Fórn – Rites of Despair

Since arriving in 2013 with their self-titled EP (Midnight Werewolf), Bostonian quintet Fórn have allied themselves to the dark, visceral yet mournful slurry plied by the likes of Bell Witch and Lycus. Sophomore album Rites of Despair (Gilead Media) is their first full-length for four years and is another harrowing journey through the mire.

The orientally-scribed opener is a nightmarish, electronica-tinged swirl through the cosmos with a powerful and haunting female vocal soaring above the snarling, swelling riff. ‘Manifestations of the Divine Root’ follows and is more reminiscent of the Fórn we’d expect: a funereal paced, monolithic slab of nastiness forced home by Chris Pinto’s infected roar. The sparse, sorrowful inflections and spearing solo add a certain amount of melody but, as with the aforementioned Bell Witch and compatriots Amarok, the mood here is one of utter despondency.

Appropriately, ‘Cosmic Desolation’ begins with sparse Country-style twangs and atmospheric swirls before once again reverting to slow, rhythmic hammer blows. Remarkably this tone is dictated by the heartfelt, stirring leadwork as much as the mighty rhythm section, which creates a real sense of empathy. ‘Ego Desecration’ is another brief, melodious and poignant interlude, while ‘(Altar of) Moss, Lichen and Blood’ infuses horror and almost unbearable grief with slow-paced groove, further showing an ability to vary the template.

‘Ritual Ascension Through a Weeping Soul’ explores the gamut of emotion through the power of rhythm, the savage tearing of Pinto’s throat, and the ability to alternate between harsh beauty and frenetic, crusty, Asphyx-like Death/Doom.

The force of this album is exemplified in the twists, turns and dropdowns. ‘Auraboros’ is a sinister trip through the strings, leading to the initial bowel-scrape of ‘Scrying Below the Wolf Moon’. Here a beauty lies in the heart-rending, purposeful mid-section where every pick can be heard, exploding into the devastating loss of the second movement. It is this mammoth expanse in which Fórn defines its purpose: torture, ripping vengeance, excruciating pain, all wrapped in a fluid expressiveness. ‘A Transmutation’ is the ascension, the whispered folky coldness atop translucent, shimmering airs and heartbreaking sadness while the rumbling bass of closer ‘Subconscious Invocations’ seems to tremble and echo quietly through the aeons, light and dark moaning together toward the infinite expression of anguish.

Fórn’s debut, The Departure of Consciousness (Vendetta), showed much promise without displaying enough of the necessary feeling, the weight of painful experience to stand them out. It’s here in resonant, skull-splitting spades with broken souls rendered large over them. The progression is evident, huge, and impressive.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN