Having established himself under the nome de plume ‘Weaver’ in the black metal project Dead Hills, the Australian born, Norway based multi instrumentalist M. L. Lupe has adopted the name Felgrave to make death and doom inspired metal of a perhaps broader scope then his old project. It’s not unusual in the underground for musicians to hop from one genre to another of course, usually at the behest of either nostalgia or trends, but rather than simply change a name, Lupe‘s work on Felgrave indicates the gentleman has found his true calling as he offers up one of the most impressive sounding debuts to surface from the death metal drowning pool in a while.
The name A Waning Light suggest a partial immersion in darkness, but in spite of weakening, some degree of light remains, which seems like a pretty solid metaphor for the album overall. While it’s a dark and heavy listen, there’s far more light and shade here than you might expect, resulting in a more textural listen than much current death metal.
And yes, in spite of the artist, and label’s affinity for describing this as ‘doom/death’, it’s very much an album flirting with glacial tempos that doesn’t commit to any particular sub strata for too long. Perhaps it’s the infusion of emotion and atmosphere which aligns it with the doom tag, but often this hints at a modern approach to the Peaceville canon, having the romanticism of the UK bands of that era married to the ferocity, and ingenuity, of the Scandinavian ends of the roster.
Certainly while the opening Millenium Shroud begins at a funereal crawl, five minutes in as layered clean guitars reflect off each other over a mid tempo double bass riff, it’s probably closer to progressive metal than snails paced dirge. That opener, clocking in at fourteen or so minutes, builds like a storm and contains enough ideas to fuel entire album in the space of one song. From that sluggard opening through to ambient keys, blast beats, guttural snarls, angular melody – it’s all here. Opening with something that shows this much prowess is a ballsy move, to be frank, and the fact it’s just a hint at what’s to come is all the more impressive.
From that sluggard opening through to ambient keys, blast beats, guttural snarls, angular melody – it’s all here…
The following The Borrower opens with an almost 80s metal riff, completely unlike what has come before but somehow still feels recognisably by the same artist. The riff drops out suddenly to lead into a more gothic feeling verse unexpectedly. Another ballsy move that again works brilliantly and somehow the piece morphs further into an urgent fast section that seems to reach in all directions at once. It hits you during this part that every instrument is doing their own thing, but they’re all working perfectly in sync. Frankly Lupe’s musicianship, and mind for assembling the various moving parts at work into a coherent whole, is deeply impressive.
And we’re not even at the half way point.
Over three more tracks Lupe‘s command of atmospherics and – this is key – emotional shifts in his music is confidently set out. Withered Years has a chiming ambient intro, that would have made an amazing song had he just stuck to expanding on that few seconds for example, but to casually open a song with this, and use it to lure a listener all the way through to the maniacal high speed section that greets us midway so fluidly, is a masterstroke.
Flow is key in this music, and in spite of the regularity with which a song can change moods, or often velocities abruptly, it always feels totally natural. And there’s always some form of melody, or counterpoint at work it seems, weaving a stronger web to hold you in Lupe‘s clutches.
Fearless and audacious, in a field not really rife with either attributes at the moment, A Waning Light is to be savoured by those who like their doom/death on the more ambitious side. One that will keep both the meat ‘n’ potatoes crowd and those of a more adventurous bent equally happy, being as dextrous as it is brutal.
As vital as death metal can get.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes