Paying attention to world politics, especially what’s going on here in America, can be a little bit hard on the nerves, especially the ones in the stomach. But I’ll try to put a bit of a positive spin on that. We are seeing people who love their countries vociferously trying to put forth ideas they think will make their country better because they love their homeland. The non-racists, that is.
The inspiration behind “Oathbearer,” the debut record from English black metal band Fellwarden, pays homage to the history of Northern England and the stories and struggles that built that region. Put together by two members of the great Fen, The Watcher (vocals, all stringed instruments, keys) and Havenless (drums), the duo weaves music not terribly different from their primary project but pointed toward different philosophical content. The music is just enrapturing, swelling all around you and even lifting your spirits. The music and the band’s ideas might be welled in blood and strife from over the years, but there’s also an admiration for the land and their surroundings. Hell, the promo shots that come with the album’s data files contain no images of the band members but plenty of the land’s terrain. It’s a record made for their nation. Not one blind with patriotism thus closing their focus to the warts. But one that swells with pride despite all of that for a land still standing.
“Guardian Unbound” is the 8:22 opener that starts lush and even a little gothic before the track bursts to life. The tempo starts crushing, as synth rains down, and a foggy serving of black metal comes into focus. The leads bleed with color as the melodies spiral, and synth spills right into the engorged growls. The final minutes are gazey, with heartful singing adding more texture. “Sun of Ending” maintains its ambiance through the bulk of the song, as it slowly surges at the start before ripping apart. Fiery growls hammer, as harshness and spellbinding playing combine and take the song to its foggy end. “In Death, Valiant” starts in an acoustic bed, as clean singing pierces the calm, and the song heads into a slow-driving, thorny pace. The song starts storming harder, as folk-laden strings head into the mix, rousing singing returns, and savagery and drama splatter over the conclusion.
“Wayfarer Eternal” is the second-longest song on the record at 10:14, and it starts in a synth haze that spreads into a trudging pace that breaks bones. A cleanly sung section spreads its wings, while sounds lather, and beauty and chaos meld and exist as one. Clean guitars give way to a slowly grinding pressure, while vicious vocals emerge, singing spills onto the madness, and the track floods at the end. “A Cairn-Keeper’s Lament” is the shortest track, a 4:52 instrumental built by rustic acoustics, bleeding synth, and a moody, misty finish. Closer “Sorrowborn” is the longest cut at 12:44, bursting open with vocals scraping along and synth creating more steam. The Watcher sorrowfully calls, “I am the last of my line,” as the guitars cascade and the momentum builds. The track continues doling out punishment, while the drumming decimates and a choral section rises. The fury halts, keys bubble up again and reflective guitars make the final stand before trickling away.
Fellwarden’s music does their homeland well, and there are ways that anyone living anywhere can take parts of “Oathbearer” and apply to their own surroundings. There’s no saying where this project will go from here, with Fen being such a huge part of their lives. But having this fine record in our hands is a treasure and one that should have a big impact on anyone immersed in atmospheric black metal.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fellwarden/
To buy the album, go here: https://store.eisenton.de/en/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/