder/hope that something has been lost in translation somewhere along the line, here we have the classic horror movie sample of a woman being killed, standard and then we get some very competent death metal, not exactly slam and not straight forward DM it’s a melding of both and works well even the vocals are not as annoying as previously, not saying they aren’t annoying but there the least annoying so far as they don’t completely drown out the music for once? The Airtight Bag In The Freezer follows the well-trodden path that has been walked down so far, blasting drums, scuzzy and dense riffs and comedy vocals are all there and don’t do much to convince that there will be much variety on this album but at least there is no stupid sample to ruin everything.
Its all fine but the underlying feeling that the lyrics are actually fucking terrible never leaves your mind, Blood Is Really Warm With A Lot Of Screaming is actually an ok track musically with some serious groove infused beatdowns and the drums are impressive again and you almost notice the bass of Daniel Cheng chucking in some extra body to the whole song but once again the majority of the vocals are crap, Looks Like Meat Is Back On The Menu has a sample of Piers National Fuckwit Morgan talking to some murderer about killing his sister which instantly get my back up and the song doesn’t fair very well either, boring and slow.
Being over halfway through now, if I am honest its all starting to grate on me a bit and Sometimes Bad Babies Go In Timeout doesn’t really do much to make anything any better, this is a heavily vocally lead song which as I may have alluded to previously is not a good idea at all and the slow and ponderous pace of the first half of the song does nothing to help when it does pick up its ok but nothing to get excited about, we then get to easily the worst song title of them all. This Is The Condom I Used When I Lost My Virginity which starts with another sample about some kid wanting to kill his family and again it a another slowed down tempo that dials away from the slam and is more straight forward death metal and it shows there is something there musically when they try but, it’s about late now really, No Can You Lick Them For Me and Everything Was A Messy Failure both sound exactly like everything else has sounded so far and I’m just beyond bored of it all now to be honest.
So, if you like brutal slamming death metal with no hints of subtlety that has stupid song titles and equally stupid vocals then this is 100% for you, if you like death metal that challenges and excites you when you listen to it the this is 100% not for you. Fatous Rump know their market and sound exactly like a band who have an album called I Am At Your Disposal would sound like, its not big, its not clever and unfortunately for them its just not very good either. 4/10