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Taking Flight - 85%

CrimsonFloyd, February 11th, 2013

Fauna is arguably the most intriguing act to emerge out of the budding Cascadian black metal movement. The group is “pagan black metal” in the purest sense of the term. Each Fauna album takes a simple naturalistic theme and explores it both literally and symbolically. The debut, Rain, explores the process of spiritual cleansing through a storm of riffs that wash over the listener like a parade of blackened clouds. The sophomore release, The Hunt offers a blend of chilly black metal, dark ambient and animalistic screams that summon images of a late-night hunt in a wild forest. Both albums are ambitious, consisting of a single song that lasts over an hour.

Fauna’s third album, Avifauna, sees the band providing more dynamic and varied sounds. Instead of creating a single monolithic composition, Avifauna consists of three songs, ranging from seventeen to thirty minutes, plus two brief ambient interludes. Close to half of Avifauna is depressive neofolk in the vein of Ulver’s Kveldssangerand Empyrium’s Weiland. Like a bird resting watchfully in its nest, Fauna slowly explore soft, solemn melodies on acoustic guitar and strings before suddenly soaring into glorious passages of epic, melancholic black metal. The album ebbs between these two dimensions with grace and coherence, resulting in dramatic compositions that pull the listener through a spectrum of emotions.

The most powerful composition is “Soaring into the Earth,” which begins with two minutes of birdsongs before entering an extensive passage of sorrowful, longing folk. When distortion and screams finally arrive, it feels like a long awaited catharsis. The riffs are mostly dark and haunting, but like rays of sun creeping between dense clouds, there are brief passages of sheer beauty. When the black metal fades some ten minutes later, the composition enters a series of creepy acoustic progressions accompanied by intermittent, muted distortion and jittery, primitive bass-drum. The melodies crawl up your spine like an ineffable muscle-memory. All the tension ignites in a slow, smoldering passage of black metal that loops until achieving total exhaustion.

Avifauna sees Fauna integrating a number of new elements into its sound. Acoustic bass and cello are prevalent throughout the acoustic passages, but also offer a few impressive solos during the black metal sections. There is also the presence of low, hollow clean vocals, similar to those found on Empyrium records, which accentuate the melancholic spirit of the record. A cameo by a female vocalist on the final three minutes of “Syrinx” result’s in the album’s most exquisite moment. Wordless wails of female and male vocals harmonize, actualizing the song’s final plea for the “womb of molten light” to “gestate my ascent to black stars.”

Fauna’s one major flaw remains the extreme vocals. They are direct, urban shouts, closer to what one would expect from a hardcore band. A more feral screech in the spirit of early Burzum would better suit Fauna’s music. Otherwise, there isn’t a lot to critique about Avifauna. The final track, “The Harpy” isn’t quite as powerful as the first two compositions but is nonetheless strong. More generally, there are a few riffs that are derivative of early Drudkh but ultimately, these are minor flaws in an otherwise beautiful and inspiring record. Considering the length of the songs and complexity of the song-structures, this is certainly not an easy record to break into (it will take at least four or five listens before you will recognize the architecture of the compositions), but for those who appreciate naturalistic black metal it will be well worth the effort.

Originally written for deafsparrow.com

Atmospheric Journey! - 95%

Mijmering, February 4th, 2013

"Avifauna" is Fauna's third full-length album and I didn't know they were releasing a new album before a friend of mine notified me about it. Their previous albums were astonishing: ''Rain'' and ''The Hunt'' are known for their duration (over 1 hour) and are characterized by energetic, yet melancholic black metal. I really loved their previous albums and I did hope "Avifauna" would be as good as ''Rain'' and ''The Hunt''. Care to know?

Yes, it is!

Avifauna is already my favourite album in their discography. Beautifully produced, atmospheric black metal in its purest form, yet this is not a polished record. The acoustic guitars are very sharply mixed, but the vocals are mixed in the background and the black metal parts are quite harsh. I love it, though.

The duration of this record is, of course, 01:13:53 long. Avifauna kicks off with ''Soaring Into Earth'' and a lot happens in this song. First of all, the acoustic parts are amazing in this track, being really neo-folkish and melancholic. The kettle drums are a notable thing as well and they give a very deep and eerie feeling to this song. However, let's not talk about separate parts of the song, but about the tracks in general.

Every song builds its own way to a climax. Clean vocal parts combined with acoustic parts are the base of the tracks, but they are combined with some very intense blast beat parts and a vocalist with a voice full of despair. It's not that typical black metal voice, but kind of like screams of agony. I never heard such a voice and it suits the music so well. I want to hear more!

The three main tracks are divided by two interludes that are created, in my opinion, to process everything you just heard. There is no such band as Fauna. A noteworthy fact on the album are the cello and violin parts, especially the outro of ''Soaring Into Earth'' and the intro of ''Syrinx'', which are very nicely done. There is this ambient background sound combined with cello parts and acoustic guitars. You get really sucked into the tracks and when you're finally in, you get smacked in the face by beautiful and atmospheric black metal.

Strong atmosphere, screams of agony, acoustic parts, kettle drums, blast beats...this album is perfectly fit for my ears. If you like black metal bands that can really playing you into a trance, this is a must buy!

Incredible - 100%

TikrasTamsusNaktis, January 13th, 2013

Literally years of waiting for a new album from this group has finally paid off with something incredible. There is no need to worry about this album being sub-par compared to their past albums. This one surpasses them both, by far. An interesting thing to note about this album is that for the first time the album is divided into separate tracks. There are 5 songs in total and the album does feel more broken up in a way than just one single long song. To be honest, that might be the only thing that I would have liked to be changed on the album. I always loved the terrifying thought of having to sit down and listen to well over an hours worth of Fauna in one sitting. The tracks being divided up like this allow the listener to take breaks or only listen to one song in a sitting which I believe is not a good idea for music like this. It is a demanding non-stop journey and should be treated as such until the end.

First of all it only takes 8 minutes for the black metal to come like an artillery shell hitting the ground a foot away from you. In the past on albums (especially on "The Rain") it took up to approximately 22 minutes for anything black metal like to show up. I can imagine that that was difficult for some listeners to take in the past. The album begins with an acoustic intro which sounds wonderful. Once the black metal comes in we are treated with the same kind of guitar tone that has been used in previous albums. The one thing that is very noticeable very early on is the improvement in the production value. At around 18 minutes during a long and extended acoustic passage this steady shamanic like drumming comes into play to lull the listener into a trance and it picks up in pace and then finally explodes back into a doomy dissonant section of the song which is quite possibly the best part of the whole album. The drumming sounding nearly tribal makes you just move your head along with it as well as with the droning spiraling distorted guitar strumming. This climax is easily one of the best passages that I have heard in black metal in a long, long time. The beauty about this is that this has just been the first song "Soaring into Earth." We are still in for a real treat.

On this album the three main black metal songs are divided up between two “Interlude” tracks. This is the first time that Fauna have actually named a song “Interlude.” They are mostly just some sort of ambient tracks that act as a sort of break between the other huge songs.

The rest of the album continues with songs that are similar to the first one and really do create an amazing atmosphere that is hard to explain and definitely very hard to duplicate. Describing a bit of the first track is just a way to make it a preview for people who want to listen to the whole album.

Fauna give off an energy that I very rarely find in any music. They are able to truly capture how black metal and nature are connected. There is something about the music that makes it seem to be more than just music. It is not explainable really. It is just something that needs to be experienced and interpreted by the individual that is listening to them They are certainly one of the most intense bands and to see them live in a forest of a field would be an out of this world experience. It is something that is definitely on my bucket list.

This album is very satisfying and the long wait for it was well worth it. Honestly one of the biggest problems with this album isn’t even a bad thing necessarily. After every listen I cannot decide on what to listen to next because there is so little that can compare to the emotional experience that this album is. I just hope we don't have to wait this long again for the next installment. I highly recommend listening to this album at night and alone and giving it a large amount of concentration.