Splendid. 2021 seems to be the year of the style breakers. Those bands step out of the proverbial box and start moving down their very own path. And that is something the RMR deckhands truly appreciate.
The current metal multiverse is plagued by too many sub-styles, all of them sporting different attributes. But, only acting within the tight confines of a style will – in time – have a negative effect on a band’s ability to compose good music. Metal has in many ways become a playground for all sorts of nerds. And that is not necessarily a good thing.1)
Yet here, the Cascadians from Felled rearranged our metal search radars right off the first note that roared out of our music machine. The band emerged from the remnants of Moss of Moonlight back in 2014 but didn’t produce much apart from a demo back in 2017. The Intimate Earth is their debut full-length album, and a friggin’ thunderclap at that.
You’ll find lots of bands out there seeking to stamp a vision of grand landscapes into vinyl through the sheer power of their Black Metal prowess. There are the fantastical dudes for one. Those that famously describe Tolkien’s world, for example, with unearthly rasps, the plastic drum machine, and terrible synths on frugal blackened riffing. Those have slowly been replaced by bands with real instruments, which is a step in the right direction.
The Intimate Earth probably sails pretty close to the album Aleynmord2) did some time ago, coupled with trve Atmospheric Black Metal that bands like Ashbringer throw at you. Yet, nothing gets close to that level of earthiness that I found on this piece. That said, I fully buy into their stated influences like Drudkh, a part or two of Saor, and early Ulver.
You’ll also notice that lo-fi feel that permeates the whole record first. That’s of course nothing to write home to mama about. Black Metal adepts often and by design went for scratchy quality. Just because – hey – you can’t not be a rebel of something at least, right?
Then you get those abundant blast beats that come with a deluge of rumbling tremolo riffs in the background. And with that, I mean that the guitars strangely take backstage, and the violin comes in front-center. Classical instruments in the lead, straight in your face, with the rest following in their wake. We haven’t often seen this done that way.
The band also purposefully leaves their offering out in the rough3) with a mix that leaves hard edges and sharp ends. That perfectly conveys that sense of the outback with hints to bygone times in all their bristly splendor. Visions of brutal landscapes where old, earthy deities reign come to mind.4) And then Felled start with those astonishing growls that somehow don’t fit with the Black Metal this record advertises – at all. True, some fans or critics may violently object to this. But the style does add to that ominous, slightly doomy atmosphere that The Intimate Earth projects.
Felled‘s ability to swap hard-edged metal with quietly ambient acoustics took me aback a few times. Like that nod to the now-defunct Todtgelichter5) in Fire Season on the Outer Rim. That goes hand-in-hand with those weird clears that suddenly and crudely break into the offering. Yet again, this is much-needed spice to drive the essence of the album home further.
In the end, I am glad that the band didn’t go for the usual Odin-heavy Folk Metal routine. Instead, they put some power behind what others unsuccessfully tried to achieve on the more ethereal plane. Thus, The Intimate Earth perfectly depicts those vast landscapes up there in the Pacific North West.
And Felled do that with their very own, pigheaded, rough-hewn, and often a pretty raw style that we haven’t often seen to date. Nothing that wafted over from Europe, but a truly folksy Cascadian Atmospheric Black Metal fully rooted in its origins. And this brought about just enough mystique to keep things afloat and this reviewer’s attention at highest levels until the very end.
This is one of those records that will stop you in your tracks once you let ‘er rip. A fascinating piece that will talk to your inner-self, this primeval sense of raw nature that somehow must still exist in our genes somewhere. In a way, it is the tune of the outdoorsman and I could perfectly imagine hiking up there whilst listening to The Intimate Earth.
But let’s stop here, lest the RMR deckhands build a fire outside and start dancing around it like crazed shamans. And we don’t want that, right? They’ll risk invoking something unspeakable that they cannot send back anymore.
And then what?
|1.||Just came across folks that called their wares ‘Scottish Mycological Death Metal’. Okay, that was meant as a joke (I think), but I still rest my case. -Ed.|
|2.||Fabric and tonality, not the vocals, of course.|
|3.||Or perhaps not. Just sayin’. -Ed.|
|4.||Oohhmm, I feel the touch of Gaia.|
|5.||On hold it is, they said. But they look dead to us.|