Spoiler alert: Backwater is greatest doom release of 2017.
Fuoco Fatuo (meaning “will-o’-the-wisp” in Italian) have truly come a long way, from their humble beginnings as a “provincial” Italian sludge band (in the vein of Eyehategod/Grief) to becoming the visionary funeral (death)-doom colossus they are today. We may never truly know what can make such a primitive and admittedly slightly clueless entity morph and suddenly spread such monstrous wings to become such a majestic beast, but what we do know is that today, whatever demon these guys sold their souls to, Fuoco Fatuo are beholders of the most demoralizing, apocalyptic, sunless, and cursed sonic oppression known to mankind, and that they have suddenly imposed themselves as one of the most crushing and dominating “slow” bands out there today.
You can tell that Backwater is a work which was likely crafted in near seclusion and that the band took its time with it, with patience, care, and lots of dedication. Everything about it appears to be meticulously studied and without the slightest detail going ignored. It is a very focused, methodic, and mercilessly confident album that has managed to open gates to absolutely unimaginable sonic greatness and to some truly unsettling atmospheres that can’t even be fathomed if not envisioned through the most dedicated and focused creative lens. The songwriting on this beast is “visionary” in that it makes you think that the band had somehow foreseen it in their minds and set out to simply assemble it from the ground up, using the blueprint that appeared to them like some kind of omen. In fact, due to its magistral sound and structure, the whole record appears to have been birthed with the end result already in mind, and the songs have an almost contemplative nature, as if its final form and overall sound was already somehow predestined…
The grandiose and almost orchestral nature of the riffs marries the cold and vacuous production perfectly, giving the impression that both were birthed elsewhere at the same time and within the record appear to have been finally reunited like matching pieces of a puzzle, or a ghastly omen turning into a reality…. As in many works in this genre (see for example Tyranny, Evoken, or Esoteric), it is difficult to pinpoint specific “moments” in the work or single out one track vs. another and attempt to describe the album in the traditional way. For one reason because the tracks are only four vast and massive movements of sound; and secondly, because the tracks appear to blend in and out of each other, with the gaps appearing to be just mere end-points or breathing holes in a vast and endless sheet of ice that the listener can use to catch their breath before they dive back in to the abyss without being killed by an extenuating listen. The reality is that there are no real “tracks” here, with the entire album appearing to be a slow moving magma of sound that is both boundless and boundary-less in its colossal and monumental mass.
With unbelievably cavernous and tortured vocals, buzzing tremolo-picked guitars that weave massive coils and spirals in the dark, funeral-dirge like drums designing a blighted and mournful procession, and a swarming chasm of synths and keyboards to fill every corner of the listener’s plane of existence with dark matter – Backwater appears truly monstrous in its imposing mass, as if it’s a colossal horizon of darkness made into sound slowly moving in on the world, devouring it and consuming it with its enormous mouth. You can literally close your eyes and let the music replace every atom of air in the room as if you are being slowly encased in concrete or devoured by molten lava. In this, Fuoco Fatuo’s music appears to be almost paralyzing, as the tempos are so slow but the tonnage and mass so huge you feel like the record is some kind of irremovable force in your way. It’s for records like these that the term “extreme metal” truly seems the most fitting. This is in fact seriously a sensorially devastating listening experience – a “miasma” of sorts that enters the ears, hits the brain but then does not stop there – but digs beyond, transfers into your nerves and into blood stream, paralyses your body, poisons your soul and ravages your senses, battering every inch of your flesh until you’re reduced to complete submission and feel like you’re drowning and gasping for air in the last minutes of sunlight your will ever see. Backwater is out now on Profound Lore, and it is, perhaps by far, the most devastating extreme doom experience of the year.