Bloody hell you wait 17 years for a Fleurety album and 2 come along in the space of months. Fair enough ‘Inquietum’ which you can read all about elsewhere on these pages is strictly a compilation featuring 4 singles released between 2009-2017 but ‘The White Death’ is the first studio album since the mind-bending ‘Department Of Apocalyptic Affairs’ from 2000. It’s something the fans who are a small collective of nut-jobs themselves have been waiting for with quite a lot of expectation and it also sees the band getting the attention of UK label Peaceville Records continuing affiliations with our sceptred Isle which go back to Aesthetic Death and Supernal. I have said pretty much everything to be said about the strangely named Fleurety but if you need a brief crash course they consist primarily of Svein Egil Hatlevik and Alexander Nordgaren but have no shortage of like-minded muses ready and willing to join their cause. Musically they are much more difficult to classify, spawned out the second wave Norse Black Metal scene they turned it on its head along with bands like Ved Buens Ende, In The Woods, Virus and Dosheimsgard and took it down an Avant-Garde route. Electronics have been seriously added to the lashing of bewildering prog that littered Department and debut ‘Min tid skal komme’ and you would be right if you had followed the journey to expect the unexpected with the new album. It should also be pointed out that its innovators are absolutely barking mad! There is a clue behind the gorgeous Trine + Kim artwork here too, it’s practically saying “playing this will fuck your head.” Who needs a government health warning?

The title track spreads its disease and discordance with a hefty slab of caustic lurching rhythms and gravid vocals. These are joined by a feminine counterpoint courtesy of Linn Nystadnes of Deathcrush and Oilskin and the 2 forms are totally a case of beauty and the beast. Musically it’s all seasick and paralytic like being thrown all over the place on a choppy sea and trying not to throw up. The progressive guitar parts have a clamour and there is beauty mired within their meandering tones. Bass is particularly thick and adds to the churn, the fact it is provided by Czral-Michael Eide of Virus and Aura Noir is something else to get excited with as are some lush flute trills which suddenly add to the sweeping sound-plate from another collaborator Krizla of Tuskmorke. By now you will know if this is for you, if you are a first time listener and probably wonder what someone has slipped in your drink. To me it’s taken a lot of listens to sink in but I can only declare it a work of utter genius and this is just the first song.

It’s time to go stargazing with ‘The Ballad Of Copernicus’ and the flute and simpler pattern takes this into much more progressive tones of yesteryear. Indeed with poetic croons this is one of a couple of numbers that has a real folk touch to it, it said it was a ballad and indeed it’s an utterly beguiling one, full of wonder and magic. Melody and structure a lot easier to get to grips with than the title track. As it leads “round and round” it’s completely enchanting getting right under the skin. Every track as things progress has complete focused identity of its own yet the composite parts both gel together here and clearly indicate a progression from the past. ‘Lament Of The Optimist’ takes off on a wild skewed dash, manic and maddening flying into carnival cavalcade with gurgling vocals sounding like they have been conceived from the bottom of a bottle of pure madness. Again the next number is a polar opposite ‘Trauma’ despite name is a fragile thing of gossamer etched beauty. Full of gorgeous warn numbing tones and spoken witchy vocals it casts a spell completely at first and just as you have settled in and are comfortably numb goes bonkers with cartoon like sounds adding a sense of brief otherworldly bafflement.

Over on side B) ‘The Science Of Normality’ sounds like it could have easily escaped from Department, well the department of the lunatics at any rate. It’s not normal and it’s not right in the head at all, jarring jazz like time signatures flow out in complete disregard for musical convention and it all goes very weird. ‘Future Day’ again contrasts, bright sunny, flute trilling crooned out neo-folk sounding like something straight out of the hippy side of the 70’s is my description and I’m sticking with that. Ghosts of those passed beyond the coil haunt it. 2 tracks left and I haven’t mentioned black metal yet, there is a reason and it should not be sought out here amidst the poetic pied piper tones of songs such as ‘Ambitions Of The Dead’ In fact it is everything but and despite being lumped in by affiliation something Fleurety have never been about, always sticking to the fringes like mischievous but very clever naughty boys and girls. It’s left to the bizarrely entitled ‘Ritual Of Light And Taxidermy’ to sew up an album that I should have realised was always going to be a track by track dissemination. Well it should be but let’s leave a little bit of mystery…

The White Death is as forward thinking as it could possibly be but very much retroactive in its own way too. An enigma of an album in a way for those willing to take up the challenge and one that will certainly be one you come back to again and again revelling in its intricacies and mysteries. In my book it’s absolutely essential and a huge achievement.

(9/10 Pete Woods)