Privation by FangeRelease date: March 10, 2023
Label: Throatruiner Records
Fange have been a bold and menacing band in the underground scene since their inception a decade ago. Never afraid to evolve, the Rennes, France quartet have never stopped morphing from their original blunt but effective sludge metal.
They first began to incorporate death metal elements and then wholesale waded into the dark and murky waters of their industrial influences, crushing all before them. Perhaps their most startling move was abandoning live drums for a drum machine in late 2019. It was with this move that they became their most streamlined and feral beast.
Whereas most bands might have chosen to lean into the downtime that the pandemic ‘offered’ (read: often forced) groups to do, the Breton quartet instead went on a prolific recording and releasing streak, with savage and massively successful, critically acclaimed releases Pudeur, Poigne and Pantocrator coming out in an unrelenting wave, each adding patina of heaviness and complexity into the songwriting. Rather unfairly, in my opinion, none of those individual records – or indeed the string of releases as a whole – received the level of attention I expected, especially from the underground scene itself.
Following those stark, uncomfortable listening experiences, Fange stepped back from the studio and stage to plot their next move. The result is Privation, their fourth full-length. Clocking in at seven tracks across forty-minutes, the band returns with another radical jump in their sound, now taking in the bleak aesthetics and tonality of post-punk and cold wave.
It is a testament to the band that they continue to surprise. And it’s not entirely surprising to hear that their old sound married to these new elements works well. Overall, Privation is an incredibly well realised record and a much more approachable record to listen to than their previous efforts (even the shorter EPs!).
However, there is a sense that the band may be consciously – or probably unconsciously – chasing a wider audience. Nothing wrong with that, but with the brutality toned down Privation lacks the devastating bite of the aforementioned releases, or even those older albums. The melding of post-punk and particularly cold wave sounds into their repertoire is, as previously stated, a combination that should and indeed does work. But it does sometimes sound like Fange are at the beginning of their compositional relationship with the sub-genres at certain turns of the record. While the tone is correct and largely serves the purpose, there are times where there is a simplicity that doesn’t quite tally with their unwavering skill with their heavier side.
Perhaps these criticisms make it sound like I find Privation a poor release, but nothing could be further from the truth. I think it only pays homage to the incredibly high regard I hold Fange as a band that I simply know in my gut that they will refine these elements to even more powerful emotional hold and pull in the coming years. Privation is a new step in their discography and another landmark release from the French extreme music pioneers. More respect needs to be put on their name.
A unique listening experience that melds industrial sludge with cold wave, the band’s fourth LP will certainly be one of the stranger, yet oddly catchy (?!) records you will listen to in 2023. Hopefully this record will open up the potential audience for Fange – goodness knows they deserve it! Privation marks another bold step forward, and while I don’t think it achieves quite the heady heights the band are doubtless shooting for with this new marked change in approach and sound, I have no doubt they will realise it on subsequent releases, while continuing to experiment boldly and fearlessly.