Armnatt – Dense Fog Review

If the metal genre as we know it were an animal shelter, the two most isolated beasts, sitting abjectly in the corner, would be the ungainly, lumbering, shaggy Funeral Doom and the feral, bestial, slightly-rabid Raw Black Metal. Even within this shelter, these are the least loved of the myriad metal breeds. Both are created to be uniquely unfriendly to the uncommitted: funeral doom with its ponderous, drawn-out gait, and raw black metal with its lo-fi, cacophonous, often tuneless, fury. But both have their passionate defenders, seeing beauty where others see only ugliness. Portugal is an epicenter for raw black metal, home to acts such as Cripta Oculta, Onirik, and the fascinating Black Cilice (whose Transfixtion of Spirits I admired). Armnatt attempts to join this… er… hallowed group with sophomore effort, Dense Fog. If you’ve read this far, you’re either into this type of music, or you’re new here and don’t know what I’m talking about. Either way, you’re a lost soul. Welcome. Hope you’ve had your rabies shots.

For those familiar with the genre, Dense Fog offers few surprises. It’s typically lo-fi fare, with extremely wretched and tortured vocals, howled hatefully above thunderous drums and fairly basic riffs. Fans of the bands listed above will feel immediately at home. Armnatt doesn’t exactly bring anything new to this particular table, but then raw black metal is typically insular, eschewing innovation for an almost religious devotion to the primal. Unlike atmoblack, it gazes inwardly, despising what it sees, rather than looking outwards and focusing on the expansiveness that pagan nature provides. In its determination to stay true to its raw roots, Armnatt is a hateful success. But its rigid adherence to the genre also holds it back.

Armnatt has a fairly straightforward blueprint, with songs that typically pendulum between rapid-fire blast beats and slower, almost post-metal, stretches that provide release. This pattern is repeated frequently throughout Dense Fog, on songs such as “Eternal Night,” “Vultifigures” and the tautologously-named “Circumscribing the Circle.” This back-and-forth aesthetic works well to prevent the album from descending into an inscrutable pit of noise. The quieter stretches provide a short break from the fury without compromising the overall mood. Speaking of fury, the sense of malice that surrounds Dense Fog is also a highlight, with the vile (in the best way possible) vocals complementing the lo-fi production and the uncompromising riffs very effectively. Listening to Dense Fog is certainly a visceral experience.

The downside to Armnatt’s trusted formula is that it’s simply repeated too often. Almost every song has a similar template, which lends Dense Fog an aura of predictability. While enterprising innovation is not a hallmark of this kind of music, there does need to be variation to warrant repeat listens, and Dense Fog falls a little short in this regard. Unsurprisingly, the songs which break the mold, like “Eternal Night,” which embraces a rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic towards the back end, are unquestionably the highlights. Another problem is the lack of major hooks. Although, arguably, atmosphere is the focus here, many of the riffs, such as those on “Black Devotion,” which unimaginatively hops between single, basic chords, are simply too basic to carry the song. It would have been cool if Armnatt had perhaps expanded the melodies, or elaborated on the riffs, on the some of the tracks.

Nevertheless, Dense Fog is a worthy addition to the canon of Portuguese raw black metal. It’s dark, gritty and lo-fi, with enough variety and good ideas to more than justify its existence. If the mission was to create an evil and primitive experience, then this is a success. Unfortunately, Armnatt’s icy adherence to its own template, and some occasionally uninspired riffs, prevent Dense Fog from being a truly stand-out record. But if you’re a fan of the ugly, scrawny, slightly mangy critter in the corner, siding away from the cleaner, more recognized beasts, you could do worse than to adopt Dense Fog into your life.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Signal Rex Records
Websites: armnatt.bandcamp.com/ |   facebook.com/ARMNATT/
Releases Worldwide: May 1st, 2020

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