[i]"Where I found a living creature, there I found will to power… and life itself told me this secret: “Behold,” it said, “I am that which must overcome itself again and again…”[i]
Synthesizers and black metal tend not to mix, and I’ll be the first to admit that. Thus it is strange to note that from its very beginning, the genre has had a certain propensity towards the instrument’s lush textural qualities, due largely in part to its (mostly unconscious) revisiting of romantic melodic and harmonic structures. Black metal’s frequent failure to properly integrate the instrument, and more ambitious orchestration and compositional vision in general thus becomes entirely more frustrating as the potential for greatness is clearly there.
Behold then, come from the majestic forests of the Appalachian Mountains, Fanisk. Let not this geographical distinction fool you, post-rock influenced RABM this is not. Fanisk’s full-length debut, “Die And Become” is the culmination of black metal’s fundamental romantic impetus, both in a musical and a thematic sense. Dramatic, tempestuous riffs flow wonderfully into each other atop the forceful yet atmospheric ebb of drums pioneered by Emperor and Enslaved. And atop it all the constant barrage of the synthesizers: ever so powerful, ever so classy. Believe it or not, the instrument as it is used here is completely devoid of its characteristic cheese; rather it becomes an extension of the ambience, now masked beneath the distortion and soon gloriously rising above it, as if a beacon of hope amongst the ineffable darkness.
“Die And Become” can also be seen as black metal’s final and definitive escape from the despised specter of its rock and blues forbearers, begun with Kreator’s melodic assertion in the early 80’s and culminated here, in an album where the only remnants of said ghost that remain are in the instrumentation. Compositional structure is completely devoid of identifiable hooks; the focus is on development and evolution of motifs and ideas, always fluid, never abrupt and yet never repetitive or droning. The motifs here are something entirely unto their own, long, drawn-out themes based on the old standards of tension and resolution, not a blue note, or a pentatonic scale in sight. Hell, even non-diatonic chromatic movement is extremely rare. The construction of the compositions themselves is majestic and ambitious, constantly driving in a clear direction forward and yet constantly changing, every instrument perfectly and clearly placed in a mix with genuinely powerful, dynamic mastering.
Such a description might very well lead you to thinking that this album is kitsch-y, perhaps even an anachronism, but the truth is no more vital and real an album exists for our desperate times. In the midst of the deepest nihilism and the darkest recesses of absolute rational deconstructivism, represented here by the ravaging black metal assault Fanisk dare to raise a head, Fanisk dare to do the world yet battle in the form of their triumphant orchestral motives and their majestic romantic arrangements. The vocals are the usual distorted rasp and yet somehow they affirm rather than deny, the old world is burnt now we must build a new one, the king is dead long live the king. The music itself seems like a glorious battle being carried out with force and vigor, a testament to an ancient way, to a dying code of what man should be.
Heavy, epic, melodic and dense; in a word this album is triumph. It is the deepest conflicts that man must face and the most terrible battles his heart must confront; in short it is a thousand nights in Gethsemane furiously and gloriously overcome.
[i]"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives – who will wipe this blood off us? With what could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it?"[i]