Icelandic band Fortid play towering, darkly elegant classical-tinged minor-key metal. They love their venomous chromatics, they don’t waste notes – an underrated talent in this kind of music – and they steer clear of cliches. Their new album World Serpent is streaming at Bandcamp. Rebellion against fascists hell-bent on world domination is as ancient as metal themes get, but this one seems to be deeply rooted in the here and now – see track seven.
Ominous string synth orchestration builds to a gloomy waltz, the the spiky guitars kick in and the band launch into Awakening, over a slow, crunchy, brooding 6/8 sway with icy, watery vocals from frontman/guitarist Einar Eldur Thorberg. After an orchestral lull, there’s a tightly maniacal tremolo-picked assault with Kristján Einar Guðmundsson’s doublebass drums going full steam. Are we having fun yet?
The second track is Controlled Patterned Mental Process – sound familiar? A symphony of guitars tap and hammer furiously over a series of creepy chromatic riffs as this dystopic scenario unfolds. “We’re lost to self-destruction, infected humankind,” Thorberg bellows. As the music descends to a plaintive art-rock interlude, bass rises to the surface, then Thorberg builds a tantalizingly aching solo before the crush returns.
The chords reach condor-wing proportions and resonate throughout the vengeful anthem Insignificant is the Wormking’s Throne – metalspeak for “Microsoft, GAVI and Facebook are doomed.” Them the smoke from the battlefield grows denser and the rhythms get trickier in Supressed Opposition.
Son of a Barren Land has more contrast, between a dark folk theme in heavy disguise, an anvil chorus and a forlorn cinematic interlude peppered with machinegun fire. The obvious hit here is Pandemic, a grimly gleeful, steady, brisk doom metal number.
Beyond the Grips of Odium is a viking stampede with a chilly postrock edge and some of the album’s most haunting, unexpected changes. With its twin guitar leads and fist-pumping vocals, Perfect Annihilation is the big stadium singalong here. They bring the album full circle with Last Line of Defense – it’s not clear how this battle ends.
You’ll see this on the best albums of 2021 page here once we get to December. And we will – we’re going to win this one.