What is it with subgenres in metal? There are so many already, and yet the genre descriptions of bands get ever more creative. Todays subject of this review, Fovitron from Greece, decided to label their music “symphonic atmospheric melodic black death metal”. Now there’s a mouthful. “Symphonic black metal” would have sufficed from my point of view – as that’s what this is in my point of view – but never mind.
So, ranting aside, Altar of Whispers is the first full length from Fovitron following a self-titled EP in 2017. First impressions are mixed. The record starts with The Grieving King, an instrumental that in itself is well composed, but does not reflect the rest of the upcoming album, and stops after 03:19 only to have the second track, Inner Demons, restart the “proper” record again with a more fitting, additional intro.
Such minor grievances aside, once the actual music starts, it convinces. Nuntis Mortis is a solid black metal vocalist with a great voice, and the songwriting supports his strengths. The guitar work (by Fovitrus) and the keys (by Magni) are mostly the foundation on which the vocals are placed and allowed to shine. There are some instrumental parts more focused on guitars and keys, and they do play off each other well, but don’t expect a lightning storm of riffs. The drum work (by Damien) is solid, diversified and what you would expect for this genre. The bass is unfortunately barely audible, but other than that the sound production is ok, if maybe a bit muddy. This slightly muddy production might work in favor of the atmosphere though – I certainly prefer it over more “plastic” sounding productions of other famous symphonic black metal bands.
The songwriting throughout the record is pretty good. There are no outstanding surprises, but the atmospheric wall of sound changes up the dynamics often enough to not let the experience become monotonous. As this is not a short album (60 minutes in total) and only harbors 8 tracks plus one intro, you can deduce that the individual songs are no snappy pop songs either. Even though there is plenty of repetition of riffs within the songs, they actually do not feel too long to me. Instead, the atmospheric sound and the great vocal work rather take me on a hypnotic journey.
One nice surprise smack in the middle of the record is track number 5, Endless Whispers, where Nancy Mos (from Frotis Ventus) adds a second clean voice over the harsh growls of Nuntis Mortis. Her opera-like performance fits quite well to the dramatic landscape the band has been painting up to that point – and for that matter, throughout the whole record.
As a person that is not all that much into symphonic black metal and gives Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth a wide berth, I actually enjoy Altars of Whispers quite a bit. I picked it out for review because the first few snippets I listened to pulled me in, and the record continues to grow on me after each spin. There is certainly room for improvement here or there, but especially for a debut full length, this is a very solid offering. I feel that I will be coming back to this one after the review is online and long forgotten, and I already followed the band on all their social media to see what they have in store next, and whether I will be able to catch them live at some point in the future.