Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 18 Oct 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives | YouTube
For a band who don't sing all that much, The Fërtility Cült sure have a way with words. Their descriptions of what they do are evocative, whether brief, like "Milking the Cosmic Cow since late 2008", or verbose, like the bio that you'll find on both their Bandcamp and Facebook About pages. Typically, they can't be pinned down to a single genre, going with "the doomy side of prog, the rock side of jazzy, the banal side of the exquisite".
And that's fairer than what Metal Archives describes as "psychedelic stoner/doom metal", really, at least on the basis of this fourth album. I can hear some sludge at points under the saxophone on the opening track, but it isn't a focus here. It's more apparent on Return to the Desert Planet and Hunters of Galactic Daemons, which run on heavier vibes generally. Maybe they used to be more extreme on early albums. I certainly plan to find out.
To me, this album is halfway between progressive and psychedelic rock with a seventies hard rock edge. That opener starts out like Wishbone Ash but ends up more like King Crimson. The Hammond organ of Solismaa firmly anchors the era on the control panel of the band's time machine, but it's the saxophone of Ryhänen that really gives them life. What's perhaps strangest is that the result rarely sounds like Hawkwind. Well, maybe Hunters of Galactic Daemons in some ways and Timeless Ithaca in others, but still not really.
Now, I'm hearing sax on a wide variety of albums of late, from prog or psych bands like Gong and Nik Turner to death metal outfits such as Acid Death and Eternal Storm via Katharos XIII, the dark jazz of which does spring to mind here, albeit not in such an extreme fashion. This is definitely a candidate for 3am headphones in the dark and I may well pop it on right after another run through Palindrome.
This is a concept album, albeit perhaps a vague one that follows an immortal but forgotten hero, the Planeswalker, who wanders through the cosmos to find his way again, encountering as he does so devastation, a luresome entity and "the boldest". It's precisely the sort of that might have come from the pen of Michael Moorcock, making it all the stranger that this doesn't sound like Hawkwind.
This captivated me on a first listen and I've enjoyed immersing myself into it more. It may not be as great as it first appears, but it's still deep and engaging and, the longer I listen, the more wends its way out to my notice. I particularly like Star Siren's Song, which is another song that moves from Wishbone Ash to King Crimson, with a jazzy saxophone adding another level. I love the way the band contrast light and dark, which isn't always with that mild sludge at the bottom end and light guitars or dancing sax at the top.
Another reason that I think I like this album so much is that it starts out well with the first part of Kosmodysseia, but finishes even better with the final couple of tracks. They're the longest on the album, the second part of Kosmodysseia lasting over eight minutes and The Queen of Spacetime over ten, wrapping up both the story and the album.
Timeless Ithaca, that second part to Kosmodysseia starts heavy and chanting in the Hawkwind style, but evolves from dark to light, as our immortal hero figures things out, growing all the way. King Crimson would have named its movements. The Queen of Spacetime is a journey all on its own, almost as if it's the entire album in miniature, with the bass of Kailasha wandering just as much as the hero. While it works superbly as an ending, it's also hard to not let the album replay.
If I'm understanding correctly, The Fërtility Cült are from Tampere, Finland and their line-up hasn't changed since they formed over a decade ago. Since then, they've released four albums at roughly equal intervals and I'm highly interested in seeing what the previous three sounded like. This is certainly another band I'm happy to have discovered.