Faustian Pact – Outojen Tornien Varjoissa Review

There’s something intriguing about black metal. While its origins are saturated with violence and its imagery is so defiantly anti-status quo, it’s calmed down significantly over the last decade or so. With more accessible styles like folk and post-rock taking more of a prominent role, it can be difficult to find the trve kvlt style that once circulated the underground in whispered rumors. With plenty of black metal the result of one-man bedroom acts, the imagery is way less “cool” with Norway’s historic churches not burning to the ground. While one-man acts can certainly be solid (Ildjarn, Panopticon), one must be discerning about black metal. You can’t just record your distorted guitar in a trash can, use GarageBand drum kits, and croak a lot anymore.

It’s all about balance. While efforts from the likes of Deafheaven and Drudkh have certainly been solid in their respective subgenres, influences are taken to a point that strays from the kvlt kore, yo. Faustian Pact is a Finnish black metal trio whose style incorporates a lot without being too much. After quietly releasing a string of demos since 2008, they finally release their debut LP, Outojen Tornien Varjoissa,1 an album drenched in medieval imagery and in homage to the days of swords and sorcery. And in spite of the eyeroll I can practically hear from some of y’all, it ain’t half-bad, as its strength lies in its balance. While you can expect the usual tremolo riffs, blastbeats, and croaking vocals, these Finns’ usage of folk, ambiance, and simple yet effective songwriting makes Outojen Tornien Varjoissa an overall fun black metal album that dips its toes in each influence without straying from its second-wave worship.

Perhaps most telling is its very effective mix,2 which balances the razor’s edge between the fuzz of Coldworld’s Melancholie² and the rawness of Goatmoon’s Finnish Steel Storm, which creates a frosty tone without sacrificing depth. This lays a fantastic foundation of tremolo riffs and engaging passages for its tricks to rest upon. Tracks “Kuulas Musta Aika” and “Askeesikuun Luolissa” hint at Finntroll in their folky flute melodies, while “Loitsupuut” and “Rauniopuhetta” recall Falls of Rauros and Vordven in balance of acoustic desolation and symphonic textures. The choirs, spoken word passage, and liturgical Batushka feel of closer “Viimeisen Tyrannin Silmä” make it a stunning conclusion. The use of varying vocal styles add texture, such as the Burzum-esque howls in “Keihäsrinta,” the Hate Forest guttural growls in “Myytti Am’Khollenin Kuninkaasta,” and the stunning gothic female vocals of “Valottomien Askelten Takana.” Overall, the balance of symphonic flourishes and folky melodies with their trademark makes each track interesting without sacrificing consistency, ending up being their greatest strength.

What’s most frustrating about Faustian Pact is when they do something questionable, hoo boy, does it feel questionable. While instrumentally there is little to critique aside from some repetitive riffs (“Valottomien Askelten Takana”) and isolated moments of influence overload (“Loitsupuut”), these pale in comparison to the real frustration: spoken word samples. While these can be effective in black metal,3 they are cringey as hell in Outojen Tornien Varjoissa. While the standard is growled, muttered, whispered, or something else menacing, reverb-laden female croons was not what I was expecting, and as such, opener “Saastainen Valo Lintutornissa” threw me off real bad. This is also distracting and awkward in tracks like “Loitsupuut,” “Valottomien Askelten Takana,” “Myytti Am’Khollenin Kuninkaasta” (whose introductory black metal laugh warrants eye-roll) and often derail the positives at least temporarily. While they sorta match the medieval atmosphere the band’s going for, the blackened ominousness is significantly watered down when a beautiful voice pokes through the frosty riffs.4

It’s pretty neat to have only one real issue with Faustian Pact. While it’s an obnoxious distractor that could derail a good song, Outojen Tornien Varjoissa is an album worthy of your attention if you’re a fan of black metal. With fantastic songwriting and extremely solid mixing at its core, it’s very easy to forgive the iffy moments. Its 45-minute runtime never feels overlong, and its usage of symphonic and folky elements is present enough to be tasteful but never excessive to the point of decadence. Its riffs are catchy and effective through a great production, its vocal techniques diverse, its spoken word samples horrendous, and its influences tasteful. Ignore the echoey lady, but Faustian Pact’s debut is worth a spin.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Werewolf Records
Website: facebook.com/faustianpact
Releases Worldwide: February 14th, 2020

Show 4 footnotes

  1. “In the Shadows of Strange Towers.”
  2. Oxymoronic, I know.
  3. Blaze of Perdition, Reverorum ib Malacht.
  4. Immortal and Enya, anyone?
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