The tale of Faust has been reimagined many times throughout the years, first appearing in 15th century Germany. The story concerns a man who bargains his soul away to the devil through an agent named Mephistopheles. In exchange for his eternal damnation, great riches are bestowed upon him. The myth became permanently intertwined with rock music with the guitarist Robert Johnson. According to legend, Johnson made a pact with the forces of darkness in exchange for his talented and tragically short career.
The term 'Faustian' refers to blind ambition and the surrender of morality for promises of power and success. The character has appeared in a multitude of different art forms. It's only natural that black metal had its turn. Outojen Tornien Varjoissa, the long-awaited debut from black metallers Faustian Pact, comes to us by way of Finland. There's certainly been no shortage of quality in regards to Finnish black metal exports over the years. Sargeist, Impaled Nazarene, Beherit, Behexen, and Clandestine Blaze are all instantly recognizable to any fan of the genre.
Faustian Pact celebrate their cultural lineage with their sound all the while holding firm to the stylings that fans of Finnish black metal are accustomed to. The integration of spoken word, clean vocals, and flute alongside tenacious riffing and pulse-pounding rhythms creates a strong aesthetic. As a whole, it feels very reminiscent of groups such as Nokturnal Mortem and Trollech."Loitsupuut," the stand out track from the release, combines the mellow acoustic feel of early Ulver with harsh vocals that compliment the ferocity of the guitar work. Black metal has sometimes thrived on stripped-down production and lo-fi recording. Outojen Tornien Varjoissa boasts production that balances harshness and tranquility together in near-perfect cohesion.
Like some of their contemporaries, Faustian Pact have chosen to perform in their native language. Despite what their name might suggest—the lyrical content is more focused on nature and speaks in vivid detail of a time long past. Coincidentally, these themes go hand and hand with the music they accompany. Faustian Pact transcends the simple description of merely being a band and assume the roles of warrior poets. They perfectly capture the type of energy and aura that one might find in a long-forgotten Nordic saga. The albums' concluding track, "Viimeisen Tyrannin Silmä" is a fitting end for an album that moves quickly and balances severity and tenderness. Spoken word passages performed throughout the song incite the music to a chaotic frenzy.
In the long lineage of art inspired by one of the most important characters in literary history, Faustian Pact are something completely new entirely. While Faust rejected servitude and morality, Faustian Pact make art akin to the works of Thoreau and reject the modern world. They instead choose to celebrate the sword and seasons. For those who are quick to dismiss the genre all together as laughable satanic claptrap, perhaps it's best they give this album a listen. Longtime fans will gravitate towards this release the same way they did with Satyricon's Dark Medieval Times.