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A Celebration Of Death

Abyss (2012)
Rating: 8/10

If you’ve heard the music of Fester before, you’ll be as confused as anyone to see them releasing a new album – we’re dealing with a real buried gem here. Back in the early 1990s these Scandinavian anomalies made something that hung precariously between black and death metal, at a time when the former was all the rage and the latter was yet to settle in Norway. They bowed out to limited applause a few years later. But, as if from nowhere, founding member and guitarist Bjørn ‘Tiger’ Mathisen has brought the name back from the crypt and written a new album, and the results are an intriguing and unique listen.

The opening combination of ‘Rites Of Ceres’ and ‘The Black Tower’ sets out Mathisen’s desired sound – dark, gritty palm mutes, with atmospheric screams and outbursts of emotive harmony. As was the case in the band’s original stint, this album is carried by an individual riffing style that plugs away with simple effectiveness and refusal to commit itself to any particular genre convention – the key difference is in aggression. A Celebration Of Death rarely breaks out of middle pace, but the riffs dig deep and ensure the intensity is high at all times, thicker and more menacing than both the esoteric Silence (1994) and their 1992 debut, Winter Of Sin.

As the album rolls on Fester begin to explore a little, with the guttural rumble of ‘Metalized’ offering the album’s heaviest moments and ‘Last Day Of Battle’ going through several mood changes over a seven-and-a-half minute duration near the close of proceedings. The lo-fi, almost industrial clang of the drums provides snare stabs which are vital at times, breaking through what could otherwise be rather lethargic sequences of riffs. With clear parameters and no time for novelties, this album’s sound makes enough sense that it’ll take you until the end to realise that nobody besides Fester has really made music like A Celebration Of Death before.

This is a band that deserves to be heard, offering an eye-opening look at what extreme metal can be. To come back after almost 20 years and do this with the same unique voice, and with equal or even greater success, is incredibly impressive. It is, as they say, in the blood.

Duncan Geddes

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