Waxen – Fumaroth

Waxen has the distinction of being the band with the best sounding drum machine on Metalbolic Records. Only the cymbals sound completely unreal, and the rest of the voices sound pretty convincing. In addition, the programming is much more natural and organic, and really doesn’t distract from the rest of the music. There’s other music too, but hey, good drum machine!

So Waxen is the one-man black metal side project of shredmaster Toby Knapp. Contrary to what you’d expect, black metal played by an Yngwie lover isn’t quite as bizarre or overtechnical as you’d think. It’s certainly much more technical than most black metal; while the material is still composed of minor key tremolo riffs, there’s a lot more variation and movement within the notes themselves. But there’s no constant arpeggios over rasps for Satan, so don’t worry about that. About the most unconventional this album gets is on the very first track, ‘I Claim Your Throne’, an upbeat, punky tune, like the black metal sister of The Ramones’ ‘Pet Sematary’. After that, you’re expecting more excitable, melodic, bouncy black metal, but Waxen defies expectations again by going in a decidedly more misanthropic direction. The rest of the material on ‘Fumaroth’ more closely resembles traditional black metal, albeit a very technical and complex variety of it. Dark Funeral is a good point of reference, with a similarly grandiose sound and scope, with atonal tremolo riffs spiraling up and down the fretboard in occult majesty. They are surprisingly good riffs; just when you think the style is exhausted, someone like Toby Knapp comes along and twists the formula just enough to sustain the style a bit longer.

These riffs, generally two guitars playing circles around each other, are supported by the capably programmed drum machine and raspy, somewhat Abbathesque vocals of Knapp. These vocals are effectively delivered, but they are soaked in a bit too much reverb for my tastes, as seems to be the custom these days. The overall tempo of the music is pretty high, though it does drop down to midpaced territory during the more epic, lead driven segments. Knapp is able to incorporate his shred background into the black metal surprisingly well, often incorporating distant, atonal tremolo sweeping in the background of the music for atmospheric effect, and it actually works. Most of the tracks apart from the opener sound pretty similar, differentiated mostly through samples or strange usage of effects in the song itself, but none of the tracks stand out as being particularly weak either.

The really strange thing about ‘Fumaroth’, though, is that you never really feel like you’re listening to a ‘black metal album’. Even without knowing Knapp’s musical heritage, you could guess that black metal isn’t really where he comes from, and that this album is more a reinterpretation of the black metal style from a musician who predominantly specializes in other sonic styles. This isn’t a bad thing; on the contrary, it makes ‘Fumaroth’ a much more unique and interesting release. It really is as if you sat a shred guitarist down and told him in detail what black metal sounds like, but never actually let him hear the music as to avoid generating any notions of what it ‘should’ sound like. A lot of the atonal riffs are black metal in nature, but really nothing like what you’ve heard before in the genre. Such descriptions are generally reserved for bands who don’t have a grasp on how to make black metal, but not in this case. Here, it’s simply that Knapp really doesn’t care about the way BM is supposed to sound like, and is viewing it all through the filter of his own musical history.

‘Fumaroth’ is a very solid debut from Waxen, and one that has a radically different style from most black metal out today, despite not doing anything very obviously different. There’s a subtlety to the music that’s strangely exciting and promises a lot of interesting things for the future. I enjoy it a lot, and you probably will too, even if you’re not entirely sure why.

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~ by noktorn on October 27, 2007.

2 Responses to “Waxen – Fumaroth”

  1. Sounds interesting – I’m always looking for black metal musicians who can actually PLAY their instruments – not many out there, except for Ihsahn, Samoth, Blasphemer, Mick Kenney, and maye a few more…

    http://myspace.com/dimaensionx

  2. METALBOLIC IS RAN BY ROB LUCKIE WHO DOES THE ONE MAN BAND “SEEKING OBSCURE”. HE COULDN’T GET A LEGITIMATE RECORD DEAL, SO HE TOOK A CREDIT CARD, SIGNED AND FUCKED A BUNCH OF BANDS OVER SO HE COULD APPEAR AS BEING A SUCCESSFUL AND SIGNED ARTIST. I SUGGEST BOOTLEGS AND DOWNLOADS, IT’S TIME FOR HIM TO PAY.

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