Written By: Noctus
It’s a common argument that winning formulas are difficult to beat and they can be repeated time and time again without diminishing appeal. The triteness of modern black metal has been well documented on this website, and it has to be admitted that I enter every black metal review these days with a sense of apprehension. Fides Inversa aren’t much different, and though I’m unfamiliar with their early work, their melodic and anthemic twist on black metal with longer tracks and eerie orchestral movements not unlike Deathspell Omega‘s sound palette are all too familiar. Unless there’s a stylistic u-turn, which I doubt, it’s easy to know what I’d be in for.
Regardless of that, I came away from Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans with more enjoyment than I expected, despite falling into every trap I set for it. Yes, it’s borderline-dissonant black metal singing about occultism; and yes, it follows nearly every gimmick sans brickwall production that’s associated with it. But it does so with a sense of grace and reserve many bands don’t utilize; it’s not overly exciting but it’s a tasteful addition to any black metal discography.
The thrashy, noodly riffs akin to Gorgoroth‘s later work, emphasised by the cleaner production, are well written and performed, but without Gorgoroth‘s instantly infectious and catchy nature. They’re easy to enjoy when they’re around but do little to stick around in your head. Not a dealbreaker, however, when the experience itself is enjoyable despite lack of memorability, which this will be to most black metal fanatics. The drums are perhaps the most interesting thing in the mix, the constant fills and changes in rhythm are pleasing. The rasping vocals are another highlight and are more discernible than most of their peers, making the album more personable on a whole.
Great moments are scattered, but worth savouring; the album’s fourth movement has a tremendous last few minutes, truly making the 10 minutes of shifts and build ups worth the toil as they culminate in an almost choral wall of melodic guitars that feels like a respectful nod to Secrets of the Moon. Few other tracks do much to impress beyond the the stylistic limits set by the genre, but moments of foreboding orchestra and brass sections are utilized rather well and without gimmickry. It’s a shame these aren’t incorporated into the music better instead of what feels like abrupt drops more often than not. Interesting while they occur, sure, but you soon realize they add very little.
The aforementioned clearer, sparse production is both a blessing and a curse – it’s great how open everything sounds and how enveloping it is, but the sad fact is it highlights that there isn’t much going on compositionally. There are a lot of shifts between sections but few with pleasing transitions. The high dynamic range for an album of this kind is highly appreciated, however, and pulls this album higher.
Despite the lack of power to truly impress, perhaps due to sticking to conventions a touch too closely, Fides Inversa’s sophomore effort is an enjoyable romp through well-known territory. For those who garner morbid enjoyment from Secrets of the Moon‘s melodic tinge to dissonance and Gorgoroth‘s aggressive, thrashy leanings, it does very little to displease. Definitely worth a look for the grimly inclined.