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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Fire! - Requiēs (Rune Grammofon, 2022)

By Martin Schray

The nice thing about Fire! (and Fire!Orchestra) is that you are always surprised, although you know after a few notes that it’s definitely Fire! - Mats Gustafsson on saxophones, organ and live electronics; Johan Berthling on bass and Andreas Werliin on drums. They named their new album Requiēs which is the Latin word for “rest (from labor)“, “intermission“, “break“, but if you think the music is going to be leisurely or tranquil, you’re wrong (no surprise, actually). 

Requiēs is a one-sided EP, which consists of one track that is split into two parts. The first one is a classic Fire! piece, which quotes earlier albums: as on She Sleeps, She Sleeps the music starts with chimes, but while it was single notes that reminded more of Black Sabbath on their 2016 album, it’s ringing bells on the new one. The tone is set: less melancholy, more spookiness instead. As so often the band has invited some guests, this time Sunn O))) guitarist Stephen O’Malley and Refused drummer David Sandström, a tongue-in-cheek bow to their love for drone metal. Bass and guitar lay out gloomy, heavy textures, over which Gustafsson plays the same note no less than 94 (!) times. Then again, it’s various and exciting due to his vibrato and the rhythm, sometimes he also creates long pauses, and towards the end of the first part he accelerates the pace. In general it’s reminiscent of a foghorn (something he obviously picked up from early Peter Brötzmann). The absence of percussion in the beginning of the track makes you think you’re standing in a cave listening to eerie noises. Then, about halfway through the first part, the drums kick in and prepare the music for the second part - psychedelic, cosmic kraut rock.

And the second part of Requies actually is more reminiscent of Sun Ra, of Can, of Amon Düül II, or Neu!. Gustafsson switches from saxophone to organ and live electronics, O’Malley is clearly in the foreground and the two drummers push the sound monster relentlessly. What they have retained from the first part are just the soundscapes. The organ sticks to one chord almost the whole time, in front of it O’Malley scrapes over the fretboard of the guitar just to spill choppy but airy arpeggios. He creates a special chemistry with Berthling’s rolling bass, so that the band is able to work through extended riffs and high volumes with absolute control (there’s the advice to play the album loud on the back of the cover). This refers to a dark version of the music of the spheres. On Requiēs, Fire!, Sandström and O’Malley celebrate a slow motion voodoo ritual by floating through the monotony of very few riffs and webbing together the spaces between notes with rays of noise and feedback. An other-worldly monster, highly recommended.

Requiēs is available on vinyl only, it’s limited to 1000 hand-numbered copies. It’s already sold out at the source, but Discogs might be able to help.