Review: Forlesen – Hierophant Violent
There’s something about sadness.
My recent fondness for Wills Dissolve both lessened my aversion to albums consisting of long songs and had me bumbling around on the Hypnotic Dirge Bandcamp page. There I came across Forlesen‘s debut. Released all the way back in April, the album cover did seem to ring a bell, but I hadn’t checked it out yet, perhaps due to the format. Two tracks instead of just one, but both clocking in at around 20 minutes. Unwieldy, for sure. Nonetheless, now hardened by Echoes, I listened. Then I listened again. Then I immediately bought it and, during a third listen, embarked on the rambling review you’re about to read (or not). This spontaneity is pretty uncommon, and I hope it speaks to how taken I am with this record that it made me bypass my usually agonizing workflow.
While I initially thought that the slew of tags on the album’s BC page was a generic batch that every release on the label gets, I soon noticed that the “drone doom” tag doesn’t appear on all the records. And that’s where we begin: a low, ambient drone, from which the first song “Following Light” slowly, ever so slowly, builds. The press text mentions that the record was created at a time of immense loss, and that’s what I imagine this starting point to be; a moment where the almost proverbial “I don’t know what to say” as a reaction to a sad occurrence has become very literal. Can any artistic expression—any utterance—be made in the face of all-encompassing grief? The song doesn’t seem to know and has to feel this out. Softly, it extends feelers into the droning emptiness. Minimal sounds, a smattering of vocals. And as the drone responds like dry earth to rain, synths begin to take hold, and the energy softly increases as we find that yes, something can be said, and something needs to be said, even if the search for a more acute vocabulary takes up almost half the song. Analog instruments and more discernible vocals only begin to appear after the synths have prismatically broken the silence into a kaleidoscope. Tentatively, but seemingly emboldened by the options just discovered, they begin to speak of their grief, unfolding into soft, melodic doom, continually building up confidence even as the initial drone threatens to drown it.
After all that, second song “Nightbridge” doesn’t need to start at absolute zero; knowing the potential of what can grow from the void, it begins to throw a bit more into it. The void magnifies the meager input tenfold as a sudden angry, incessant banging causes the formerly half-whispered, half-muttered vocals to shriek in despair. If we refer to the stages of grief for a moment, we might find that it’s high time for anger, and clearly, there is something angry just outside the door that wants to be dealt with. But the song is not beholden to the program of Grief Counseling 101, so for now, that anger is quelled in favour of a slow vent of energy that somewhat resembles Flesh of the Stars‘ brand of doom. Before long, however, it’s back with a vengeance and cuts through the music with an incredibly stark burst of black metal. Righteous and necessary as it feels, the energy cannot be maintained for long, but even as the music resumes the minimal doom riffing, the outpour continues in the vocals, albeit in a fashion resembling an absolute breakdown, until words fail once again and a heart-wrenching guitar solo takes control of draining the emotional reservoir. The song’s closing moments are tired to the bone, utterly spent by what it worked through. Has closure been achieved? It doesn’t feel like it, but perhaps that is too much to ask anyway. The hole left by whatever loss inspired this record can probably not be filled in 40 minutes. Perhaps it can’t be filled at all. Perhaps life needs to re-arrange around it. Perhaps we will see Forlesen continue to try to build something from nothing.
Hierophant Violent is available on Hypnotic Dirge Records.