How telling can a record cover be? In the case of Swedish one-man Atmospheric Black Metal-project Faidra it is pretty telling in its reversal of belief from institutionalized religion to paganism, moving more into a contemplative humanism and away from a controlling Catholicism. Atmospheric Black Metal at its finest from the country of Bathory and with the sound of Norway.
Faidra is a record rooted less in Black Metal and more in Folk, one might assume given the mastery that is being displayed when it comes to (semi-)acoustic parts and intros that in and because of itself create a real pull-factor for the record. Just listen to the break in the middle of the opener ”The Leavening Rot” or the intros to ”Punishment Nailed Deep” and ”Parousia Delayed” and you will see that! If you ask me there is quite a bit of Enslaved and Fortið on this record, not so much Funereal Presence as the latter is even deeper into the Folk and Medieval Pagan Metal element, but if you like the latter, there is a big chance you’ll also like this one. However, the epic character of Enslaved surely can be heard on these tracks, especially when we get some rather chanted vocals (listen to ”Mother Acherontia” or the final track) and some somber songs like the last song ”Jaws of Neptune”. Music-wise one should not underestimate the importance of sound and production here because an important thing for this record is surely its clarity. This is not a Lo-Fi recording intended to scare the listeners away – we shall be able to hear the details flowing into this one record, the second outing by Faidra following the debut Six Voices Inside. What must finally be mentioned about the musical quality of this new Faidra-record are these little twists on the tempi of the tracks - sometimes he very carefully slows the songs down a minute bit or slightly pushes from the regular mid-tempo regions to a bit more uptempo; these moments are clearly audible without changing the tone of the songs too much! This to me is a great achievement and a sign of truly well-done Atmospheric Black Metal, the ability to change the speed of the descent so that the pull-factors become a tinge more psychedelic in tonality.
But getting back to the cover of the vinyl (the cassette version has a different cover, mind you): The focus surely lies on the white-clad figure a little right off the center. Due to the hood, we can assume the figure not to be a Christian monk, but rather some kind of druid who is part of the Pagan traditions of pre-Christian times in Europe. That we see soldiers on all fours on his left and right side seems to indicate a certain hierarchy and power he holds over them. The seemingly despaired character on the right might be a kind of devilish figure, but could also be a despaired angel – that is up for your own interpretation. On the other side we could also see this record as a triptych and in that sense it would also have a connection to Christendom, as the topics are similar to the three levels of Christian belief: Militant – Penitent – Triumphant could also be Sin – Penitence – Redemption – some kind of regular topoi for Black Metal, but if well executed like on this record I surely do not mind another go at a criticism of an institution which has been responsible for so much sadness and depression over the course of the last 1700 years.
All of this may sound a bit too sterile and not emphatic enough, so to make it clear: This record is top-notch Atmospheric Black Metal. If you like bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Afsky or Nordicwinter – then you basically must check out this record! And then you can also tell us what you think about the combination of the record cover, its topics and the combination of both!