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Fanisk "Insularum" 2013 - 100%

Casus Belli Zine, February 17th, 2013

It took almost 10 years for the legendary American band Fanisk to come back after their mighty album «Noontide», with this new shiny produced album «Insularum». As usual, they blend many influences, ranging from symphonic and atmospheric black metal to neo-classical, and even to progressive rock.

Yet, during those years, these two masterminds from Portland, Oregon, were not inactive. W. Vithólf, who is behind the concept and artwork in Fanisk, wrote English lyrics for the Polish bands Thor's Hammer and Infernum. Eldrig Van See, the music brain of the band, released several albums with his own band Eldrig.

The Pacific Northwest State of Oregon is well-known to be the hometown of Agalloch, but also the two projects Immortal Pride (recently split-up) and Fanisk. While Immortal Pride has straightforward lyrics, Fanisk values a different approach, rooted in the occult and philosophical aspects of Ariosophy, in a form they call themselves "esoteric art in service of the Black Sun".

Musically speaking, parallels with bands such as Kataxu and Nokturnal Mortum period «Goat Horns» to some extent, inevitably come to mind, because of the prominent use of keyboards. But don’t get mislead, Fanisk has a unique triumphant style and an astounding sheer magnitude of the sound. On «Insularum», the production clearly improved to sound less sterile than «Noontide». Noticeably, their sound has developed over such a long period; the keyboards are even more majestic and enforce the dark atmosphere, maybe more gloomy and oceanic than previously. The drums are quite frontward, while the guitars brilliantly accompany the keyboards, with even some pleasant acoustic parts, the whole creating this gigantic wave engulfing the listener, which spurs the flurry of impressions about life and death.

The Astral journey starts with the murmur of waves, while we hear Klaus Kinski say in German "I long to go forth from here to another world", a famous quote from the movie «Cobra Verde» by the German Director Werner Herzog, where Kinski plays a bandit hired to re-open the slave trade with Western Africa. This is the story of a man driven to other horizons, to something larger than his own existence.

The lyrics reflect this initiatic voyage through three long tracks, although the album has to be taken as a whole, since the tracks are divided arbitrarily into three more or less equal parts. A closer look at the name of the songs could possibly clarify a deeper meaning, unless they just add mystery to the concepts.

“Departure Rose Golden” is unlikely to be connected to the fact that the rose is the official flower of Portland. In Alchemy, the golden rose is both a symbol of absolute achievement, and an approach for invoking cosmic energy. The lyrics mourn a world that “glittered once golden” and became a sterile delusion without aura. Through the whole track, the agility of keyboards often used in the chromatic scale lead a challenging music, with layers upon layers of dense mastery. Furious speed of rage and epic coldness with distorted voice and extreme reverb alternates with quiet parts conveyed with clean voice and whispers. There is an extraordinary diversity of mood, and same music continues in the second track before the break.

The title “Enantiodromia” can be associated to the works of C. G. Jung, another source of inspiration for Fanisk. It is a principle stating that things are changing to their opposites to restore balance, and illustrates the unconscious tension of opposites emerging when an attitude is repressed. During seven minutes we come to a rest with a long interlude of spacey patterns and echo effects provoking a gliding flow. There are few vocal, only some isolated words screamed from afar. A dive where consciousness and cognition come to an end. The long silences of nocturnal ambiance are filled with noises reminding of wind and waves sounds.

On “Arrival Lotus Black” we finally reach the conclusion of this paragon, as the Lotus is the quintessence of purity and eternity and symbolizes the rebirth and the Sun. In this case the Black Sun, a “blinding altar” that “illumine ache in mystic fire revealing thy proximity”. The music is back to solar devastation with aggression blending extremely well with the orchestral elements. The complex song structures discontinued with several time signature changes are revolving around repeated melodic themes that slowly progress to a Wagnerian apotheosis. As a final path to Enlightenment, the few last minutes conclude with the sounds of gongs, singing bowls & bells carried by eastern meditative invocation chants.

If this album had to be described in a single word it would be: Majesty. Once again, the Phoenix laid another stellar egg and hopefully it won’t be the last one.

Originally written for Casus Belli Zine by Vikdrasil