Review Summary: Two become one.
While better known for his exploits in Saor, Scottish-born Andy Marshall has teetered on the edge of something else for a while now. While Fuath’s I
saw a dynamic shift in Marshall’s folk aesthetic (especially in contrast to the sweeping grandeur and lofted styles found in titles such as Aura
), the difference is made more poignant by the fact that both I
were released in the same year and could easily represent both egos of the Saor mastermind. Fuath itself was a clear separation from the Saor soundscape, leaning more heavily into the world of '90s black metal, specifically more in tune with the likes of Burzum, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Paysage d’Hiver (and the like) while carving out his own individual genome within those influences. In this fashion, the fans that would expect soaring (or is it Saoring?) Celtic melodies and lush Scottish folk passages interwoven with transcendental black metal would be put off by the more traditionalist black metal portrait shown here. Andy Marshall’s II
is an entity of its own and should largely be treated as an individual act. A hard task considering the other act’s level of prolificacy.
brought conventional tones and bleaker atmospherics, II
uses its counterpart as a stepping stone. Released half a decade apart from each other, the two albums themselves still sound cohesive, progressing naturally from cold tremolo riffs and snarled vocals into subtle recurring phrasing and light hypnotic melodies. It’s a centre-point of Fuath’s larger style—combining both the influences born thirty-plus years ago and the “can’t be helped” flourishes that naturally bleed into Marshall’s songwriting. It’s clear that no matter the fresh perspective, this is undoubtedly an Andy Marshall experience.
“Prophecies'' in itself is unobtrusive, yet filled to the brim with Wintery, discordant black metal bleakness. It’s neither the formidable wall of sound found a la Paysage d’Hiver (like the example at the top of this review would suggest), nor does the track suggest the simplicity of an entry level band hitting autopilot on black metal vocals and blast beats. It’s the melodicism that defines Fuath’s sophomore piece, transcending the norms of what most newer Bandcamp entries have to offer in this modern era. Quite possibly, it’s a sign of the times. In taking the formula set down by some of the genre’s pioneers and reshaping them to suit Marshall’s natural tendencies for bombast songwriting and gravitas, Fuath can sit behind a shield of recurring phrasing, melodic twists, hypnotism and in places, brain-worms. At almost ten minutes, “Prophecies'' is a meaty tale introducing the rest of the record. “The Pyre'' however stomps through its pacing and is close to a “church-burning” track as Fuath is likely to get. Marshall’s snarls soar over mid-paced riffery, trading moments of melody with classic black metal furor. A combination fit to pull on the heartstrings of many black metal fans.
As the record moves into its second half, it’s clear that Fuath has a certain prosperity for recurring phrasing, often bordering on hypnotism and mondial repetition while flourishing on minor notes and tremolo just enough to keep a listener hooked. ”Essence” is particularly guilty of taking the album’s recurring ideas of repetition and taking it to the nth degree—but Marshall doesn’t stumble or falter as his themes run a circuit of polished mixing and clear cut atmospherics. For II
is as organic as it is clean, steering away from the caustic “air conditioning” noises found in certain acts mentioned above. Rather (in typical Saor/Marshall fashion), II
is filled with tight instrumental passages that utilize the album’s vocals as another instrument, not a centrepoint. Ultimately, it’s Marshall’s overall song-writing that allows the music to charge through some deliberate use of repetition, nuance and deliberation.
Conservatively, I’d put Fuath’s II
amongst the mandatory listening for metal enthusiasts in the year 2021, but in light of the sheer quality this year has given music fans across the interweb I’d be hesitant to place any more hyperbole on what is an already solid record. Sure, II
is unlikely to see the same lofty heights as Marshall's other albums under different monikers, but that doesn’t misplace the project's sheer will and forward thinking that deliberately looks back at a sound’s beginnings and wraps it within clear modernism. At times, it does become hard to forget that this is the same artist who meticulously crafted Guardians
-- especially as some of that unmistakable nuance seeps into II
’s larger atmospheric foundation -- and yet I have no trouble with identifying with this as it is: a long awaited continuation of black metal without cliché or gimmick. II
ticks all the right boxes and simply does what it needs to.