When I reviewed Fuoco Fatuo’s suffocatingly heavy EP compilation late last year, I stated that we’d likely have an absolute beast on our hands whenever the band got around to releasing a full length. I hate to say I told you so, but it turns out this is one of those extremely rare occasions where I was right; the Italian trio have at last unleashed The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of what Remains, and you can rest assured that this crawling king snake of an album is every bit the monster you’d expect it to be.
Fuoco Fatuo already showed significant development on those early EPs, going from leveling, blackened sludge to death doom infused with synth-work recalling the soundtracks of Italian horror classics such as Suspiria or The Beyond. For The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of what Remains the trio have evolved yet again, going for more of a straight-up death doom sound and upping the bleakness factor to harrowing levels. Whereas Fuoco Fatuo previously came off as a band still searching for their signature sound, their debut finds them at last comfortable in their own scaly skin.
Although the band has ditched the giallo-esque synths for their current incarnation, the album is still imbued with a similarly palpable sense of dread. This feeling is maintained effortlessly throughout its fifty-two minute playing time, allowing the listener to fully immerse themself in Fuoco Fatuo’s haunted world. Indeed, As the Viper Slithers… is a total musical environment, a labyrinth in which the titular serpent could be just around the corner, waiting in the shadows to strike at any moment.
The production scheme of As the Viper Slithers… perfectly suits the music, all churning, low-end blackness with just enough murkiness to lend the proceedings some seriously grim ‘n’ grimy atmosphere. The band is able to create a crushingly cavernous sound without allowing things to turn into mush, letting the riffs breathe in order to fully exert their considerable weight. Subtle dynamic shifts keep each of the five lengthy tracks engaging; the album as a whole feels like it’s always in motion, slithering ever forward towards a desolate oblivion even when things slow down to a funereal trudge.
I’m not sure at this point how many times I can say “Caligari Records can do no wrong,” but if I sound like a broken record, then so be it. As the Viper Slithers in the Ashes of what Remains is yet another epic win for the label and an auspicious debut full length for Fuoco Fatuo, who seem destined for doom metal’s upper echelon. The tape is limited to only 150 copies, so grab one of the year’s best doom albums while you still can.