If someone would have to describe the Black Metal band FELL VOICES in one word, an obvious choice would be “intensity”. FELL VOICES is a band that doesn’t produce the most groundbreaking riffs or propagates any unheard ideas, nor is it a technically perfect (read: slick) live act. But there’s hardly any other band that transports obsession, sheer insanity and total devotion more credible than this Californian three-piece.All FELL VOICES aim for is the creation of an almost intangible atmosphere. Now one might think of other Black Metal outfits that take a comparable direction – Ash Borer, WITTR, Leech etc. But whereas these and other bands make essential use of elements like clean singing, acoustic guitars or synthesizers and integrate calm sections into their songs to obtain an organic and absorbing vibe, FELL VOICES create the most intensive atmosphere by pure, rampant furiousness. Their third album Regnum Saturni takes this approach to a whole new level.
Nearly incessant blast-beats and frantic rolls rage like a tempest, serving as the primary reference point for the constant hum of guitar and bass, which form an hypnotic, compelling wall of sound. The manic screams are faint, sometimes scarcely audible, but very head-on and quite terrifying. The only quiet moments are in between the three lengthy songs, where the band applies an harmonium to create some repetitive, really obscure sounds as interludes.
Sound and production are surely very important for every record and every band. But for Regnum Saturni the sound is so extremely important for the outcome that it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that it is some kind of a forth member. The song-writing described above probably wouldn’t work in another acoustic environment. Regnum Saturni was recorded live, capturing the energy and intensity that emerges between the three individuals of the band. The sound itself is very muffled: Mostly it’s hard to tell the guitar from the bass, most of the amazing drum work (that is definitely there) gets lost under the thick layers of riffage and the vocals are, like stated above, hardly discernable. The frightening cries eventually sound more like voices of some strange animals you hear in nightly forests than words and vocals.
Listen to the track Emergence:
All these factors put together, Regnum Saturni easily establishes an absolutely intense, hypnotic atmosphere. Although the music is furiously played, the mood it creates isn’t really aggressive, rather captivating and trance-like. It’s obvious that a superior concept is more important to FELL VOICES than musical standards and expectations.
The cover artwork shows a massive storm at Saturn’s North Pole, a 1.000 mile-wide, swirling vortex where winds can reach speeds of 1.100 mph. This photograph refers to the album title of course: Regnum Saturni. This Latin term translates as “Saturn’s reign” and describes the ancient Roman, mythological Golden Age of abundance and peace. Just like many other elements of Roman mythology, Saturn and the Golden Age originally came from ancient Greece. The Greek god Cronus is the pattern for Saturn, and the idea of a period of primordial peace, harmony, and prosperity named Golden Age was known by the Greek as well. Of course the concept of a first and perfect age of the world is even older. It is believed that the inital idea arose in the South Asian Subcontinent thousands of years ago, being adopted by peoples of the Middle East and finally the ancient Greek. It’s hardly surprising that certain elements of the concept also found their way into the Jewish/Christian perception of the Garden of Eden.
The Roman Golden Age to which the term Regnum Saturni refers to is the first in a sequence of four or five ages of mankind. The Golden Age is distinguished by peace, stability, and prosperity. Humans did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. After the Golden Age other ages followed: the Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and then the present Iron Age, which is described as a period of decline. It’s easy to see that this is the blueprint-concept for cultural pessimism.
The Roman poet Ovid described the Golden Age as a period when men were naturally good, because nature and reason were harmoniously aligned:
The Golden Age was first; when Man, yet new,
No rule but uncorrupted Reason knew:
And, with a native bent, did good pursue.
Unforc’d by punishment, un-aw’d by fear.
His words were simple, and his soul sincere;
Needless was written law, where none opprest:
The law of Man was written in his breast. (Metamorphoses, AD 7)
Of course there are differences between the Greek and Roman mythology, and even within the Roman concept of the Regnum Saturni exist different, sometimes competitive elements. But the main idea remains: That there was an age in the very early days of man, when there was no evil, no pain, no struggle and all beings, man and animal, lived together in total peace and unison with nature.
However Saturn is not a consistently positive character. There’s also Saturn’s association with the goddess Lua, who stood for destruction, dissolution and loosening. Later Saturn was also identified as the god of time (just like his Greek counterpart Cronus). Before Saturn’s gracious reign over humanity, which is the Regnum Saturni, he gained his power by defeating and gelding his father. To maintain his sway he ate his own children (except one, Jupiter, who disempowered him later).
As a matter of fact, some of these attributions are similar to those of the Hindu deity Shani Dev. Shani is sometimes called the lord of bad luck, and foremost evil. He chopped off Ganesha’s head and fought his brother Yama as a child, and his planet is Saturn. Hindus fear Saturn as a planet of ill-luck.
Yet also in Hinduism, Shani or Saturn is not entirely evil. FELL VOICES quote the 18th century South Indian poet and composer Muthuswami Dikshitar in the record’s artwork:
Yet, o son of Chhaya [=Shani/Saturn], you are the fire who can destroy time itself.
This sounds quite destructive, but in fact the original sentence continues as follows:
Yet o son of Chhaya you are the fire who can destroy time itself and like Kamadhenu, the wish giving cow, you grant us all good things with kindness and compassion.
So Shani/Saturn is not only a mighty destroyer, but also a giver of kindness and hence a perfect example for the duality of gods (and man).
What picture do we get if set all the pieces together that FELL VOICES put down? First of all, Regnum Saturni has really a lot of content to offer, musically and lyrically. One might not recognize this at first sight, but there’s much to be discovered on this record. The compositions do not become accessible very easily, but after listening to this record various times FELL VOICES‘ opus finally opens up and shows a lot of depth and sophistication, despite its simplicity. The few written facts like the title or the Dikshitar quote proof to be extremely profound and complected, offering surprisingly much input for those who are willing to dig a little bit deeper.
However the message of Regnum Saturni remains concealed, probably by purpose. We simply do not know if FELL VOICES longs for a new Golden Age or speaks of the destructive powers of the end of time – or both. Be this as it may, Regnum Saturni is undoubtedly an amazing, multifaceted and deep Black Metal record that deserves (and needs) a lot of attention.