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With their third album, Regnum Saturni, U.S. black metal act Fell Voices find themselves playing into abstracts and delving deeper into ritualistic chaos with their brand of droning black metal. The album was recorded live, a trait that means a lot to me, not only in the band's character, but also in the band's sheer sonic power as it translates well and gives off a powerful, bestial aura that works well to highlight the mood of the album. Unlike previous efforts, Fell Voices dedicate the first breath to a spoken sample by poet Mary Oliver, a poem which sets the thematic tone of the album and ties into the album's title and mythos. Gone are the repetitive and intricate melodies of the their last LB and instead the band uses tremolo riffing and black metal stylings to create a sort of drone that doesn't shamble, but rather blurs.
"Flesh From Bone," the album's opener is a chaotic and dissonant piece that's sprinkled with distant and sometime barely audible yells. The track is dense and demands the listener to work through the intangible riffing and buzzing drums to pick out the subtle ebbs and identify the mood of the vocals. Beginning the album and connecting each track is a hypnotic harmonium pattern which is relaxing, yet engaging and offers a respite from the harsh pulses of each track. This was a jarring departure from my expectations as the pacing and style rejects pleasantries and relies on rhythmic repetition and fevered screaming to draw the listener in.
"Emergence" plays into more pleasing territory with a somewhat "melodic" riff that has a less dissonant tone. The track rumbles and breaks, giving space to the motion but furthering the momentum and energy of the track. "Dawn" Solidifies this development as it's the least demanding of the three and makes use of more pleasant and less harsh sounds. This is black metal played at such a pace and stride that the speed seems moot and it's the hypnotic flow that takes over. The last two tracks offer more comfort to your pedestrian black metal fan as it's not a swirling muck of blast beats and distortion like "Flesh From Bone."
The album's title, Saturn's Kingdom, the introductory poem clip, each song's unique character, and the choice for the album to be split in thirds all connect to the theme of Saturn Return as well as the Roman god of mixed natures. Each track is connected with the same harmonium line and they become more refined and less chaotic and aggressive as the album plays on. Each track is a movement of life; "Flesh From Bone" representing early childhood and adult life, "Emergence" representing maturity, and "Dawn" showing old age. Early on things are lost and aimless, voices blend into abstract guitars and the drums rage endlessly. It is only until "Emergence" do the guitars find space to become recognizable and the song structure eases off to give the listener space. "Dawn" ends with distant, isolated yells, no harmonium, and this signals the end; death. Saturn Return focuses on roughly 3 phases in which the orbit of Saturn ties into a person's life, signaling a new stage of life for them. The album's flow mimics this and makes strong use of this allusion and symbolism.
I like the character, the depth, and the theme of this album. It's engaging and contemplative, yet deceptively simple and not hung up on a loose concept. Where many bands seek to develop and complicate their sound as they continue to record new music, Fell Voices mature through distillation and honing in on what's really powerful; in this way Regnum Saturni succeeds in its poetic and emotional character. What it lacks stylistically and melodically it makes up for in atmosphere and emotion. Fell Voices's output from 2010 is still my favorite, but Regnum Saturni flows so well and is a new page I can't help but revisiting over and over and over again.
Originally written for http://perpetualstrifemusic.blogspot.com/