October 5, 2014

Fórn - The Departure of Consciousness

Written by Erik Highter.

Artwork by Bryan Proteau.

On their full-length debut, The Departure of Consciousness, Boston quintet Fórn prove that slow pounding visceral doom didn't end when Asunder split asunder or Burning Witch was reduced to smoldering ash. While audibly influenced by those two bands, they finds their own path through the funeral doom morass. Fórn understand glaciers not only move slowly but that they abrade and pulverize the landscape they cross; their songs contain blackened sections like ogives, and vocal shrieks that break out of the guttural depths, as surprising as snow-covered crevasses in the ice.

After the "pomp and fell circumstance" march of the instrumental introduction "Emergence", those abrasive elements come into focus on the "Dweller on the Threshold". With thickly distorted bass and guitars, and a varied, almost tribal, drumbeat, "Dweller on the Threshold" summons the sludge before settling into a cymbal heavy more traditional rhythm. But just as the Neurosis-tinted sludge quickly gave way to classic slow doom, that sound is suddenly and effectively fractured by what can best be described as a black metal breakdown. Vocalist Chris Pinto, previously employing the thick, guttural howl – all phlegm and fire – so common to the genre, suddenly wails and cries like his spine is being ripped from his body. Paired with the tremolo guitar attack it proves unsettling, unexpected, and entirely welcome. The fall back to sludgy doom is false relief; the dweller is still there, but the glimpse of the true horror of its form recedes into nightmare.

The unease continues through "Gates of the Astral Plane", where once again Fórn upset expectations with shifts and styles that are rarely explored within the context of funeral doom. But it is the next track, "Alexithymia", that is the heart of The Departure of Consciousness in both sound and theme. Alexithymia is the term for the inability to come to grips with one's emotions. This manifests as a lack of empathy, confusion of physical and emotional stimuli, and is sometimes connected to outburst of rage or crying because of a distinct and constant dissatisfaction with the world. Knowing this unlocks the album, with its stylistic twists and turns and abrupt moments of rage and forlorn keening. The song itself encapsulates that feeling of disconnect and frustration, with the circular guitar figure becoming a feedback loop without release. When the rage breaks the circle, it's temporary; even as Pinto's vocals seethe the circular guitar figure returns and "Alexithymia" closes in once again.

That failure is a pall that hangs over the whole record, reaching its darkest depths over the paired closers "Suffering in the Eternal Void" and "Cerebral Intermission". The violent anger of the early tracks are here muted and distant. The titular void renders the howling impotent, and the only answer is to shut down. That Fórn end the record with an intermission is one of the driest, darkest laughs of 2014. Gallows humor that causes even the hangman to raise an eyebrow.

The most astonishing part of Fórn's debut is how entrancing they make psychic and spiritual desolation. The Departure of Consciousness is filled with memorable hooks and motifs, and because of the sublime mixing and mastering each mournful cry and distorted riff has its own space to resonate both sonically and in the mind. They also don't wear out their welcome; at 35-odd minutes, the album never loses its focus and is all the better for it. Fórn's glacially slow march is just beginning, and the metal world better take notice before their just so much till left behind.

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