Another day, another Italian folk metal band. This one is apparently masterminded by one Zaira de Candia, singer and screamer extraordinaire, or so we hope. Newcomers to the scene, Kormak have only in the last two years finalized a lineup and Faerenus marks their first formal release. That kind of turnaround, especially on a debut album, is distinctly ambitious—worryingly so for some, myself included. So, what’s the payoff here? Do these kids have the chops to crank out a debut in such a short time, or is this debut a rushed disaster?
There is precisely one (1) well-written song on Faerenus, the penultimate track “July 5.” A soaring, triumphant number, “July 5” builds from an opening acoustic segment to a victorious climax, writhing around a powerful guitar melody that demands a revolution. De Candia’s voice climbs higher and higher as the track escalates, building upon the foundation of the guitars and surging drums, only to be abruptly cut off by the gunshot closing the track. “July 5” isn’t perfect—it spends a good bit too long building and not enough soaring—but the build and climax offer a compelling experience once the song accelerates to full momentum, with not a moment wasted.
If only the rest of Faerenus wasn’t such a waste. For a start, that lead-in problem plagues every song, blunting all aggression with soft, acoustic fluff. A similarly persistent scourge is a serious lack of compelling riffs and auditory cohesion, best exemplified on lead single “The Goddess’ Song.” This track manages to feature hokey, overused melodies and chugging riffs that clash horrifically, alongside drumwork that is perfunctory and bland, and an atrocious example of post-grunge, off-key “rock voice” from de Candia. For double the misfortune, this track also fails to feature de Candia’s formidable soprano wail, generally a highlight of other weak tracks. Her growling is weak and frequently amateurish, as is her diction, but she has clearly had operatic vocal training and her softer work, as on the central track “The Hermit,” is solid, too.
Unfortunately, “The Hermit” also exemplifies what an unmitigated disaster Faerenus‘ production is. The mix is actually mildly difficult to sort audially because of the hideously squashed master.1 But even skipping the way the guitar and vocals tend to bury everything else, Fearenus is littered with questionable sampling decisions, but not in the usual way. For example, dead in the middle of a 55-minute record, everything stops dead in its tracks for 17 minutes of the 23 minute “The Hermit.” The long stretch of silence(!) is only interrupted occasionally by short clips of vehicle noises, heartbeats, or old English air raid sirens. And the bookending song fragments on this bizarre, pretentious waste of space are—naturally—soft, acoustic fluff. Finally, both de Candia’s screaming and the guitar tones throughout Faerenus carry the distinct scent of mid-2000s metalcore which, at a minimum, does not fit.
There are intermittent things to like on this debut, but overall Kormak are badly in need of some more time together as songwriters before they try to put another album together. Rushed albums just make for bad art, no matter the age of the band. A young band, in particular, can’t get away with cut corners and sloppiness, and the multitude of absolutely bizarre production decisions just exacerbated the problems of Kormak‘s debut.