Stillborn Fawn- “Heathen”

Stillborn Fawn- "Heathen"

Denver-based black metal trio Stillborn Fawn’s Heathen is an interesting beast. Many albums I receive seem like a part of a particular era, while others have a sound and general feeling that is timeless in essence. It’s safe to say that Heathen is in the latter category. With a sound that has evolved from their earlier, rawer recordings and even an album cover that just begs to be part of any serious metal fanatic’s collection, this album easily could have been released ten years ago or ten years from now and still stand firmly. I listened to this album multiple times while driving across the country in my recent major move, and I felt like something in it really connected with me.

While earlier releases (including the highly recommended Abature cassette from Bleak Environment, if you can find it) were bare bones lo-fi black metal with ambient passages, Heathen is a more polished offering, although it’s no less intense in its own way. For those looking for a bridge between past and present, opening track “Satan in the Mirror” offers up a minute and a half of violent black metal, complete with maniacal shredding and classic black metal grunts yet it’s still a bit more produced and full sounding. Perhaps this is because of the addition of their third member, or perhaps it’s just the band’s own evolution. Regardless, the rest of the album consists of considerably longer, tenser, and more dynamic songs. There’s a certain peculiar ferocity to Heathen that carries a textured and almost psychedelic brilliance, with spiraling leads carving through an otherwise incessant onslaught of driving, constant black metal. While this alone would make for a rather compelling release, Stillborn Fawn truly excels when building tension and crafting atmosphere as they do on the monumental “Black Forest Fire,” a display of pure black metal wizardry that reminds me of classics of decades past while sounding like something that could still hook in those newer to extreme music. While the album as a whole feels like a victorious exercise in true mastery of the genre, the last two tracks are the perfect way to solidify this bold statement and propel the album to top-tier status. Why is the closing track so worthy? I could describe the glory of its closing minutes, but I really recommend you just listen for yourself and accept the sheer weight and beauty of it all.

While this was technically released on the last day of 2013, it’s likely this will be popping up in my 2014 roundup, as it’s got staying power that transcends trends and time. If you want to feel the cold essence of classic black metal with a balance that will stand the test of time, you need to hear Heathen. It appears to only exist as a digital album for the time being, so download it now and we can all hope that it will one day be released physically.