A horrible hack


The Departure of Consciousness

Year Released: 2014
Format: LP
Label: Vendetta
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Jul 26, 2015
FÓRN lull the listener gently into their debut album with a suite of elegant, dark guitarwork, spinning melodic threads out, allowing discords to resonate and strings to moan. A second guitar flickers spectrally around the edge of the central melody before momentum builds and distortion engulfs both players. Here, where you might expect drums and vocals to crash in, FÓRN maintain restraint, focusing attention on the cavernous, doomy atmosphere and the richness of the guitar texture. After a fleeting moment of full intensity, it ebbs gently away again as opener "Emergence" transitions into second track "Dweller on the threshold." It's a gorgeous opening ploy.

After this minimalist introduction, drums and vocals enter for the first time, and both fit the general sound very well. The vocals are low and guttural, lending a harshness to the lush instrumental sound, and the drums retain intensity and drive despite the slow pace. There's a measured heaviness which is very clear even through computer speakers. For large stretches of the "Dweller on the threshold" FÓRN find a sweet spot of hypnotic doom. It drifts a bit in its second half, though. They don't find a way to build to a convincing peak, and the song becomes a wander through a series of good riffs on a similar level. There is one brief interlude at a faster, black metalish pace which interrupts the song's flow - a shame, because the material itself is very good and makes me wish they'd woven this kind of thing into the songs more consistently. Third track "Gates of the astral plane" pulls off the trick much more convincingly, allowing ebb and flow through stately duelling leads here, a touch of tremolo there. It harnesses a similar sort of leisurely melancholy as PALLBEARER do - although the vocals are filthier here, in contrast to the regal melody that band tend towards.

FÓRN are going for lighters-in-the-aether mystical doom, reaching for a big, immersive sound to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. It sounds more ambitious than their cassette of 2013, which concentrated on the darker, heavier side of their sound. They seem driven and enthusiastic in interview, with an endearing lack of machismo or mystique: one guitarist enthused of the other, "Sometimes he’ll write things that completely blow me away. Not just in a “oh sick riff” sort of way either. I mean in a completely evil/beautiful genius sort of way. And he has told me things I’ve written have made him well up a little before. I think we’re all incredibly passionate and determined to make this work. And nothing is going to stop that for any foreseeable future."

The second side of the LP has some great ideas and transitions which deliver on the "evil/beautiful genius" description above. "Suffering in the eternal void" has poignant dual-guitar harmony work followed by funereal doom with a real sense of grandeur. However, the flaws of "Dweller on the threshold" are reprised. After a good first three minutes "Alexithymia" mutates briefly into a spidery double-time unison section, before returning to the initial themes - breaking the spell with an idea tangentially related to the rest of the song. "Suffering in the eternal void" plateaus partway through, slipping into less compelling riffs at a point when it needs an extra gear, killer riff, something to knit it all together and take it over the top. This is a point at which a more assertive vocal performance might be good, too. But then it melts into the rapt melody-spinning of the short closer "Cerebral intermission" and FÓRN end playing to their strengths.

The best songwriters in this field manage to play different shades of material off against each other, to know how to place each riff to its advantage and pace the song to a climax, and in comparison this set of songs occasionally feels underdeveloped. FÓRN's strength is currently more on the cellular level, showing a real knack of turning out memorable and moving riffs. And hey, that's more than many bands ever achieve.

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