The Last Drop of Faith – Dried Out in Mystification
(Axiis Music) 2011
In modern times of velocity and shallowness, when ancient legends and beliefs seem to crumble into oblivion, it is always invigorating to see that not all hope is lost: RIUL DOAMNEI (“The Lady’s River” in Romanian) is an Italian black metal band that has been around since 1999, evoking by their name a more obscure and dramatic episode from the reign of Vlad Tepes (“Vlad the Impaler”, Prince of Wallachia): while under impending siege by the Ottomans, the Princess (Vlad’s wife) threw herself from the castle’s tower into the river beneath, unhesitatingly choosing death over a life in captivity. Locals named the river after her and now the legend flows on with RIUL DOAMNEI, a band that carry a very resolute message against all forms of bondage, quite bold in their anti-clerical attitude and admirable for an unrestricted approach of the (symphonic) black metal genre.
Their music compels the listener to step out of the frame of any categorization and just enjoy the variety of soundscapes incorporated: from furious or jerky guitar riffs to melodic solos, from the usual blast beats to surprising outbursts of death/thrash drumming, from majestically rich symphonic passages to eerie, ominous piano/synth lines and featuring rasping vocals in a range that spells harshness and loathing, well there’s something in there for every faction of the genre.
RIUL DOAMNEI’s latest release, FATIMA (2011), is the closing chapter of a conceptual trilogy on Christianity and the Church started with “Le Serpent Rouge” (2006) and “APOCRYPHAL” (2007). This time, by juxtaposing two apparently conflicting symbols (Our Lady of Fatima, respectively the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima – Portugal and her secret prophecies, versus Fatimah, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the epitome of compassion and purity), the album’s theme revolves around religious fanaticism, mystification and indoctrination, perversion under the veil of piety, and manipulation into ignorance, submission and fear. Musically, the opus comes with an extra treat for symphonic black metal fans: soothing, delicate female vocals that really live up to the evoked feminine characters and last, but not least, Sakis Tolis of ROTTING CHRIST lending his voice to a march-like track: “Of Misery and the Final Hope”.
Right from the start, one thing is (visually) clear about FATIMA: a complex artwork enhances the album’s message with illustrations provocative enough to enrage religious purists, but also to delight free-thinkers into meaningful contemplation. Deliberate mutation of classic symbols and insertion of incompatible items into the picture become the norm here, testing one’s perspicacity and opinion: the vividly blue “Hand of Fatima”, known as protection from the evil, now stretches its fingers into countless tentacles over a post-apocalyptic urban landscape under a “solar miracle” and a “mantle of stars” or simply hangs loose as a (black magic) chicken claw – still protective of an aborted fetus; clerics are caught in unorthodox moments of vice and alchemical practices, while other bizarre elements such as a proud Anubis statuette, the German Iron Cross, a mirror adorned with black feathers and even a bottle of Absinth assume their role in the monastic setting.
Interestingly enough, the album’s structure appears to be tributary to both Christianity and Islam, revealing striking similarities rather than differences: there are 12 songs just like the twelve Apostles of Jesus or the twelve spiritual successors (imams) to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. After the opening with “13th Oct. 1917, Miracle and Apocalypse”, each further song on the album picks up from a motif already present in the previous one, building a chained story mood very suggestive for a 12-ring-chain or a rosary with 12 beads as symbols of spiritual and physical bondage and (self-)delusion: “Bestiary of Christ” – sacrifice defiled into brainwashing, “Sodoma Convent” – pedophilia in the bosom of the Church, “Portrait of A Collective Hallucinosis” – maddening whispering of prayers, “Stigmatized Under Marian Grace” – deviant adulation resulting from (self-)deprivation; “Of Misery and the Final Hope” – abandonment of will, “Greenglow Which Filters Through – Near Abduction Experience” – absinth-induced conversion, “Altered States of Perception” – deep trance, “The Fourth Secret” – nightmarish revelation of the Truth, “Propagande” – mobilization for the preservation of control, “Transuding Statue Phenomena” – impure devotion and “The Fourth Daughter” – the bloodline of Muhammad, a bright light in the nocturnal darkness prophesized in Fatima’s secrets as The End.
While each of the songs has something unique about it, making it impossible to prefer one over the other, I will only point out as personal highlights: “Sodoma Convent” for the variation of rhythm and the lyrical content, “The Fourth Secret” – especially for the introductive part that sends out so much sadness, “Propagande” for featuring a fragment of the actual Oath of the SS in parallel to a Papal Mass to reinforce the message of enslavement, plus the splendid tunes in the end (synth and guitar), and “Transuding Statue Phenomena” for the disturbing metaphors, the thrash influence and the contagiously weird piano passage in the middle.
If you’re still thinking that your faith is unshakeable, I highly recommend giving FATIMA an active listening. It will surely expand your horizons.
Also check them out at http://www.facebook.com/pages/RIUL-DOAMNEI/59023913710.