As devoted readers, you may recall the Big Hoss himself released an expanded and updated article filled to the brim with advice for bands attempting to prostrate themselves before us. The first of the undoubtedly approaching tidal wave of bands that worship the article and obey it like scripture is Fátima, a French doom metal band that actually went and sent us lossless FLAC files, a move that will set an important precedent among hopefuls knocking down our door. So before I begin — with some trepidation — to deconstruct the music, I’d like to extend thanks to the band for going the extra mile for us. 5.0/5.0 for effort, boys!
It’s perhaps ironic how the lossless promo harbors an album of purposefully raw music of low fidelity. Fátima hearken back to the species of mid-paced late 70’s heavy metal that is often retrospectively shared under doom metal, with the chief influences Pentagram and Witchfinder General. The guitar rambles and roars with fuzzy downtune, focusing on solid, ominous riffs. Occasionally it finds a boost of nitrous, its engine drinking a gulp of Mötorhead’s snake oil (“Frog Love Foam” and “Black Robes”). The nasal vocal style reminds of Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins), particularly in the higher registers, where the ragged yells leave the most personality stamped on the music. The bulky twang of the bass and the loose, imprecise drumming further the impression of an album that was recorded live in the studio.
The approach works in their favor. The lack of polish makes for a grounded, honest sound, like the tiny imperfections in handcrafted goods. There is no shortage of rambunctious riffs, and the tracks have no issue worming into your head. The choruses have plenty of solid vocal hooks to further encourage that process. True to their roots, the lyrics are occult-themed, supported by tone-setting sound bites, among others from the movie The Adventures of Mark Twain, where three of Twain’s child characters meet Satan. Most variety is achieved with changes in pace, from the languid “Jane Mary” to the groovy “Livyatan.”
And yet, something keeps me from really loving Moaner. Indubitably, the most divisive element will be the grungy vocals. There is a whining undertone in his voice that doesn’t endear, in part due to his subdued enunciation and nasal quality. Though I don’t hate it, tracks like the opener take the brunt of the effect and cause a few moments of cringe. Furthermore, it feels like a band with such a strong ‘live in the studio’ effect should have more immediacy. Perhaps it’s in the mostly laid-back pacing, perhaps in the slightly muffled mix, but there’s a definitive lack of impact from the riffs on display here. It seems in the trade-off between old-school fuzz and a hard-hitting sound, the band opted for the former, but a little more definition would have done Fátima a big favor. As would a muzzle on the loudness, because the loud master doesn’t do the band justice (and seems to defeat the point of sending high-quality files in the first place).
I would have loved to love Moaner more. Going the extra mile is something many bands forego, with crappy quality promos besmirching our collective hearing. And there are plentiful elements to love about Fátima’s album, with its catchy, fuzzy old-school riffs and its prominent bubbly bass. But it’s certain choices the band made that keep me from fully connecting with the material. The edge of nasal whine to the vocals and the loudness and muffle on the production bring down the effectiveness and relegate the music to background status. These are mostly pretty subjective elements to rank down an album on, so I strongly encourage fans of ’70s doom to give Moaner a spin. You might like it more than I did.