It’s been quite some time since we saw a new Fester album hit store shelves. The last effort was 2004’s underrated underground classic Silence, which recently had been reissued in the wake of the this group reforming. The Black/Death Metal band finds a home with Abyss Records to issue the long overdue third full-length album, A Celebration of Death. After a long, and for some a rather grueling approximately eight year wait, those loyal to Fester after all these years are ready to sink their teeth into this brand new opus, no questions asked. But, does this offering live up to expectations?
Fester doesn’t hold back on the colder atmospheres, or rawer touches to their music. A Celebration of Death is, for the most part, a rather dismal and melancholic sounding effort that will take you by surprise. Sadly, this is not always in a positive manner. The guitars have a rather dull distortion to them that feed more into a Death Metal heaviness while performing largely Black Metal riffs at slower paces, though rarely treading into faster territories with a cleaner sound and more Industrial backing. The grim chords played with the blackened tone are coupled against additional deeper bass lines that really add a bludgeoning sense to the music, one that really enhances some of the darker melodic chords that appear from time to time that even give off a depressive tone. The vocals come through in varied methods, such as pushed a little further in the background, or much more apparent and louder with a heavy distortion used that gives off a crackling static pattern that still oddly suits the trudging music. The drums are also more at the forefront of the recording, and do a superb job filling the slower chords. The cymbals seem to have some distortion to them as well that holds the pitch down a bit so that when they crash, they don’t really seem to echo out as much as they should, though they also mix too well with the snares that almost share an identical sound. The bass kicks, however, have a pretty loud, obvious click to them that really helps out. Due to the audio quality, the kit itself can also have a more electronic for that Industrial approach, which is what seems to come off of “March of Death.” Either way, this works nicely for the music, and really helps the environment thrive, though sometimes it can be taken a bit too far.
“I’ll Hunt You Down” acts as a larger contrast to many other songs on this release. Throughout the prior songs, you’d swear you are hearing Electronic elements being incorporated, and there are moments here that establish their existance, as well as push them to the front during some of the open bridges. This one also has more of a charging, commanding sound to it at times, such as at the start when you’ll expect a more modern Morbid Angel style to erupt, but instead is a little more restrained, gradually going back into the melancholic Black Metal approach at varying extended times. The same can be said about “Metalized,” except for the part of the melancholic Black Metal. Much of it feels more akin to an Industrialized Death Metal song, moving at a faster pace with that commanding aggression behind it. In addition, the vocals carry a guttural performance, as well as distorted whispers around the two minute and twenty second mark. It’s definitely a more abrasive track, but overall it ends up feeling a little generic, and not quite suiting to the grim tones and environments that previous songs established.
But, while the Industrial bits are enjoyable to various extents, they are far from what makes this album stand out. Yes, these can still be traced into the darker, slower songs, but for the most part it’s just there as a background element to fill things up more. “Rites of Ceres” has a little more input on it in that field than anything else, and it leads to a rather unimpressive start to the album, showing what the listener is getting into, but not really having much of an impact through the seven minute plus song. The atmosphere does feel cold, the rasp in the vocals is strong, and some chords are pretty haunting, but overall it seems lost between the aforementioned approach and the Black Metal genre, leaving more of a confused final product than anything else. Unfortunately this also highlights a good number of other cuts on the album, but luckily not all of them.
“The Black Tower” really hits the listener hard with a strong dose of Black Metal. The slower pace with slight Electronic drum input really weaves a dark, punishing track. Much like with “Rites of Ceres,” this bleeds into “March of Death” through some dismal atmosphere including chains rattling and ravens kawing in the background. The tone of this song is a lot more melancholic than “The Black Tower” as well, utilizing a slower pace and some Industrial elements against the drumming to really pull together a marching tone with a hollow, yet mechanical sounding distortion on the vocals. This is the longest track here, utilizing a crawling pace to cripple listeners, and it manages to stay fresh throughout the entire time, though some of the rougher material that makes it great does seem to give way to some crisper guitars and drums after the first third, and then just random other times. “A Face for a Funeral” is also well worth looking into, as both styles merge to weave a slightly gothic environment, but one that still carries a blackened tone at a restricted just under three minute length. This keeps the song from going too overboard like with others, and end promptly without overstaying its welcome. The atmosphere isn’t quite the same, but does give things a sleaker touch without setting foot outside the rawer backdrop that has already been painted for the album.
A Celebration of Death definitely isn’t one of the most awe-inspiring albums of all time though. But, in the same respect, it also isn’t the worst. The main issue here becomes that Fester really seems to rely on the additional Industrial elements to carry the material. On top of that, it seems like there is just way too much going on in the album itself. One minute you have some really raw, melancholic, and frostbitten Black Metal, and the next you get a crisper Industrial section or a devoted song to follow-up that previous sound. This just makes for an effort that ends up being very hard to get into due to too much variety, which leads to potentially great songs just becoming lost, even bland. It may not have been what everyone was expecting after roughly eight years, but it still isn’t much of a letdown, boasting enough good material to keep you coming back from time to time. If you’re a fan of Fester, chances are good you’ll enjoy this album for what it is and the quality of the music, though it still should be sampled before being acquired.