Review: Fields of Aplomb ‘Weoroscipe’
The fourth offering from FoA finds a stylistically more ‘accessible’ album that is characterized by two elements: complete faithfulness to the established FoA sound and lyrical ethos; also, tighter, somewhat shorter and more traditionally-structured songwriting.
This is to say: the dark, gutteral, morbid voices and dark instrumental chaos interspersed with funereal keyboard arrangements are still ubiquitous throughout. The band did not at all abandon its style, but rather has adopted a less ‘esoteric’ song structure that will make it easier for people not yet part of the intensely cult-level following of FoA to finally understand what’s billowing out of the speakers like black, smoky bile.
‘Fuse’ is an introduction including a sample from some olden cinema: ‘This is the vision splendid’, almost sounding like William Blake. String-sampled keyboards come in to establish an expectant, suspenseful mood, much more successfully than most contemporary movie soundtracks seem to do by my ears. Guitars come in and end with a Judith-like soundwave and we’re into the highly, darkly atmospheric second track:
‘Sentient’ brings in that old gutteral voice of the wretched, scratching away at the walls of some brimstone cell against the persistent funereal, gothy keyboards that seem to proceed with little mind to the prisoner below, like some black-robed queen of the arcane. The rhythm starts when the prisoner screams in anguish, and swears “I’ll find you!” Guitars come in with the lyrics to lend an edge, almost riffy, to the layers of music behind the oath of vengeance. I must say, Creston Baker succeeds as always in evoking unutterable anger and anguish with his completely natural, sinister vocals.
‘Our Own Enemy’ is third, with an almost effervescent keyboard intro dropping us into a dark (it’s always dark in this room, folks, get used to it! This is motherfuckin’ Fields of Aplomb!), Liers-in-Wait/Fields of the Nephilim-flavored guitar texture that won’t settle for description merely as a riff. Guitars are used here almost like keyboards. ‘Sex for Slaughter’, ‘this image is your demise’, ‘goddamn parasite, you’re the problem here, self-indulgent shit, demand is sublime’ ‘cut your wrists, smell of gasoline’ are some ominous snatches I pull out of the growling angry cur that is Creston’s vox. This song has a character of anarchic, bloodthirsty, romantic abandon – very goth-punk – that harkens back to a movie called ‘Near Dark’. I think of that Confederate vampire and his gang of violent blood-drinkers and hellraisers in that black van, tearing ass through the country, killing for kicks and thrills and drinking all the blood for easy livin’. There’s a lot of black leather and hot, lusty sweat in this song. The guitar becomes a muted scream, a squeal for mercy amongst sinister, growling voices of bloodlust. There’s no mercy here. There are no survivors. A bizarre jungle ambience ends this with some lone heartbeat, almost like the drum from ‘Iron Man’ (Black Sabbath if you’re new to Earth).
Biblical wisdom is quoted from Christ Himself, referring to rich people and camels and the eye of the needle as the metaphor for the gate of Heaven. ‘Valley of Hinnom’ then becomes a dark yet soothing keyboard texture for lovers lying in tombs. Guitars come riffing in to lay down an edge, and I mean guitars and bass in unison, until the guitar begins with an eloquent solo. The guitar work is quite lyrical here. The choral effect of the keyboards counters the rock-edged, slow melody of the guitar with that funereal ambience that FoA deliver so well: dichotomy of hard guitars against mellifluous keys is a trademark of this band, used to full effect on this album, particularly on this track. As always, the guitars work their way into a frenzy as the keys remain patient with their counterpart, never allowing their dark peace to be spoiled by the malcontent squealing its electric wrath like a revenant animal sacrifice, risen to strangle the priest. It all entwines together at the end, slowing to a soft stop, as the keyboards finish alone.
Creston channels Jimi Hendrix for a very brief moment on guitar at the start of the title track, ‘Weoroscipe’. The guitars take the lead for melody and riffing behind Creston’s voice. Here, we have a sense of urgency and a need for escape from some dark fate. Regret, emptiness, the threat of imminent oblivion and dark choices are the stuff of this song. The chorus is classic, straight out of that early tradition of goth, somewhere between Nephilim and Sisters. This is one of the songs that most clearly demonstrates FoA’s reorganized songwriting. “We know where we go… to the flames below.” Anguish and death and the oblivion of the soul in blackened, burning hell is the stuff of FoA, and while this album, particularly the title track, has a new kind of energy for this band, things are no different here. As always, the band stands at the precipice of eternal infernal burning, never denying or doubting their fate for a single moment: they’re going straight to hellfire, no passing go, no collecting two hundred dollars.
‘Flesh’ begins with a Laurie Anderson-like keyboard theme, almost ‘Deep Forest’ in its texture, until the evil begins with low, ominous tones and that sinister vox. The vox is coming out of some deep evil place, foreboding and creeping with vile hatred. Guitars come in to bring back the dark edge and now it’s cutting your throat. Creston is drinking your blood as he growls vengeance and hatred. This song is like walking through the woods at the edge of Hell, and some evil black-hearted gnome is groaning through the charred, burned trees and little hills of ash and blackened rocks.
Then, some dark ambient keyboard texture, cosmic and spacey in its flavor, takes us into a night sky and a lunar dawn – there is no sunrise in the universe of FoA, its dark sun is forever dead – and a grand, almost baroque-sounding organ appears in the background. This bears shades of Daniel Kemp’s work. A basslike drone in the background completes the meditative quality of this track, titled ‘Watch’. Uplifting and dark at the same time, the listener can imagine angels of death flying gracefully, childlike.
‘Latitude’ begins with a sense of traveling into deep, dark tunnels in a supersonic vehicle; once there, Creston delivers a ballad, with piano, in an uncharacteristically mid-range voice. The tone of this voice is of regret, sadness, wistfulness. There is something about it that reminds me of Roger Daltrey’s softer moments in the early Who songs. The voice and piano are perfectly matched for the mournful but earnest energy of the song: the vox of the song is reaching out for the listener to share his feelings, not to shake a wrathful fist or to invoke murder and destruction. This is a wholly different FoA than I’ve yet heard, a real departure but in no way contrived. It also stands nicely on its own as a creature of dichotomy – thereby still bearing the stylistic stamp of FoA – mournful yet uplifting.
‘Lung’ begins with another electronic effect, like wind, and then cuts into rhythm guitar and almost classic-rock-style vocals. The melody is still dark and brooding, and the lyrics speak of that universal human doubtful wistfulness at the prospect of life after death. This song could be played very comfortably in a block of songs including ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ (Blue Oyster Cult, again for the uninitiated). This song is worthy to be included in the same playlist. Truly, at times I almost think Buck Dharma inspired or helped to write this song, especially during the dark-sounding bridge that turns almost bright between the long, poetic verses. Hard guitars break in near the end to give the piece an almost metallic, gritty background. Those evil vocals return to express the same doubts with the tinge of anger that inevitably wells up in those who are staring down that penultimate of absolutes. A memorable guitar solo and classic-rock drum outro complete the character of this unique FoA song.
The last track, ‘Path’, returns us to the funereal keyboards and low-toned, gothy doomsooth. A gutteral vox, more conspiratorial than ominous, delivers somber lyrics such as ‘close the door to Time’. The simple but expressive dark melody is perfect for the lyrics. This is an uncharacteristically upbeat song for FoA. “We’ll build shrines, lost in Time.” I can imagine standing stones and ancient temples. Then that sinister voice returns with a cynical “don’t you think you’re great, you’re not worth that much,” expressing doubts of afterlife, bringing counterpoint to the hopeful vox. Creston now has counterpoints, speaking from two sides. Does this signal a less gloomy outlook for the musician himself?
Still, though, this is the man from Fields, who finishes the album abruptly with “Welcome to your end.”
Indeed, and that’s the end of a stylistically refreshing album from a band with a distinct character and a dark creed. Distant children of the Sabbath they be, even across the oceans of genres. We all dance under the same moon and return to the same earth, and brood in the same deep darkness.
This album represents a watershed for FoA’s songcraft, and hopefully will expand their audience. It deserves to do so. In a an increasingly crowded genre now being mixed and thinned with other genres, we finally have a band that can experiment with exterior influences without impurifying the soul of its sound. The album is self-produced by Creston, of course.