Courtesy of Gilead Media
The artwork for Fell Voices' Untitled.
The artwork for Fell Voices' Untitled. Courtesy of Gilead Media
As the sonic approaches and philosophies of black metal become more fragmented, the line between purity and experimentation in the genre becomes thicker. It's not that this division didn't exist before, but it does seem like the disparity is more pronounced as some of the Norwegian originators speak out.
In Darkthrone we are listening to so many different styles of music, but we will not let that enter into the Darkthrone concept. It is not Darkthrone. — Fenriz of Darkthrone
That quote comes from Until the Light Takes Us, a stylish and dramatic documentary on the early Norwegian black-metal scene. In it, the filmmakers spend most of the running time with Fenriz and Burzum's Varg Vikernes, who, since the film's 2009 debut, has been released from prison on murder and arson charges dating back to 1994. Both hold onto black metal's frosted traditions, albeit in different ways: Fenriz is the musical purist, disappointed and frustrated with the commercialization of the genre. Vikernes is the cultural idealist, to put it lightly, using black metal to preserve old Norway by any means necessary.
The dedication to the black-metal tradition is admirable, and as both Darkthrone and Burzum have proven, there's still much to be said musically within that tradition. But this stubbornness about other creative musicians breaking with that sound or philosophy bothers me.
I'm in the early production stages on a project about where black metal is going, and what that means for the community as a whole. I'm tentatively calling the series "Raging Forward." In gathering research, one of the first bands I thought about was Fell Voices, a group mostly based out of Santa Cruz, Calif., that truly pushes black metal forward. To date, Fell Voices' recorded output consists of vinyl side-long tracks that ebb and flow, but always rage forward. The band's upcoming second LP, Untitled, continues along that track with more focus, relying less on submerged atmosphere (though that's still an element) and more on structure.
I wanted to ask Fell Voices a couple of questions about the record, but the band members prefer obscurity, so the emailed answers below are in a rather cryptic and collective voice.
Courtesy of the artist
The only photo of Fell Voices the band members would let us use.
The only photo of Fell Voices the band members would let us use. Courtesy of the artist
What can you tell me about the creation of Untitled?
Our goal is the creation of a space which elucidates the distinction between Self and Other, so that we may find the isolation therein. At the edges, the center becomes. To the sleeping, stillness is death; for us, stillness is life unveiled. Through movement we achieve stillness. "At the limit of tears... we lose ourselves, we forget ourselves and communicate with an elusive beyond." —Georges Bataille
Like some black metal bands, Fell Voices prefers obscurity. Is there a philosophy behind your secrecy? Does it drive the band's creative process?
Dissolution and becoming. Coming into Being. Self-mastery. We do not believe in philosophy, we believe in experience, we believe in the creative power of man, that the ability for creating change is the essence of humankind. This is a medium for realizing our essence. One is not one's medium.
Untitled comes out March 15. You can stream the entire A-side at Brooklyn Vegan and the entire B-side above, essentially making your own First Listen. Pre-order the album and Fell Voice's split LP with Ash Borer at Gilead Media.
And hey, let's get the ball rolling with a really open-ended question: Where is black metal going?