Inquietum, or The Fleurety Album You Forgot You Were Waiting For
Today we’re counting down the top 9 songs on this new 9-song compendium of Fleurety tunes.
If it feels like it has only been eight months since the last time we discussed Fleurety, that must be because it has only been eight months since the last time we discussed Fleurety. Time is like this weird line or something. No matter which way you’re facing, it goes in the same direction; no matter how tired you are, it never stops. It sucks. In protest, rather than discuss the 9 songs on Inquietum in chronological order, I am going to discuss them in order of quality, but not from best to worst or vice versa. I am going to discuss them from the middle out–a technique I learned from these guys.
First, some history.* Fleurety’s January release of the Fragmenta Cuinsvis Aetatis Contemporaneae 7″ marked the culmination of a strange period for the band. It was an eight-year stretch of quietly releasing only EPs, which came (also quietly) on the heels of the kind of hiatus that usually indicates a band has quit without telling anyone. The EPs were strange–and we’ll get to all that in a moment–but the hiatus itself was really really strange given that it began at the height of Fleurety’s popularity. They had just broken into the highest echelon of Weird Norwegian Metal with 2000’s Department of Apocalyptic Affairs. Critics of these types of things ate it up and pooped out glowing reviews for fans to eat up and poop out in the form of Jester Records Message Board chatter. (RIP Jester Records Message Board; RIP also Jester Records.) The band was poised to carry avant-garde metal kicking and screaming into the new millennium. And then–nothing. Ten years of nothing. Svein Egil Hatlevik focused on his noisy electronic project, Zweizz; Alexander Nordgaren was probably involved in other bands which I have forgotten about.
Of course, there was reason for fans to hope that Fleurety would return, albeit little reason to expect it. After all, the 2000s marked the death of nearly every Norwegian avant-garde metal band worth mentioning. If there was no hope for a Ven Buens Ende reuinion (and there wasn’t), what true hope was there for Fleurety?
The hopeful were eventually rewarded–pretty much out of the blue–with news of activity within the Fleurety camp. This was back when MySpace was still a thing–i.e., back when iTunes seemed like the only place to buy music online. And since Fleurety was releasing the fruits of their new activity exclusively on 7″ vinyl, only collectors of vinyl who were friends with the band on MySpace (or deep web pirates) had any recourse to hearing the new tunes in full. Everyone else–yours truly included–was shit out of luck. I doubt I was alone in rewarding Fleurety’s obscurantist marketing tactics with a dejected shrug. I stopped giving a shit. In fact, it wasn’t until the promo for the F.C.A.C. 7″ appeared on my desk in January that I remembered Fleurety was still active.
And here we are, August of 2017. Aesthetic Death Records has collected Fleurety’s four 7″ EPs (Ingentes Antque Decorii Vexilliferi Apokalypsis, Evoco Bestias, Et Spiritus Meus Semper Sub Sanguinantibus Stellis Habitabit and Fragmenta Cuinsvis Aetatis Contemporaneae) in one place for the first time–and on CD to boot. (No digital yet = infinite frowny faces.) For those of you who aren’t total nerds, all that will really matter is what Inquietum sounds like. Let’s count down the best songs, middle-out style.
5. “Consensus” — Back in January I likened this song to “a seizure of trashcan blasts, off-kilter guitar twangery and vile black noise.” As if that weren’t meaningless enough, I went on to type: “Adrift in this confusional maelstrom of horrific delights, you may vomit a swarm of locusts or clamor to shove the nearest sharp objects into your ears.” I still can’t figure out what any of that means in objective terms, so I’ll just add that this song is the sonic equivalent of overdosing on medicine for sea-sickness while you’re lying on the carpet in your home, on dry land. It heaves and jolts and swirls and [verb]s like the partial-birth abortion of a demigod. (Nope, still don’t know what in the fuck I am talking about. This track is bananas, y’all.)
4. “Animal of the City” — Dissonant walls of blasting with vocals like the kind of watery, disgusting refuse that leaks out of your orifices after a humid night spent playing Chicken with street food in Bangkok. The female-generated ooohs and aaahs are a nice salve for your suppurating no-no parts.
6. “Choirs” — A dial-tone piercing the 11th dimension. A Calibi-Yau Space anthropomorphizing itself. A synth-player asleep on the job. A nightmare that can’t wake up from You.
3. “Degenerate Machine” — The most lush, palatable, thoroughly composed track on the album–due in no small part to the sweeping guitar melodies, which I’m going to guess (uneducatedly) are courtesy of Carl August Tidemann. With tremolo melodies and retching and some double-bassing and blastbeating, this flirts with quintessential black metal. Flirts with–but fails to get a number. For an entirely un-black twist, it gets all groovy during the breaks. Which is the kind of thing you can always expect from Fleurety: blackness filtered through unblackness. Or vice versa. It’s a weird melding of their old progressive black metal sensibilities with their latter-day penchant for doing…uh…literally whatever. Does it work? Maybe. Not really but also not not really.
7. “Descent into Darkness” — Black noise, feral shrieks and doomed beats. Repeat for 1:39. Then riff shreddingly until 2:16. Then tumble into a K-hole until 2:29. Return to shredding riffage until 2:34. Then get your deathgaze on until 3:51, at which point: GUITAR LEADS & DRUM FILLS. At 4:33 it’s black metal time again. Begin squelching feedback fade-out at 5:32; sustain for 23 seconds. Let cool for 3 minutes and serve.
2. “Summon the Beasts” — This is a nice way to end the album. Lurching doomic riffs yowled over by a woman whose initially pretty voice grows steadily more unhinged, until she’s reaching deep into her throat to pull out phlegm-coated expectorations and bile-eaten regurgitations. A reminder of the epic mental-health deficit Fleurety can achieve when they stop fucking around with their cords and consoles and start huffing gasoline.
8. “Carnal Nations” — Back in January I likened this song to “phantasmal clouds of narcotic melancholia.” As if that weren’t meaningless enough, I went on to type: “Woozy guitar solos will surround you like levitating, deceptively corporeal serpents. Any attempt to free yourself of their dance will only cause further entanglement. The comedown is identical to the high itself; you may never know whether you are sober or high again.” All of that still sounds about right. I’ll just add that as a palate-cleanser between more abrasive tracks, “Carnal Nations” works. As an interesting song in and of itself . . . well . . . I don’t do enough serious drugs to know.
1. “Abscence” — Squawking garage black metal with computerized vokillz. Sounds like trying to order a Russian mail-order bride using a Del Taco drive-thru at 3:59 a.m. while high on bath salts and algebra. Aside from a future-surf outro, the only real surprise here is that this is the most METAL Fleurety has sounded since Min Tid Skal Komme (1995).
9. “It’s When You’re Cold” — Awesome title for a song. Shitty song for a song. Room recording from a Guitar Center in Oslo.
Department of Apocalyptic Affairs rode the crest of the Weird Norwegian Metal wave; Inquietum is the sound of the carnage that remained when the wave withdrew. Inquietum is Department‘s perverse, evil twin. It is experimental yet not grandiose; unique yet highly unpleasant. It utilizes guest musicians but does not foreground them nearly as much. Inquietum takes the wild stylistic eclecticism of Department and streamlines it toward uncouth esoterica, dousing Department‘s playful spirit in phantasmagoric hostility. In other words, while Fleurety has remained as avant-garde as ever, they are no longer concerned with making pleasant or enjoyable sounds. They’ve dredged up their nasty black metal roots, flayed them with disjointed electronic treatments and then jammed it all in the woodchipper. (I’d label Inquietum as “For Fleurety Connoisseurs Only” but I’m not sure such a thing exists.)
All in all, Inquietum sounds like what it is: two experimentalists fleeing the limelight, retreating to the dungeon to toil in isolation and obscurity while whatever else is going on in the metal world passes them by. The result being what sounds more like demos for the next great Fleurety album than The Next Great Fleurety Album. And at this point, to hope for some grand follow-up to Department of Apocalyptic Affairs is just absurd masochism. Fleurety ain’t going back. Maybe they don’t know where they’re going. All that is certain is that they have graduated from the star-fueled pop sensibilities of their heyday and, in their advancing decrepitude, have given themselves over to the spirit of doing whatever feels right, whenever it feels right. But still making sure to do it wrong.
*You could have skipped this part. Sorry I didn’t warn you sooner. (If you skipped it anyway, pat yourself on the back.)