Fuoco Fatuo – Obsidian Katabasis Review

Doom in general, but especially funeral doom, is true to the old saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In the case of funeral doom, I’ve run across several people telling me that Skepticism and Moss are the best funeral doom out there, followed by warnings to stay away from Catacombs and Until Death Overtakes Me. What happened? Neither Skepticism nor Moss stuck with me, and I routinely return to Catacombs and Until Death Overtakes Me. With a style as minimalistic as funeral doom, everyone will react differently to the same slab of concrete-thick, 20-BPM riffs, and will entirely depend on the atmosphere it provides. Will Fuoco Fatuo stick with you? Or will it be the water on a duck’s back?

Fuoco Fatuo is a funeral doom quartet from Varese, Lombardy, Italy. While earlier material escaped my perusal, I was intrigued by 2017 sophomore full-length Backwater, which offered a unique and dreary breed of funeral doom through a lens of cosmic atmosphere. Synth-heavy and nearly dreamlike in its sprawling epics, it was solid but ultimately forgettable, hindered by other Profound Lore doom heavyweights like LossHorizonless, Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper, and Pallbearer’s Heartless being released around the same time. With third full-length Obsidian Katabasis, Fuoco Fatuo hopes to bring its 10-year career to its pinnacle with a deeper and darker sound, recalling Tyranny or the aforementioned Catacombs. Gone is the spectral shimmer in favor of abyssal blackness, and consequently everything that made them unique in the first place.

That’s not to say that Obsidian Katabasis is bad, not by a long shot. Fuoco Fatuo offers a masterclass of sprawling death metal-influenced funeral doom, brutal crushing riffs intensely layered with haunting melodies, pulsing percussion, and devastating vocals. In a surprisingly gusty move, while plethora funeral doom acts aim for sprawling oceanic or cosmic landscapes allegorically reflected in their weighty riffs, Fuoco Fatuo instead makes Obsidian Katabasis one of the most suffocating and claustrophobic listens in recent memory. In the best way possible, the album never breathes. Even in its quietest moments, there’s a hum of dark ambiance, synth pieces, or plucking buried in it, making its movements up-close and personal. Opener “Obsidian Bulwark (Creation of the Absurd” and “Thresholds of Nonexistence Through Eerie Aeon” showcase passages nearly indiscernible save for desperate shrieks, growing organically from empty dreary plucking to colossal suffocating tremolo and double-bass outlined by strange vocal calls, while “Psychoactive Katabasis” offers the most energetic and most distinct death metal influence with blazing tremolo and pulsing blastbeats.

Obsidian Katabasis’ biggest issue is that it sounds a hell of a lot like other funeral doom offerings. Fuoco Fatuo, by no means one-in-a-million act to begin with, is a stone’s throw from bands like Evoken, Catacombs, or Tyranny in their ominous and pitch-black tones. Funny enough, giving the eternal abyss a funeral doom soundtrack isn’t as unique as one might think. While Obsidian Katabasis is an ambitious Grave Upheaval and Ataraxie sloth lovechild in murky death metal influence and suffocating mood, it ends up being disappointingly standard for the genre. In terms of album structure, “I,” “II,” and “III” are a bit of a question mark in terms of album intention. While they provide the needed respite between the colossally claustrophobic epics, the majority of these three- to five-minute interludes sound remarkably like passages from the main tracks sans vocals, calling into question their inclusion to begin with. Finally, in one small snag to an otherwise solid palette, the jarringly loud bells that cut through the closing passage of “Thresholds of Existence Through Eerie Aeon” may be off-putting.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Obsidian Katabasis. Fuoco Fatuo offers a hypnotic and haunting pitch-black offering that improves upon everything that Backwater hinted at, unfortunately exempting the very element that distinguished the act. If this is is your first slo-mo rodeo, you’ve got a hankering for slowly spiraling into the eternal abyss, or you’ve got an hour to kill to go drowning or being smothered, Obsidian Katabasis will satisfy mightily. It provides pitch-black atmosphere professionally, and aptly crushes with the weight of a thousand suns abysses. Fuoco Fatuo simply does nothing to step out of the shadows of the greats and ascend descend to the heights depths they are clearly capable of. But in true “eye of the beholder fashion,” Obsidian Katabasis will stick with you if In the Depths R’lyeh, A Caress of the Void, Megaliths of the Abyss, and many others mentioned or unmentioned also stick with you.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: fuocofatuo.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fuoco666fatuo
Releases Worldwide: April 2nd, 2021

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