Fides Inversa – Historia Nocturna Review

Despite its roots as lo-fi “anti-music,” black metal is an extremely versatile genre, which is why it gets blended a lot these days. An ingredient is often lost amongst all the tinkering and combinations, however: naked anger. If black metal’s many hybrids have left you a bit cold this year, Italy’s Fides Inversa is here to furiously spit in your face and remind you why this genre exists in the first place. Historia Nocturna is the band’s third full-length, following 2014’s Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans and 2017’s EP Rite of Inverse Incarnation. Mysterium was a twisty, gnarly experience, combining Deathspell Omega-type dissonance with more traditional, thrashy black metal. It also experimented heavily with tempo changes, to varying results, and got a mixed grade at this esteemed site. In retrospect, Mysterium was perhaps a tad harshly rated, and it picked up some love in the comments. It was, nevertheless, a poor man’s Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, with little to make it stand out, and it duly disappeared without much fuss. Now Fides Inversa is back after a 6 year hiatus. Is this one likely to linger where its predecessor disappeared like an evanescent wisp of smoke?

Historia Nocturna is not Mysterium 2.0. On that effort, many of the tracks were mid-tempo, with an emphasis on unsettling melodies rather than outright fury. It was uneven, but it occasionally worked, and the experimentation reached an apotheosis on “IV,” which best highlighted the band’s ability to deftly combine dissonance and thrash. Historia, on the other hand, is just an all-out, balls-to-the-wall assault; relentless, remorseless, and uncompromising. “A Wanderer’s Call and Orison” is a blueprint for the album as a whole: exploding out the speakers like a malevolent canon-ball. It’s not interested in seducing with subtle melodies or wowing the listener with complex arrangements, simply in demolishing everything in sight. Elsewhere, the dissonant moments of Mysterium are still present, but instead of being woven into creeping, disquieting mid-paced tracks, they’re incorporated here into the full-frontal assault. “Transcendental Lawlessness” and “The Visit” both demonstrate the new sound, which is smoothly balanced and has the effect of making the vicious experience uncomfortably compelling.

Historia is pretty extreme even by black metal standards. On the downside, the relentless assault, with almost no breaks, is so unforgiving that it can become wearying. This album is played with the dial turned to 11 pretty much the whole way through. While the tracks are powered by an impressive aggression, the chords and melodies are neither particularly complicated nor original, which diminishes the replayability factor somewhat. Historia, as a result, can occasionally be a bit repetitive. The lack of any downtime also makes it a fairly tiring experience, reminding me a bit of This Gift Is a Curse’s absolutely uncompromising A Throne of Ash. Even the quieter moments, such as “Syzygy,” are pregnant with dread and foreboding, and interspersed with otherworldly shrieks and sighs to keep the nerves on edge. Historia is a never less than a demanding listen.

The album has a smooth mix and is mercifully not brick-walled into oblivion. While the instrumentation is rock-solid, special mention should go to frontman Wraath’s vocals, which manage to go toe-to-toe with the aural assault, and hold their own. They’re at the front of the mix and for good reason: their confident delivery guides the melodies. On “I Glance You with a Touch, I Touch You with a Gaze,” the interplay between drums and vocals adds impressive texture to the chorus, imbuing it with a purpose that many shrieks lack. It’s a forceful and dominating performance.

Historia Nocturna is an impressively malevolent little album. The sheer aggression and ugliness make it stand out, because there’s something furiously compelling about just how unrelenting it is. Like a pitbull with its jaws clamped, there is simply no escaping Historia Nocturna. It’s a clear step-up from its predecessor, and is held back only by its lack of originality, and occasionally wearying dynamics. The fact remains, though, that this is a beast. Looking for some palate-cleansing, furious black metal that laughs in the face of its ‘atmospheric’ brethren before kicking their wimpy teeth in? Look no further.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: W.T.C. Productions
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2020

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