One band lost in Metal’s past is the Norse Black and Death Metal act Fester. Not many have heard of this early nineties group back in the day, and to this day there’s few who know of the band’s existence. Not too long after their second release in 1994, the group disbanded, and originally planned to reactivate back in 2000, but due to passing of the group’s bassist, it was put on hold. Today, the band is back at work, having reformed and supposedly working on a third full-length album at the time of this review. Of course, this means it’s open season on the band’s earlier material in an effort to push the band forward and bring more attention to the group. Considering how long these releases have been out of print, it’s more of a welcome then a financial push, but were these release really all that special to begin with?
Fester manages to bring together an album that, while not one of the most stunning examples of the two styles, it truly reflects the proper ideas the band is giving off in the lyrics with the music. Silence captures a strong atmosphere of harsh, cold, and dismal musical tones that really helps push the album along. Aside the obvious Black Metal melancholy throughout the recording, the vocals are unique to the recording thanks to their traditional rhaspier style that is often accompanied by a whisper-like rhaspy haunting approach that adds to the feel of the album, becoming more like a wind that is both sinister and razorlike, cutting through the listener with slow, yet harsh precision. While the Death and Black Metal styles are abundantly present, the latter taking a strong front seat to the compositions though, the slower pace often brings in more of a crushing Doom Metal vibe that goes unrecognized due to the more obvious aforementioned styles that the foundation is set with. “Silent is the Raven” is one of those tracks to show the cold and grim progression towards such a heavy and unforgiving musical style, and it works very well for the album. Even the bridges about three minutes into “Frustrations” comes off along those lines, and when coupled with the low spoken word vocals with heavy echo effect, it becomes enough to chill the listener to the bone.
And that atmosphere is one of the driving forces to the recording. Outside that, even given the time it was recorded, the songs often never go past a slower or mid-tempo, and there’s really not all that much of a variety. It’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the general mood that the band easily puts together, but a little more energy from the band would be nice. The start of “The Maze” kicks the track off in a promising light, bringing a little more speed to the table, but that speed resorts back to a more mid-tempo pace, though the guitars are definitely a lot more technical then on many of the songs here. The track does feel like it has more energy, and feels like it’s ready to crush your soul with heaviness and intensity, but that doesn’t stop the band from going back to the slower approach that has adorned all the songs before it, and causing it to lose that extra edge it has, which is something that feels like the band sacrificed in order to really push the atmosphere of the music along. This isn’t necessarily a bad decision from the group, but a little more of a bite, maybe some faster songs here and there would definitely help break up some of the monotony of repetitive atmosphere-inducing ideas such as the vocal performance remaining about the same and having little range, to slower music that feels heavy and razor-like at times, then just kind of there just to push the melancholic vibe against whispers or dialogue.
While “The Maze” is a good song, it’s not the only good one on here. “Growing Thirst” is another great song that does manage to bring in a heavier and faster pace to it, and it sounds great, even though the vocals don’t necessarily change with it, still being a whsipered approach, but lacking any sort of rhasp, and coupled with low spoken word segments during slower moments. The faster moments here really makes the song sound richer and more full then some of the other slower tracks here, like “Silent is the Raven”, though that track isn’t too bad either. “Dream” also makes a nice introduction to the whole album, showcasing a stronger side of the band with a pace that is around the mid-range section, but introduces some harsher, louder vocals, as well as the less-ranged approach you’ll hear throughout the entire recording. All this leads to another slow, atmospheric track with the instrumental “Når Noen Dør…” which nicely manages to conclude the album on the same melancholic tone that has existed throughout the entire recording.
As mentioned, Fester has only released two full-length albums, and both of these are planned for reissue accordng to the accompanying press release. However, Abyss Records is releasing the band’s 1994 follow-up release Silence first. The CD comes in a digipack formation (again, according to the press release, as a physical copy was not provided) with different artwork, as well as a bonus track called “Persecution”. The song is much more raw in comparison to the mid-nineties recording quality of the full-length due to it being a live recording, pointed out by the spoken word introduction of the song, addressing the audience to tell them the title of the song, briefly what they are in for, followed by a small crowd applauding the group. Obviously this recording came from a small, hole in the wall venue. The song greatly lacks the atmosphere of Silence, but it just feels much stronger and energetic, like the type of track one would want to break up all the slower songs and similar performances and atmospheres, even though it clearly does revert back to the slower parts, but never really focuses on a whispered vocal performance, instead having a loud, energetic traditional rhaspy Black Metal performance that sounds so great against the music that it makes one wonder how it would have sounded on the final product as well.
When it comes to the underground scene and material, as well as bands that just generally go unacknowledged over the years, Fester is definitely one of them. While the idea of whispering vocals, slow music with melancholid overtones, and a general cold, grim atmosphere are executed perfectly with this recording, making Silence an album any respectable fan of the style should hear at least once, there’s often not much to lure the listener back. The general idea is set up on “Dream”, and it continues until the very end, rarely picking up speed or breaking from the same atmospheric quality, vocal approach, or all around performance outside a handful of tracks. It’s great to see this album reissued, and given the bonus track available and new artwork, it’s worth checking out if you never picked up the original. But, as a whole, it’s clear the band had an idea, ran with it, and though sometimes it became overkill, Silence clearly shows the band executed exactly what they intended to.