Farsot are a peculiar entity. Extravagantly cryptic conceptual themes are as just as important to them as their unusual experimental black-metal sound. This German quintet is drenched in mystery, consisting of band members with names that roll off the tongue with sensual ease. Vocalist 10.XIXt, guitarists Pi: 1T 5r and 3818.w, bassist v.03/170, and drummer R 215k combine to paint an avant-garden of musical eden for fans of eccentricity and unpredictability. Their second full-length, 2011’s excellent Insects, focused on multi-dimensional, extra-terrestrial, god-like insects that invade the earth. Although Farsot have managed to exterminate the insects on Fail.lure they still manage to create a dense and cryptic story. Fail.lure, a mixture of “failure” and “allure,” is based on Peter Greenway’s arty movie “Drowning by Numbers,” addressing – and I quote – “the inevitable dilemma between fascination and mania, desire and disgust, power and weakness – the seeming rift between the sexes.”
Farsot are conceptually verbose and this rubs off on their music. Fail.lure is a fragmented, shape-shifting, chameleon of an album that I find difficult to make sense of. I do get a feeeling that a sense of over-sensuous over-stimulation accompanied the band when writing this album; Fail.Lure moves through the metal, and non-metal, spectrum with an over-zealousness that lacks a sense of unity and togetherness. In essence, Farsot’s Fail.lure shares a lot in common with Hail Spirit Noir’s Mayhem in Blue, though they lack the catchy hooks, playful carnival vibe, and coherency of the latter. A good example of their inconsistency comes from third track “With Obsidian Hands.” It initially possesses a cold depressive black-metal feel as synths like clouds of frost mingle with anguished cries and gurgled lamentations in a rather awkward, flat and indecisive manner. This forlorn affair droops, sags and meanders with melancholy but doesn’t really pierce through effectively until the two-minute point. Here, guitars take on a plasma-rifle-esque surge and an intensity that has been largely lacking up until this point emerges. The tremolos hold a grander melodic feel that counteracts pleasantly with rumbling drums and more conventional, yet complementary, blackened growls.
However, as is the theme of Fail.lure, when the music gains momentum Farsot place tactless road spikes to slow proceedings down. It’s a stop-start affair decorated with flashy decals but lacking the engine to make the decorative touches at least semi-palatable. An Agalloch-esque interlude breaks up “With Obsidian Hands” again at the mid-way point, but it seems out-of-place and underwhelming. The space-age synths that drift in with a melancholic whimper add an interesting element, but by this point the song fails to make an impact. Similarly “The Antagonist” mixes Celtic Frost/Triptykon feel with a modern day black-metal sound that, although it has its moments, fails to – once again – live up to expectations. Guitar lines meander with the conventional unconventional dissonance and vocals croak and echo with disoriented randomness that leaves little to faun over. It’s not a bad track by any means, but it’s not a track I’ll see myself actively re-visiting.
A coherent and exciting whole comes in the form of fourth track “Undercurrents,” carrying peculiar melodic grooves through conventionally intense black-metal landscapes; lick-laced cleans and hushed croaks through vistas of pensiveness; and flange-infested psychedelia through dreamy meadows. It all comes together to form a wonderfully diverse track that builds organically. A stronger emphasis on the non-black-metal elements, with variations of extremity performing evil rituals under the covers rather than in the open, appears to suit Farsot a lot better on Fail.lure. Second track “Circular Stains” is a good example of this. Merging Dornenreich-esque neo-folk sounds – whispered vocals and layered acoustic arpeggios – alongside jazzy drum licks and black-metal, it has a unique feel that towers over the opening track. Moving into moody Agalloch territories, the song layers its melancholy well as the elastic moan of the bass-lines, the more conventional wash of blackened vocals, and a rich melodic chord merge to bring the song to a rousing end.
Final track “A Hundred To Nothing” opens with a bubbly bass-line that segues into an atmospheric prog/post-rock passage that drips with a warm yet melancholy atmosphere. Once again, as the focus seems to be on the non-metal passages at the core, the song has more coherency and thus a more engrossing atmosphere emerges. However, the song literally goes nowhere, fading out to nothingness without a hook, crush, groove, or move beyond lightly-seasoned post-rock. And this largely sums up my experience of Fail.lure. Technically excellent but compositionally flat. There are some excellent moments, but these owe more to non-metal than metal. Maybe the concept and message has gone completely over my head, therefore I welcome ridicule and lambasting from more enlightened commenters.