Review Summary: A highly complex, extremely well though out piece of black metal.
Fanisk is a band from Oregon that brands themselves as Black Solar Art, a style comparable to Symphonic Black Metal. The duo has split up recently after releasing 3 full length albums. Noontide is their sophomore album and was released a year after their debut, Die And Become. Originally this album was limited to a handful of copies, before being reissued with remastered sound, as well as a huge black circle censoring the swastika that was originally on the cover of the album. The cover itself is a detail from a 20s national socialist propaganda poster, which may give a sense of what the members views are. Interestingly enough lyrically Fanisk is far less blatant about supporting any sort of ideology, indeed the lyrics are far
less blatant than most NSBM. Take that as you will, some people tend to shy from NSBM for ideological reason and will certainly be off-put by the huge swastika on the cover.
The review here will not linger on political extremes the band may chose to support but will focus on the music instead from here on out. Noontide is an extremely well constructed musical piece and breaks many of the trademarks of classic black metal. This album is not repetitive, is very melodic, and has highly complex structures. The entire album plays as one massive track that is divided into pieces. The first track is a simple keyboard track that ominously builds suspense up to the second track, and can be thought of as a sort of overture to the album. When it transitions into II the album kicks into full force immediately with a brilliant riff and aggressive drum barrage. Many melodies and chord progressions reappear throughout different songs in varied ways. For instance the riff that the guitars play in the beginning of II reappears at the beginning of III as a string progression played at a far slower pace. These connections are not obvious at first and give the album high replay value as you rediscover melodies from earlier in the album in the later tracks. It's quite impressive how well crafted the album is that these recurring melodies flow smoothly in and out of songs.
Rhythmically Noontide is also pleasantly varied. The album has it's fair share of blast beats and classic rock drum rhythms but it also has a many syncopated sections. These sections tie together the structures very well, with the drums and guitar often playing a syncopated pattern together. Another rhythmic variance is the inclusion of triplets in 8th and 16th note patterns to give a feeling of slowing down, often near the end of a riff, before diving back into the full pace. These keeps the songs engaging and breaks the repetitiveness that endless blast beats would create. The only thing missing from the rhythm section of the album is a strong bass presence, which could really tie together some of the sections without guitars where only the drums and keys are heard.
The symphonic elements that the keyboards lend are also done very well. The melodies tend to be soaring strings floating over the aggressive elements the guitars and drums provide, and really dominate the mix. The keyboards also provide backing chords for atmospheric elements that really make the fix sound full and together when all instruments are featuring. Some keyboard sections are also more hectic, such as the recurring runs in III which remind vaguely of Darkspace
's Dark 3.17, with the leading keyboards frantically building towards a climax. At times, like the middle of V, the keyboards are absolutely melodically dazzling and add a wonderful neo-classical touch to the album.
One element that is a bit lacking here is the vocals, which sound a bit empty and wispy. This makes them sound less aggressive than desirable, especially when they are mixed fairly equally into the mix with everything else rather than to the front. The added reverb also makes the thin feeling more apparent as the enunciation runs together into a sort of vocal stream. It is particularly strange because the vocal style here is distinctly different from Die and Become and Insularum, both of which feature far more full vocals. For how long the songs are and how much time the vocals get this is not significantly detrimental to the album but does leave the listener a bit wanting.
Overall this album is musically masterfully crafted and worth listening to, especially for those who enjoy symphonic black metal like Kataxu, Limbonic Art or mid-career Emperor. Those interested in a complex, almost neo-classical take on black metal aesthetics and instrumentation should also not pass this up.