I of the Storm: A Review of Fuath’s I

It’s officially black metal season. We have just experienced our coldest weekend of the winter here in Connecticut, so I’m bringing in the Arctic blast with music that best compliments its extremes. I is the debut album from Scottish musician Andy Marshall’s new musical project, Fuath. Unlike any of his previous ventures, this project doesn’t really have a folkish musical base. I’m not too familiar with his music, but I like what he’s done here. I practices a stripped down approach, keeping things minimal and constructing music from a vaporous black metal palette. Being a big fan of bands like Burzum and Wolves In The Throne Room, I found a lot to enjoy.

There’s no mistaking the genre type here. This is textbook atmospheric black metal. And though it’s easy to recognize Fuath’s influences, Andy doesn’t phone in on any of this genre’s best aspects: emotion and expansion. Like most releases of this type, don’t expect a great deal of variety. This is one grand statement of an album divided into four parts, and each part holds very minute differences in tone and mood. Each song heightens and intensifies a set of negative emotions – namely hopelessness and agony. But then again, the cover art alludes to a more cosmic kind of inspiration, which hints at an emotional foundation based on wonderment and isolation.

The most important trait in this genre is atmosphere, naturally. And this album has tons of it. The music seems to hover in the ether like sleet caught in a whirlwind. The guitars are icy and stormy and all the other instrumentation is somewhat buried and blurred in the mix to give the overall impression of a dense, cold and howling black sky with a lot of distant emptiness. I listen to this and find myself stranded in the album cover painting, shivering in the mountains under the faraway freezing depths of space above.

There’s nothing but dread in the dry plodding and pounding of guitars. The riffs take a lot of time growing to their full potential, exhaling slow icy breaths to a desolate climax before folding into a separate movement minutes later and repeating the process. The drums either race or stamp along under the echoing vocal screams, like a lone soul struggling for bursts of energy through its vain journey across the snowy wilderness. The various background wailing and crying guitar sounds add to the stinging coldness and loss of cognitive direction in the musical onslaught. But at the same time, the music is just melodic and smooth enough to permit a tinge of beauty. The transition between each movement is graceful and organic. The mix filters out the harshest aspects of this music’s ferocity and the production drenches this thing in a spellbinding reverb and delay. In many ways, I is almost pleasurable and entrancing to listen to.

This album succeeds in what it sets out to do. It’s an atmospheric black metal album that whips up an epic ambient frenzy while retaining an approachable edge. This is easy to play as background music, but even more rewarding after active listening. It switches things up just enough to keep things interesting, but holds itself back enough to preserve its relentless amorphous storm. Who cares if it isn’t the most groundbreaking thing ever released? It’s a great black metal record and that’s fine enough for me.

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