(TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut album by Norway’s Fleshmeadow and brings us a premiere of a full album stream.)
Ok. This is my REAL last 2016 review. I promise. And it comes with a stream premiere.
Fleshmeadow are in the vein of progressive AND technical black metal that I’ve fallen in love with. When I think of black metal I enjoy, I think of bands like Khonsu, Keep of Kalessin, Dark Fortress, Old Man’s Child. These bands are always doing interesting things, writing superbly crafted riff-storms of frigid ice comprised of foreign alien matter and scathing nihilism toward existence itself — and so is Fleshmeadow.
Fleshmeadow’s Umbra came out on December 16th, so it’s another one of those releases that has come too late in the month to get its proper year-end recognition. That’s really sad, because if you like more deliberate, progressive, and machine-cold black metal, this might be the best black metal album released in 2016 that wasn’t Khonsu’s The Xun Protectorate.
The subject of this review, according to the band’s own Facebook bio, was originally meant to be an EP. Delays, and probably life, interfered with its release until that EP grew into a full album. Umbra is a master class in sophisticated brutality. Even as a debut, it puts many longer-running bands to shame, with Fleshmeadow sounding like a ten-year-veteran band who’ve been honing their craft over an evolving career. Though youthful, they are already starting at that peak of evolution.
The bands I mentioned earlier are relevant, because Fleshmeadow is basically the heaviest or most intense aspects of all those bands combined. There’s a death metal sprinkling here as well, with a progressivism and technical knife-edge that has an Obscura-like familiarity and the fire-burst sense of groove of Decapitated. I have to admit, this was one of those instances where I heard one song from the record and instantly knew I’d be hooked. I was ecstatic when my leap of faith turned out to be not just vindicated, but overwhelmingly rewarded.
When I heard the opening groove of “Isolation” I was instantly captivated, but I was further dragged into the frigid pit of carnage by the dissonant, sinister chord-work and dramatic staging that the band have a real knack for. Umbra is a non-stop frantic, carnivorous ride, but it’s unrelenting with quite a bit of suspense to it; Fleshmeadow know how to keep the momentum going while ebbing and flowing nonetheless.
The opener “Hagridden By Mara” with its prog epic-tradition acoustic opening is another example of this, easing the listener into an impressive deathly waltz of melancholy and violence. “Ashes” is another song that exemplifies this band’s songwriting talent. The intro features a clean/acoustic guitar and is the soundtrack to walking through a forest controlled by black magic, and that opens up into a profound tribal groove that would make Gojira wish they could still write material like Terra Incognita (what’s with these black metal bands writing great Gojira moments lately?), which then breaks into the fastest, heaviest song on the record, concluding with its intro fading into the nihilistic obscurity that the song created when it created a tear in the time/space continuum during its run time.
Umbra really is an album, especially as a debut, that must be heard to be believed. Though I suppose I’ll risk being accused of hyperbole in writing this, it’s a pretty fucking stellar record by a band who show immense promise and the capability to take the blackened spectrum of metal by storm. Enjoy our premiere of a full album stream. Options for ordering Umbra are linked below.
Fleshmeadow on Facebook: