Fyrnask – VII-Kenoma Review

When I think of the sprawling extreme metal bands that I admire the most – The Ruins of Beverast, Urfaust, Spectral Lore, Blut Aus Nord and Darkspace a handful – I picture their music as labyrinthine cathedrals: their domes, spires and towers encrusted in shadowy depth; their facades etched in malicious secrets, crafted meticulously over hundreds of years; a visitor’s footsteps echoing minutely against the leering iconography of the interior walls. Using rough raw material, the best bands craft cathedrals of splendor that loom over the scene with menacing authority. Many bands, too many bands, attempt to recreate the fine detail of the best. They try, but the foundation of their place of worship is fractured and cheap to begin with. The finished product stands tall for a brief moment in time, but as the wind changes the structure falls – they lack the intricacy, the balance, the transitions. Another band on the rubble heap. On a plot of land somewhere in the East of Germany another architect lays the first stones of a new creation. Fyrnask has experience. Their three records since 2011 are swirling, menacing atmospheric structures. With their fourth release VII – Kenoma, Fyrnask attempts to build a cathedral to match the greatest in the universe.

Under the tutelage of the great Ván Records, Fyrnask’s sound is one of long-form blackened misery and mysticism. Fyrnask takes time to release their exotic curse. Opener “Hraevathefr” prowls for four minutes before the first of two cavernous whirlwinds blankets a listener in black metal mischief. Fyrnask frequently alternate between spacious stretches of tactility and reverb-laden segments of collapse. Build-ups and transitions are the liquids that keep VII – Kenoma lubricated. For the most part, the record flows like unholy water and manages to supplement the high octane peaks with well-structured and timely troughs. “Sjodhandi blodh” is very similar to opener “Hraevathefr” with regards to its soft opening transitioning into a maelstrom, but the song is aided by delicate lead guitar melodies that spread like incense through the noise. “Nidhamyrkr,” too, builds and builds and builds. It’s accompanied by a stronger sense of rage that is amplified through the mangled vocal variation of Fyrnd and Rune and the thorned riffs and drumming that twist and stab during the song’s excellent second half.

There is a risk of elements becoming too disjointed. It’s a fine line. Fyrnask – despite bombarding a listener with tonal shifts and textural experiments throughout – manages to maintain a listener’s intrigue without losing the potency of their sound. The vocal dexterity of Fyrnd and Rune is an important connective tissue. Vocals move, on a spectrum, between gruff bellows, scathing whispers, classic shrieks, and clean choral-esque lamentations. They weave, along with ritual ambient touches, through the record like dark matter. This is most strongly the case in the thirteen-minute sprawl of “Helreginn.” It builds with melodic guitar licks, deep choral chants, and militaristic drumming before rupturing into a chasm of poisonous, downward spiraling black metal. Subtle electronic touches flutter in the gaps between choral chants and melodic riffing as the song, in its closing third, proudly dies.

VII – Kenoma would lose some of its impetus if it continued its quiet-loud peak-trough dynamic for its hour-long runtime. Thankfully, the closing duo of “Daudhvana” and “Blotgudh” shift the record into loftier and less violent territories. As if lifting a listener into disembodied spiritual realms (the record is based on the physical and metaphysical transformations of Farriddudin Atar’s thirteenth century Musibatname), the closing tracks showcase Fyrnask’s ability to tie concept with content. After the many show stopping moments that litter the album, the more conventional build-up of “Daudhvana” is its greatest asset. By black metal standards, “Daudhvana” is tender. It drips with a melancholic essence that gives it a personality and its shorter form works well when contrasted against the vast qualities of the prior 45-minutes. “Blotgudh” is a purely instrumental transition to a bodiless afterlife. Its combination of weeping violins and cello, female choir vocals, xylophone, and hollow drums is a fitting final chapter to a vast tome.

Conceptually and technically gripping, VII – Kenoma stands proud as an architectural triumph. Although built on a sturdy foundation and impressive to the eyes (and ears), VII – Kenoma lacks a sense of idiosyncrasy and excellent balance to push it into greater territories. My favorite artists from this cryptic black metal vista sequence albums expertly and possess an instantly recognizable tone and atmosphere – be it in the odd ritual vocals of Urfaust, the guitar and drum vigor of The Ruins of Beverast, or the raw cosmic grooves of Darkspace. Fyrnask, though very good, lacks a truly defining feature. Perhaps they just need time to root themselves into the landscape. This is why I can’t call VII – Kenoma a great record…yet. Time will tell. The greatest architecture stands the test of time.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ván Records
Websites: fyrnask.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Fyrnask
Releases Worldwide: April 30th, 2021

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