Taking inspiration from their native Catalonia and from the morbid, decadent, and sick reflections on a rapidly changing society, Foscor – Catalan for “Darkness” – play a dark progressive metal that shares features with the depressive European heavyweights of Katatonia, Solstafir, and Lantlos. Les Irreals Visions is the band’s fifth full-length and a considerable shift away from their early black-metal sound to a depressive progressive metal that tastefully merges elements of black metal and doom. Like Lantlos with Azure Chimes, Foscor have switched to a clean vocal approach, a switch that has been a resounding success. With Les Irreals Visions, Foscor traffic in a rich mixture of melancholy, beauty and anger, intensified by the poetic melodicism of their native tongue and their merging of heaviness and frailty.
Opener “Instants” is an instant whirlwind experience as fluttering high-pitched riffs, expressive and complex drumming, and dreamy vocals weave and rise like steam from an ancient spa. There is a beautifully rich wash of guitar sounds that soar and echo throughout the album, anchored by thumping double-bass drumming and quick-fire tapping, creating both a sense of soothing melancholy and biting aggression. This is the common theme throughout: a contrast of feelings. The vocals are performed by fallen angels and the instrumentation their chariot. Vocalist Fiar’s ultra-melodic, hook-laden, and soaring tone is itself an instrument. They are Foscor’s most unique and powerful tool. Drenched in reverb, rising and rising and rising some more, they convey everything that needs to be conveyed: passion and melancholy. Accompanying this is a crisp and clear production with the muscular bass performing terse acrobatics to significant effect. “Altars” consists of fluttery guitars that twang and whistle, supported by the exploratory nature of the bass, moving higher up the octaves and singing with the splendor of a lead guitar. Foscor’s wistful tenderness, spinning and attaching itself to blasting intensity, is a feature that’s instantly recognizable in recent Katatonia. It’s nothing drastically innovative, but it’s presented in an impassioned and vibrant enough manner to feel fresh.
There’s a lot of darkness and riff-based moodiness to add to the lofty melancholy. “Encenalls de Mort” consists of crunching mid-paced riffs that cascades, mid-way, into a glorious solo. My problem is that it rides a gentle wave, failing to rouse much. It suffers from being too Katatonia-lite, unable to recreate the otherworldly feelings of other songs on the album. “Espectres al Cau,” though, carries an urgency as riffs clash and jostle for space and drums surge. “De Marges i Matinades,” too, explodes into life from the first second, shimmering like a chainsaw made of flame. The impact of these riffs is intensified by the careful construction of songs. “Espectres” only works because the spurts of aggression are wrapped in interludes and lulls that raise the heaviness to impressive heights. Similarly, “De Marges” uses its lulls not to compartmentalize the heavy sections, but to provide the roots to feed these moments of angry release.
As the album progresses it grows in heaviness, with “Espectres al Cau” and “De Marges i Matinades” – sparingly utilizing growls and traditional second wave riffing – being placed one after the other at the back-end of the album. However, the most dreamlike and ethereal track ends the album. Closer “Les Irreals Visions” sounds like a flock of birds escaping an electrical storm. Airy mid-paced tremolo riffing meanders at a dreamy pace as shimmering electronics and impassioned vocals circle and drift. This dream-like atmosphere resonates at many points throughout the album, though most strongly explored here. The ethereal “Ciutat Tragica,” for example, ends with lofty piano patterns filtered through reverb and warmed by light vocal melodies. These tender lulls and breaks in the heavy, Katatonia-esque melancholy provide a dreamy pillow to rest against the nightmares of the other sections.
Les Irreals Visions is so close to being a great album. The two-song slump in the middle detracts from the energy of the opening and final tracks. With “Altars” and “Encenalls De Mort” omitted the album would flow excellently, shifting from lightness to darkness to an ethereal and lofty end. Aided by a clear and powerful production, Foscor’s diverse sound spreads its melancholic tendrils with forceful freedom. Their shift away from second-wave black metal has worked a treat and this ‘dark’ progressive tone is a treat for the ears and heart.