Friday, November 4, 2011

Fatum Elisum - Homo Nihilis (2011)

Operetta-length doom metal songs are a daunting proposition, as they typically warrant all the attention of staring at the fuzz of a blank TV screen. So Fatum Elisum are engaging in a truly uphill battle on the four core tracks of this debut album. Having zero exposure to their previously re-issued, self-titled demo (also on Aesthetic Death) I went into this record blind and intimidated by the bloat of its compositions, and yet I can say that if anything, these Frenchmen at least know how to set a mood and then stick to it, though I'm not sure there is enough variation here that I'll want to repeatedly sup at this trough of sorrow much more than I have to.

Homo Nihilis starts with a brief, catchy and somber chanting intro which actually built up my hopes that I'd be hearing this style of vocal throughout, but once "The Pursuit of Sadness" kicks into gear, I realized that was not going to be the case. Very simplistic chords wring out into the emotional nether, redolent of Reverend Bizarre, Count Raven, St. Vitus or other bands in the Sabbath strain, soon joined by the vocalist Ende, whose tone seems like a medium between Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost and Peter Steele of Type O Negative, with a bit of inspiration from Candlemass and Pentagram. His accent seems pretty strong, but once the guy actually adds a more constipated layer of grime to the mix, they really escalate in quality. He also does a pretty straight death growl over parts of the album that once again conjures up comparisons to the old Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, etc, and once in a while the music will reflect this.

Generally, though, the material is just slow, tormented and drudging until it is interspersed with clean, minimal guitar sequences that are joined with harrowing vocals. This happens first in "The Pursuit of Sadness", but continues through the other tracks. Once in awhile a towering crescendo of sluggish melody will erupt through the electric guitars and the album will begin to resonate more heavily, but the problem is just slogging through it all to arrive at these few moments. For example, "Twilight Prophet" is over 21 minutes in length, shifting between periods of acoustic calm and low, crunching doom chords, but outside of a more raucous, tortured layer of vocals and a nice break or two where the backing vocals chant as the backdrop, it's all very level, like being stranded on a plateau of woe. Perhaps this should suffice for some, and I'll admit that Fatum Elisum are nowhere near as some other bands with such super-sized ambitions, but I did feel my attention slipping even on further spins.

I enjoy it most when the band mixes things up, like the old school death threads they inject into the intro of "Homo Nihili", or late in the wild depths of "East of Eden", but four songs in about 72 minutes is quite a trying task, and unfortunately not a rewarding one here. I feel like they could cut out about 30-40% of the material without the listener losing that sense of emptiness and despair that their compositions conjures, perhaps more in line with their s/t where the songs were about 11-13 minutes on average. Otherwise, Homo Nihilis isn't a bad record. The production is simple but effective in its grasp of the guitar lines and ominous vocals, they're not the dullest folks in this genre by a long shot, and any initial misgivings about the front-man disappears within a few minutes of the first track. Fatum Elisum is a competent act, with a few spellbinding and heartbreaking moments of success, but I did not feel that the total investment
of time here was entirely worth its outcome.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

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