From: Metal Storm
Published: June 15, 2020
Hierophant Violent is the debut album from Forlesen, a trio comprised of individuals with ties to the likes of Lotus Thief, Botanist, Kayo Dot and Maudlin Of The Well. With pedigree like that, it's safe to assume Forlesen may sound quite distinctive; however, Hierophant Violent is less weird than one might expect.
Containing two tracks that form roughly equal halves of the album, Hierophant Violent falls a tad short of 40 minutes in length, so isn't as extensive as some drone/ambient records can be. Nevertheless, there's no great rush to get things going here. The first few minutes see sparse noise gradually condense into increasingly musical forms, particularly when the sci-fi synths join the fray around the 5-minute mark. However, the first third of "Following Light" features nothing more structured than the gradual layering of ambient synths, and even beyond this point, as noisy distortion, random guitar chords and percussion are introduced, it's not until effectively halfway into the song that anything that might be recognized as a clear structure and rhythm takes shape.
When we do finally have a regular drum beat, it's simple and languid; fear not, there's no great change in tone just because you can now count the tempo. This tone is further maintained by the vocals from Bezaelith, who manages to carry over the alluring, haunting vibe she delivered on Lotus Thief's Oresteia earlier this year, but in a more spacious, drifting manner. Nevertheless, in contrast to the achingly slow progression of the first half of the song, the back stretch of "Following Light" has far more purpose, building and transforming on a timeline measured in seconds rather than minutes as Bezaelith and Ascalaphus duet over increasingly intensifying percussion and guitar arrangements. Others better versed in this sphere of music may be able to deliver more useful references, but I got vibes of Nadja (particularly Queller) and Wolvennest amongst others in the latter minutes of this opening track. It's a slow burner, but a rewarding one, building and building and building without ever quite reaching an explosive climax before it suddenly begins to decay in a sweeping wave of noise.
After committing its first half to an achingly gradual doomy drone track, Hierophant Violent brings a couple of new elements into play during its second track, "Nightbridge". Not right away, of course; got plenty of muted ambience to get through first. However, the layered acapella of Bezaelith acts as a nice springboard for the band's heavier sensibilities to eventually be set loose, first as rather grandiose symphonic doom and later as a burst of black metal. It is during this former stretch of slow, sustained riffs, overlapping vocal harmonies and delicate layering that the record begins to truly shine, particularly when a surprisingly evocative guitar solo is introduced into the fray. My only potential issue concerns how connected it feels to the material it is sandwiched between on "Nightbridge"; the muted blast beat transition from the doom to the atmospheric black conclusion to the record feels slightly like "well, we need to do something to join these parts", rather than a natural bridge, whilst the initial preamble that comprises the opening third of the track feels somewhat unnecessary. Still, these are minor quibbles, and the main sections of this track are compelling when they do arrive; the mid-tempo march of the black metal riffs and accompanying shrieks deliver an intense conclusion to an otherwise sedate experience.
An interesting first outing for this trio, Hierophant Violent is a fairly accessible ambient/drone offering, particularly as the songs becoming increasingly structured as they progress. Personally, I didn't find the more ambient stretches as entrancing as some other similar artists, nor the metal parts as gripping, and there was scope for taking the record into more unusual territory to make it perhaps more unique. Nevertheless, it manages to remain engaging for much of its runtime, and could serve as a solid foothold for the trio to push onwards from into stranger territories on subsequent efforts.
Reviewed by: musclassica
Posted by Nick Skog. Posted In : English