Firtan – Marter Review

Marter wastes no time ripping the scab open. Establishing underground notoriety with sophomore effort Okeanos, “Fa​ð​ir” cries Abba Father with its scathing tremolo and punishing blastbeats. Truth be told, there is little that is inventive or “progressive” about Firtan, but instead, an intense listen that balances its assets for an evocative atmosphere and powerful riffs in equal measure. Epic songwriting takes the form of unfolding stories, while tight and concise performances result in thrash-inspired bangers aplenty. It’s perhaps best described as “pagan black metal” with its focus on 6/8 rhythms and Agalloch-inspired acoustic passages. Toss in thrash and melodic elements, and what remains?

Firtan got a middling review from the gone-but-unforgotten Akerblogger, praising its atmosphere and moments of clarity but cautious of its scattered songwriting and inconsistent passages. To their credit, the German quartet listened, tightening up their songwriting to enhance its more streamlined approach. While it clocks in at quite a bit longer than Okeanos, the third full-length Marter makes the most of it, creating a distinct flow and balancing its power and atmosphere with concise performances and a lethal multipronged attack. Beautiful, powerful, and nightmarish, sometimes in the same songs, Marter capitalizes on what made Okeanos so promising while exploring new directions.

Firtan proves with Marter that they can excel at whatever style they settle upon. “Fa​ð​ir,” “Labsal,” and “Lethe” focus on second-wave blasting to a piercing and pummeling degree that recalls early Ulver or Windir. Unhinged blastbeats and graveling tremolos dominate the runtime while harrowing screeches echo above the fray. Meanwhile, the epic “Amor Fati,” “Parhelia,” and “Peraht” incorporate Agalloch or Horn-esque acoustic folk passages that inject a dynamism that flows like a story—one of the album’s most impressive dimensions. Later tracks “Odem” and “Menetekel” forego obscurity for an effectively melodic palette full of catchy riffs and wild solos that serve as the climax to Marter’s story. While these chapters are often relegated to certain portions of the album’s structure, the songwriting is so rock-solid and fluid that each influence feels like a natural progression rather than the inconsistency it would ordinarily flag.

What makes Marter so intriguing is that Firtan has managed to balance patient songwriting with cutthroat energy. It dwells little in “kvlt” imagery or black metal’s proclivity for excess and instead lets the music do the talking. Its poetic and evocative lyrics seem to guide each passage’s movement. Lyrics dwell in desperation, melancholia, and man’s journey through the forces, as present as the music that delivers it, and the fluidity of an album based on its formidable lyricism is impressive in its own right. As such, Firtan’s variety of methods does nothing to damper Marter’s immensity nor question its core, as each track is undeniably Firtan—like the many heads of the Hydra. In a world of black metal’s monotony, these Germans do not reinvent the wheel but rather create a honed approach with multiple pools to draw from. While portions of “Labsal” and “Lethe” fly off the rails with their arguably sloppy tremolos and questionable spoken word, they are short-lived questionability in an album devoted to excellence.

What made Okeanos so powerful was less of the content and more of the potential—which Marter capitalizes on mightily. Improving upon their breakout album in every way while taking advantage of its organic construction, Firtan shows that what we saw with Okeanos wasn’t just a fluke and that this quartet deserves the hype that surrounds it. Balancing technical proficiency, cutthroat energy, and epic songwriting, it manages to balance exploration and fun without sacrificing its bite. Borrowing from a variety of subgenres arguably disparate but unashamedly pagan, Marter is a barnburner of an album in the best way, positioning Firtan comfortably among the elite of modern black metal.1


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
LabelAOP Records
Websitesfirtan.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/firtanofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Why am I aroused by that cover art? – Big Dick Grier
« »