If you’ve been around since 2014, you may be aware that I’m rather taken with Andy Marshall’s solo project, Saor. As a talented song-writer and multi-instrumentalist, he has capably demonstrated that he knows his way around Gaelic culture and melodic intensity. Fuath—Gaelic for ‘hate’—is more fierce, more ominous, more closely tied with Norwegian black metal than Marshall’s other work, but it retains the profoundly evocative atmosphere for which his work is known. The imaginatively-titled I is his first release under this new moniker and it seems he’s on to another winner.
It’s difficult to consider Fuath without referring to Saor. There are similarities: Marshall retains his knack for integrating compelling melodies with black metal, and an aura of the ethereal. But I is subtler, darker; Saor with a mean streak. Each and every melody is evocative and effective in its own right, distinguishing themselves from each other. At 3:35 of “In the Halls of the Hunter” it touches on Darkthrone in its barely-contained ferocity, particularly with raspier vocals than those in Saor. The transition from despondency to hopefulness at 2:15 of “Oracles” dramatically shifts the mood, demanding your attention. Even Summoning are referenced on “Spirit of the North”—the most protracted interlude on the record is succeeded by a slow, wet, epic and enjoyable passage at 4:16. Particular mention also has to go to the fantastically icy riffing at 2:28 of “Blood” which cuts to the emotional core.
All this contributes to a highly atmospheric release which ventures beyond modern, post-Cascadian black metal [Oh god, no. Are we already ‘post’ post-black metal!? – AMG] which discards riffs for feeling. Burzum‘s influence as the most atmospheric of the second wave band is evident, through the hypnotic layering of guitars and tangible ambiance. But where Saor ably forges its sound through the integration of Celtic folk instruments and melodic and temporal fluctuation, Fuath flourishes on the strength of its elusive, emotional qualities in combination with its darkly seductive guitar-work. The infrequent deployment of a subtle violin buoys this quality, and I admire Marshall’s discipline to not overplay this addition.
However, to receive the coveted 4 or above from this here El Cuervo an album must feel complete, whereupon it is improved if heard unbroken and in its entirety. This is where I falls down slightly. It’s all written and performed consistently, but still feels somewhat disjointed. Each of the four tracks is of a high quality and none needlessly deviate from the album’s formula, but it’s very easy to break apart the album without losing anything. They’re four pieces compiled for the convenience of a single release, lacking the flow which elevates exemplary music.
Still, there’s no denying that this debut comes highly recommended if you’re into the more atmospheric end of Norwegian black metal. I could certainly advocate a world wherein Saor is to be Marshall’s chosen vehicle to advance his patriotism and Fuath his vehicle into which he discharges his anger and melancholy. The eerie but infectious melodies and the beautiful darkness consolidate him as one of the most exciting black metal artists in the world.