FANISK - Insularum - CD

DTB 092, released 2013

Third album; Digipack release.
1. Departure Rose Golden
2. Enantiodromia
3. Arrival Lotus Black


Black Solar Art - 90% - Annihislater
Whilst the most will remember My Bloody Valentine’s ‘m b v’ as being the comeback album of 2013, black metal fans should also remember this album too. A few months short of a decade on from their seminal and yet somewhat controversial album, 2003’s Noontide, the band have returned with another offering of their self proclaimed ‘Black Solar Art’. Something reinforced on the dedication ‘An Offering To My sun’. The band is comprised of Vitholf and Eldrig (who also has a solo project by the same name).

A decade is a long time, especially when it comes to music. So has the wait been worth it? Let’s find out. The album is comprised of 3 tracks and has a run time of just below 49 minutes, with all 3 tracks being in the 14-19 minute range. But I almost feel like track names and run times are a mere formality. It just feels like a convenient way to break up a bigger whole. The whole album is like an entity in itself that ebbs and flows as majestic sweeping black metal gives way to delicate interludes and ambience and back again.

The album starts with Departure Rose Golden, and the band really start as they mean to continue. A voice over in German speaks a single line before the guitar and synth play a slow melody in harmony for a few bars before the blast beats kick in and the synth slowly rises to it’s position soaring above the mix. The vocals are deep in the mix and almost barked, but are so drenched in reverb that they become almost just another texture, something that in my book isn’t a bad thing. There are also clean almost chanted vocals to be found later on this album which are used to great effect. The metal elements briefly fall back and reveal a glistening motif dancing over the chord progression, before we’re thrust back into the majestic motifs and rich, dense atmosphere.

And that is pretty much the story of this album, glorious, oftentimes anthemic melodies soaring above a dense cavern of atmospheric black metal. There is a real feeling of something transcendent in nature to be found in this music, you really feel the bonds of everyday mundane reality being broken and the music taking you to some sort of higher plane, this is really a journey, an album to immerse yourself in and just let wash over you.

Of course in the interest of a critique I feel duty bound to point out some potential pitfalls. I feel that some of the ambient sections, certainly in the middle of the second track Enantiodromia, sometimes end up breaking up the momentum of the album. But other than that I’m hard pressed to find much else to fault really. My expectations weren't all that high going into this album, but what I’ve found has really blown me away. So perhaps I’m still in that forgiving honeymoon phase with this album, and perhaps time will reveal more faults. But for now, I can find very little not to like about this thing. So to answer the question of was it worth the wait? Unequivocally Yes.

Originally written for Destructive Music
The new Fanisk! - 90% - Ranur5555
Finally, the wait is over! Almost 10 years have passed since Fanisk released their godly album Noontide, and the speculations about a third album have been floating in the air for quite a few years now! So, does the material on the long awaited Insularum justify the huge gap between the two?

Upon the first listen it becomes pretty clear that a few solo-albums by composer Eldrig have had a certain influence on this album's production. Kinda reminded me a little bit of Everlasting War Divinity, especially in the guitar department, and even though the guitars are more restrained here than on the Eldrig-albums they are given good space to shine! There is also a good amount of acoustic guitar-sections as well, which helps to give the music a new dimension so that we don't just get Noontide 2.0. The synths are as always present though, and on Insularum they sound more majestic and triumphant than ever! (Good thing that Eldrig finally got rid of the cheesy Casio-sound from his previous works...) Here and there I can hear a musical nod to Noontide, and that transition from "Departure Rose Golden" to "Enantiodromia" is a nice variant of the flute/synth-pattern we hear in "III" from Noontide. When talking about the performance on the album the only really weak spot may be the vocals. Vitholf has never been the greatest black metal-vocalist in my opinion, but he delivered some great raspy howls on both Die and Become and Noontide, so it's kinda disappointing to hear him go over to those deep, low-pitch screams on this album. There is especially one section in the middle of "Enantiodromia" where the instruments play some short, staccato chords with equally staccato vocals upon that sounds really weird in my opinion. But where Vitholf may fail in the screaming-department, he punches back with some great clean vocals! Yes, clean vocals! He sings surprisingly good, and the harmonized choruses makes for some of my absolute highlights on the album! This, also another dimension to the NEW Fanisk-sound!

I was a little skeptical when I saw the track-listing for the first time. Three tracks, almost 50 minutes? How are they gonna do this? They have chosen an interesting structure though, as Insularum doesn't really consist of three independent songs. It is ONE song, in three parts! All the transitions are very smooth, and even though they could have chosen to split the tracks on different places, it works very well! There are no skipping, so you can hear the whole thing through with no problems! And I think that's really the only way to listen to this thing. You can't just listen to "Enantiodromia"! You've got to have the whole thing! So, I will definitely say that Insularum is a worthy follow-up to Noontide, despite the lengthy wait! It doesn't surpass the 2003-masterpiece as a whole (Fanisk will have a hard time doing that!) but it's filled with just as much majestic music, so I'm more than happy! Great way to start the new year!
"If this album had to be described in a single word it would be: Majesty." - Vikdrasil
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.

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