Before I begin this review, I will have to admit that I had some trouble reviewing this. After the package from Chile arrived – what I think was the first promo to arrive from South America to AGM.com – I could not get past the first one and a half minutes of the first track of this first release of FAVNA ABISAL. The sound was very clicky and digital (a tradition in South American metal from the days of SARCOFAGO it seems), and from the short intro the song turned into some strange sort of rock ‘n’ roll pastiche, an irony of some sort perhaps. The guitars were all a bit out of tune, as well as the vocals. I had to turn it off.
But perseverance and a sense of duty compelled me to dive deeper into the mysterious depths of FAVNA ABISAL, and at first I was amazed at what was hidden beyond those ugly first minutes. They are young, and you hear that – the riffs that build up the basin of this band are off and on quite exciting, though slightly derivative. Enjoyable in their urgent and youthful out-of-tune energy, that is for sure, but never truly original in a musical sense. The four tracks are a cavalcade of second generation Avantgarde Metal influences (or third, but that is another discussion). I can hear traces of as wide a scope as both YES’ Close To The Edge and THERION’s Theli (maybe not that wide after all, come to think of it…), but most of all I hear FLEURETY. The absurdly swinging comps (which I slagged above, though), the weird-ass clean guitar lines oozing of a Last-Minute Lies or Department of Apocalyptic Affairs pulled through an ARCTURUS anno 1998-2002 seriousness filter, so to speak.
The out-of-tune guitars (played by a Stauroteuthis Syrtensis and a Fanfin Seadevil) sparks the idea of a KOROVA influence (the jangly uncontrolled sound of A Kiss in the Charnel Fields and the oceanic thematics of WaterHells) – whether you find that charming and original, or just annoying is up to the listener. I honestly can’t decide if I like it or not.
The same goes for the vocalist, Melanocetus Johnsonii. Sometimes painfully out of tune (I need a new phrase for that), his/its Garmesque/Chrystof Niederwieserian pseudo-operatic pomposity can both add to the bands charm or reduce it. For me it goes both ways, depending on my mood while listening. Sometimes awesome, sometimes terrible. But either way, this is still a strong Avantgarde Metal début – though perhaps derivative in a sense, it is built on the pillars of the standard bands of the 1990’s, cementing the fact that there is what one could call an AGM “sound” or “style”. Or if there isn’t, there is one now; FAVNA ABISAL and their contemporaries do not build from scratch (and Celtic Frost), but creating from the basis and templates of what has been done, taking it a step or two further. Whether that is a good thing or a derivation of the spirit of AGM… another discussion. Anyway, even if I don’t think this is the best thing I’ve heard this year, I’m still glad that there are: A.) bands active in South America doing this kind of music, and B.) active orchestras that are truly active orchestras in this elusive genre (six members playing live, not one guy experimenting at home with a laptop only existing on the IntraWebs). So let me go on a bit on what I really enjoy with this demo beyond its theoretical existence.
The last two tracks is where FAVNA ABISAL really get off to explore the unknown. Hidroestatica, a short interlude, does to a deep sea grave or the abyssal plain of the Pacific, what ULVER did to night-time (dead) city centres a decade ago. The Cryptosaras Couesii responsible for the submersible electronic devices sure knows how to wield his equipment, adding a dimension to FAVNA ABISAL’s sound all to rarely used to its full extent even in Avantgarde Metal. Then comes the epic closer, Rey Abisal – Abyssal King. An epic surge, growing and pulsing for nine minutes, with eerily echoing piano lines, guitar lines haunting, heavy bass rumbles through the abyss, emotions cascading – who cares hat the vocalist isn’t hitting every note perfectly when his voice comes from his heart rather than his record collection? I stood one early summer morning/very late evening watching the clouds passing in their own pre-dawn delight, while listening to this. The cadence and cascade conveyed at that moment a profound sense of purpose and meaning hidden behind the music in a way I hadn’t felt for several years, almost comparable to the sensation of discovering ARCTURUS. When writing this, the feeling is gone, but somehow FAVNA ABISAL struck a chord in me at that moment.
As is obvious, I find it hard to decide whether or not I even like this thing. The ultramarine and waterhellish theme feels fresh and original, the gorgeous deep green and blue artwork with silhouetted tentacles and 19th century pictures of deep sea fish, the musicians adopting the Latin names of submersible monsters, all adding to the bands uniqueness (not mentioned yet is the percussionist Anoplogaster Cornuta and the bass-playing Linophryne Lucifera). Combined with what I suppose is at most times good and thought-through experimental metal, the casual AGM listener should definitely at least give this band a chance. I just hope that they will evolve into something even more original, and more in tune (since they have only existed since last year, this is hardly too much to hope for).
Release: Spring 2009
Avantgenre: Deep Sea Weird Metal
Origin: Santiago, Chile
Official site: http://www.myspace.com/favnaabisal
Review online since: 03.08.2009 / 09:54:55
4. Rey Abisal