A Celebration of Death
Norway’s Fester has had an interesting history, splitting up first after the release of their second full length album in 1994, then again in the early 2000s before reforming to finally release their third full length album, the first one in 16 years, entitled A Celebration of Death. Ironic indeed, considering the circumstances that caused the band’s most recent hiatus.
While the band’s debut in 1992, Winter of Sin, saw the band presenting a more straightforward style of black/death metal, 1994’s Silence had fans experience the first incorporation of progressive elements in the band’s music, and while it could have been deemed as a progression on the part of the band, it did not sit well with me with the numerous awkward fusions that were included on the album. A Celebration of Death sees the band once again promoting their unique style of metal, claiming to present a whole mix of musical genres on one album ranging from black metal to jazz, the extreme opposite ends of the musical spectrum on a single album. This certainly leaves one to wonder what this would sound like, and seeing how I already enjoy bands that incorporate jazzy elements into their music such as Japan’s Sigh, this is going to be an interesting album to listen to.
As the album opens with Rites of Ceres, one instantly knows that this is not going to be as expected. While Sigh pushes the boundary with their bombastic, flamboyant style of avant-garde black metal, Fester takes their time, with the track filled with doom-paced riffs, and honestly this was slightly disappointing initially but things start picking up soon enough with the weird-fuckery that goes on throughout the album. Thomas’ vocals are gruff and tortured, and this is certainly welcome-sounding, compared to the weak whisper-styled vocals that were present on the band’s previous output, Silence. Throughout the album the riffs of guitarists Tiger and Raymond are crushing, and all these backed by the slow and heavy thumping of drummer Audun. The first fast moment comes in only on I’ll Hunt You Down and even then these moments are short, and so speed-maniacs should probably avoid this album.
The band promises a whole range of influences that will be on the album, and they certainly deliver. For example, there is the almost electronic-sounding tone of the drums on tracks like Rites of Ceres and Metalized that certainly threw listeners off, with the almost industrial feel to the tracks. The included bonus track, Rites of Mortiis displays the band’s industrial influence as well, being an electronic remix to opening track Rites of Ceres. Also, unlike on Silence, there is a marked improvement in the band’s attempts to fuse the various genres together, with the absence of those awkward moments that plagued the aforementioned, and this definitely has got to do with the band’s songwriting, with their ability to make use of the various instruments and the atmosphere to build the climax, preparing listeners for the transition to the subsequent segments. Sound effects are also effectively utilised, such as the sounds of rain at the intro of The Black Tower setting the almost depressive mood of the song.
While the band’s focus on the album seems to be on the feel of the atmosphere on the album rather than the technical prowess of the individual musicians in the band with the mid-pace that the band goes at for the most part, this is also where the band falters, with most track going for way longer than necessary. Songs like The Black Tower end up getting repetitive after the halfway point of the track, and there are moments when one almost feels as though this were never going to end. Don’t get me wrong, the ominous atmosphere is certainly one of the personal highlights of the album, and the band succeeds in creating that sense of unease in the listener, but more often than not, these tend to overstay their welcome as well especially on longer tracks of the album.
16 years fans of Fester have waited, and finally the band unleashes this album. While the claims of having influences all the way till jazz present in the album were mostly unfulfilled, the band has included a number of other surprises on the album and displayed their mastery in songwriting. A Celebration of Death may not sound anything like what the band started off with, but it definitely marks a progress and growth of the band.