By Matt Hinch
Since their self-titled debut Santa Cruz, California’s Fell Voices have been consistently building a name for themselves in black metal circles; their split with Ash Borer and ‘untitled’ album in particular vaulting them into the conversation. 2013 sees the trio return with Regnum Saturni. Released on double vinyl by Gilead Media in collaboration with Antithetic Records, Regnum is over an hour of powerfully dense and atmospheric black metal broken down into three glorious tracks.
“Flesh From Bone” begins with a solid two minutes of droning harmonium before a woman’s voice enters, speaking of pain. Pain is a central feeling one experiences listening to the album. Terror, torturous and ever present, filters up from the depths in the form of the disembodied howls emanating from bassist/vocalist Joseph and drummer/vocalist Mike. They sound spectral and haunting, and honestly frightening. The track comes into full bloom behind the frantic drums and a wall of sound created by Tucker’s guitar. Nuances float between the seams of the merciless onslaught. The pacing morphs as the track takes on a different vibe. Like a shift of the light. A little melody appears to carry the listener with a dark and sinister weight. Yet for all the violent tendencies, all the negative aggression, it still feels quite soothing. One can feel the catharsis pouring forth and experience the release in the same way the band must.
“Emergence” feels more electric, more insectile. Like seeing the world anew upon emerging from a cocoon. Fell Voices find a hypnotic riff and mine it to the ends of the earth. Changing up subtleties in tone and urgency of the drums, different moods are generated. However, one can feel that the source is singular. An unsettling aura radiated from within a tornado of swirling chaos spinning an eternal wheel of anguish. It’s an oppressive feeling that forces the listener to fight against the urge to join in with the wounded and dying screams, boiling over from the pressure.
“Dawn” vibrates with anticipation until a harsh light breaks in glorious but tainted triumph. The light illuminates conflicting emotions. It is welcome against the cold darkness yet we now can see all that we would rather keep hidden. We are carried by the rays as they spread forth from the horizon, warming all they touch as they pass over valleys and peaks, plains and lakes. The album ends uncomfortably as the sound of that fell voice takes centre stage, bellowing to the accompaniment of bells. One cannot help but be affected by those harrowing vocalizations.
With Regnum Saturni, Fell Voices play darkness against light, cold against warmth, chaos against order. While it would work well as background music, it deserves more respect than that. This album is meant to be experienced with undivided attention. Body and mind must become engaged with the frequency forces emanating from the band (who recorded it live). The hypnotic shifting dynamics, raw emotion and never-too-far-away harmonium make Regnum more than just a bludgeoning of black metal malevolence. With every listen it sinks deeper into your core, residing in your soul. Make a place for it there, and on your record shelf.