An interaction with three distinct drummers: Jazz-like in its taste for the moment.
There is no turning back now. Almost exactly three years after the first sessions under the Fear Falls Burning banner, the concept has again been extended, elevated and emancipated from its pure beginnings. It is a change of course which comes at just the right time: Seven albums, three collaborations, two short-form releases, a DVD and a massive box set into his discography, one had anticipated the next release by Dirk Serries with as much eagerness as clearly defined expectations. The thrill wasn’t gone, but one could see it coming. The challenge was to bring back that rock n roll feeling to a project founded with the aim of channeling the energy of the guitar drone in the most direct possible way.
Having said that, “Frenzy of the Absolute” is still very much in line with the Fear Falls Burning backcatalogue. “I don’t want to make a Rock record”, Serries says and you can take that quite literally. Vocals, verses, refrains and leather are absent from the album, as are poigntant songs intended for radio play. Three long cuts between thirteen and twenty-one minutes’ length (the Vinyl version contains a bonus track) instead make up its spine, a flickeringly intense river aimed straight at your nervous system: Even though the record is the result of a full year of experimenting, elaborating, tweaking and tuning, it sounds as spontaneous as if it had been taped in a single, continuous session.
This immediacy is a direct result of the inclusion of percussive elements into the Fear Falls Burning sound and of the interaction with three distinct drummers: Tim Bertilsson, whose monolithic erruptions at first seem repetitive and primordial, but gradually reveal a musician who listens very closely to the harmonic wall building up around him – and who adjusts his performance accordingly. Magnus Lindberg, a man with a remarkable sense of patience and a capacity of switching from tension to full release in a single second. And finally, Dave Vanderplas, whom Serries already worked with to introduce the new approach on his previous effort “When mystery prevades the well, the mystery sets fire” – a percussionist who thinks in timbres and sounds rather than grooves and rhythms.
Thanks to its line-up, then, “Frenzy of the Absolute” has turned out a highly versatile album, which achieves coherency by the sheer force of its delivery rather than stylistic convergence. And yet, the epic title track can be seen as a personal manifesto. Bertilsson almost blows his cymbals to dust as he crashes into the piece, paving the way for a serene and ceremonious drone, which wells up from the void, then remains stable for a while, exchanging harmonic components in a pentatonic calm, while crunching powerchords growl underneath the surface.
Almost casually, the density increases, a gothically embellished melody comes tumbling down from the sky and the track arrives at a first climax towards the eleven-minute mark, when another cymbal crash sounds out this movement and one of Serries’ tones fades away into silence – the only moment of the album, when the veil of its absoluteness is lifted for a second. Immediately, however, the music picks up again, rolling wave-like towards a mirrored shore, with industrial percussion blows echoing from behind a black and menacing atmosphere.
On “He contemplates the Sign”, bowed metal and bent tones sneak around each other blindfoldedly for eighteen minutes, Dave Vanderplas’ sharp and milling sonorities taking on an apocalyptic tone. Here, the immediate interaction between the musicians, on eye level and on a common ground, is Jazz-like in its taste for the moment, a friendly yet passionate musical arm wrestling for dominion. In the concluding “We took the deafening murmer down”, meanwhile, the Metal element rears its head with a delayed fuzz riff being stoically repeated for its entire duration and Magnus Lindberg concretising his singular bass drum kicks and cymbal strokes into a fluent beat in the last two minutes. Like a Drone Version of the White Stripes, the music is raw and edgey, heavy and ethereal, primitive and cool.
In immediate contact with other musicians, the recognisable drones and guitar themes do not find themselves corsetted, as one might have expected, but actually have more breathing space available. Even though everything at first appears tangible, physical and concrete on “Frenzy of the Absolute”, the album actually moves gracefully, majestically and calmly. It about freedom, not form, about establishing bonds rather than founding a band. And even if it comes across as a certain break in tradition, it is the logical continuation of a project which has always fed just as much from the archetypical associations of the guitar as it has sought to take them one step further. There is no turning back now – there never has been. -Tobias Fischer