Felled – The Intimate Earth Review

In the last few months, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of word choice, both in general discourse and in more formal(ish) settings like this one. For me, the two words that give me the greatest pause, specifically when it comes to discussing music—but certainly not journalism—with fans are “good” and “bad.” I often take issue with how flippantly fans seem to throw around either, making them sound like be-all end-all discussion-killers from an unmatched authority. As for myself, I noticed that I use either term most often when I haven’t given something enough time to allow me to form complete opinions about that thing. Either way, I want to use these two words in particular with more faithfulness from this point onwards. All this is merely to say that when I tell you that Oregon quartet Felled’s debut full-length The Intimate Earth is a good record, know that I considered my claim with care.

Felled approach black metal differently than many. There’s a lot of mournful folk imbued within these sonic landscapes, thanks to a lead violin which takes center stage as often as, if not more often than, the lead guitars. Dour atmosphere grips with a cold, unforgiving hand and drags you across snowy tundra, no thought given to your ability to weather the journey. All that matters is that the melodies and moods cut through your thin flesh-wrapper and find a home deep inside your marrow. While most of the story is told through the pained rasps of a dying soul, clean alto vocals provide a soothing warmth to allow the audience the smallest of hopes that they will see light at the end of the tunnel.

There is no light, however, as the closing death march “The Salt Binding” so delicately lays you down to final rest in the snowbank. Even at nine minutes in length, this track eases the listener into a twisted, depressive trance which becomes increasingly difficult to break even as you near the end. It doesn’t help that there’s an incredibly catchy vocal refrain that repeats again and again, slowly peeling away layers until the bass in the group is the lone survivor as silence catches up to him. As beautiful as this song is, my personal favorites are opening duo “Ember Dream” and “Fire Season on the Outer Rim.”1 The opener is aggressive enough to get my head bobbing, but it’s main riff is delivered via violin which is a cool change of pace from the norm. The guitars aren’t just chugging the same note away, either, which allows Felled to express dynamics that many other acts fail to present. On “Fire Season of the Outer Rim,” however, the lead guitars and the violins share the riffs, each playing a distinct role while aiming for, and nailing, a single target. It blends everything Felled offers while also demonstrating their best work at this point in their nascent career.

There’s room for improvement on The Intimate Earth, of course. It seems that many debuts I cover tend to have excess which could pose a risk to their longevity. This one has less of this variety of bloat than most, but “The Rite of Passage” bears the brunt of the bloat that does exist. This track weeps with strung melodies and evokes a winter of death and loss upon any who bear its cries. However, it offers little for the mind to grab on to. It nods politely as you pass by, and then it’s forgotten, though you might notice its absence should it not be present. It’s an odd sensation, remembering something existing without having a concrete picture of what that thing was. This happens occasionally in every song on The Intimate Earth, which only adds to the sense that patches of material were never fully realized, small though those patches may be.

What might have brought more life into those less memorable moments on The Intimate Earth is a richer soundstage. Whoever mixed and mastered The Intimate Earth handled the gamut of instruments well, but the space given for them to occupy is too tight and robs the end product of depth. Nevertheless, Felled’s formula is successful, as is their execution, for the most part. A little bolt-tightening and a richer production will go a long way towards solidifying Felled’s status as a superior black metal act. For now, rest assured that The Intimate Earth is at least worth your time and your cash.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: facebook.com/felledband | felledblackmetal.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: July 2nd, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, I realize I basically just mentioned all of the singles already released. Fuck off! I’m not responsible for the label releasing the best songs in advance, dammit!
« »