These days it’s safe to admit publicly that things aren’t going well. It’s not uncommon to take your personal demise to social media and let the world know just how under-appreciated you feel. And why not? The world is descending into a spinning ball of climate change chaos as natural disasters, heatwaves, and rising ocean levels strike fear into hearts. Personal lives are being upturned. Most people are mired in so much debt they can’t purchase a six-pack without whipping out the plastic. From our darkened apartments, rented basements, garages and homes, the world can look more than just a little bleak. Apocalypse, and not a cool one, is clearly lying in wait just over the horizon.
The clean guitar passages on “Scrying Below the Wolf Moon” and “(Altar Of) Moss, Lichen & Blood” (the best and most complete track on the album), although bereft of excessive chorus and reverb, call to mind somber passages of Shape of Despair, infusing their work with a decided funeral doom bent. In fact, most tracks open with a clean guitar in this manner. “A Transmutation” carries the same earnest and solemn mood as it opens with thin-toned, clean guitars. A clean voice softly sounds above the diminished guitars bleating slowly into the heavier passage to come. As Chris Pinto’s harsh vocals join the slowly undulating, thick guitar passage, the track bleeds into death doom territory for the extended outro to the album.
Across Rites of Despair there are three interludes and one intro, each featuring a clean guitar that is in no way dissimilar from the clean passages that tend to open the tracks. Thus, the interludes do little to add to the overall motion of the album. What they do is point to the trappings of Fórn’s compositional narrow-mindedness. While drawing from a number of genre pools for inspiration, the compositions across Rites of Despair are decidedly formulaic. Without any tangible lack of talent, it’s difficult to see why the members of Fórn are content to hammer out such an unchanging landscape of rhythms and minor undulations. Guitar effects, rhythmic alterations and harsher juxtapositions could go a long way towards building tension and release that’s so necessary for doom to be successful.
This first proper full length shows flashes of promise and potential, though. In particular, their ability to compose for ambiance and atmosphere is underscored by melancholy guitar harmonies lofting over the meat of the compositions. With an eye towards diversity, perhaps not so much of styles, but of actual composition and tonality, Fórn will be on a positive path.
Finally, with a somewhat stable lineup the band should only see improvements in their vision, sound and direction. While Rites of Despair might not be a record that remains in heavy rotation for years to come, Fórn is a band to keep an eye and ear on.