Caïnan Dawn’s last opus hit me like a lorry load of corpse paint. Rumbling, muscular black metal with a mission to drown you in wave upon wave of bass-heavy sound that requires nothing more of you than to stop, listen and give yourself up to the abyss of noise. F.O.H.A.T. is apparently the beginning of the reverse trilogy that ends with 2011’s Nibiru – the destructor (which I haven’t actually heard) and linked by 2014’s thAVMIAL – the twins (which I have heard and is very much recommended). This, to reverse back again, continues where thAVMIAL left off: Caïnan Dawn’s slightly doomy, occult vibe that glistens with the kind of malevolent darkness that the French seem to excel at. Pumped full of seething emotions which are then directed through every note, riff and throat-ripping vowel to create a simmering monster.
I’m sure Caïnan Dawn get slightly hacked off with careless Deathspell Omega or Aosoth comparisons because that isn’t exactly where this is at. But at the same time the unsettling work of their French cousins is locked in here, sliding through those riffs like a shambling thing from the bayou swamps. Like its predecessor, F.O.H.A.T. is in no hurry to impress. As sweet as first track Kaos Theos Kosmos is, beginning with its clipped, gothic-industrial soundtrack, Caïnan Dawn – as on thAVMIAL – takes a bit to warm up. The obsidian, occult-laden black sounds run freely from the first pummelling chords. Barring the slightly drifting, solemn reverie of Ylem, it’s relentlessly direct and invigorating. But it’s Caïnan Dawn’s ability to measure the velocity of its speed and make the most of some hypnotically repetitive and pulsing musical arteries where the band really begins to unfurl its rotten, astral wings.
F.O.H.A.T. avoids needless complexity but frequently uses its copious energy to weave its menacing tapestries in bloodless sinew. Layer upon layer is added to the lengthy tracks making album the album feel dense – but at the same time sinking into it and appreciating those subtleties feels more effortless than many other ‘occult’ outings. As the album gathers itself, its angry vocals, abominable sound effects and black metal-ness all begin to gather into an ever greater crescendo. A transition barely noticeable on the first spin but ever more obvious with every listen. Even Ylem picks up the pace eventually, and the raging, battling tremolos on penultimate track Fathomless finally give way to the ecstatic torrent of Om and the final acceleration into the penumbra of Caïnan Dawn’s cosmic chaos. F.O.H.A.T. is a weighty, commanding album that is more direct than many of its occult counterparts and does not suffer one bit for that relentless impetus. Much more of this and Caïnan Dawn bit just begin to claw their way into the front ranks of the Gallic underground.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)