Fatal Fusion return for what is now their third album; hailing from Oslo in Norway they released their debut Land of the Sun in 2010, following that in 2013 with The Ancient Tale, both receiving great reviews.
Total Absence is a darker and more epic release, but they continue to pay homage to the progressive and classic rock bands of the seventies, blending different genres – from metal, blues, jazz and hard rock through to psychedelia – to create a unique sound. Indeed, they cite broad musical influences from ’60s and ’70s sources, including King Crimson, Rainbow, Camel, Pink Floyd, ELP, Yes, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and also some ’80s and ’90s influences like Anekdoten, Spock’s Beard, IQ and Marillion. This is a long list and I cannot say that all of these influences can be heard in their music, which is a good thing as they have managed to develop a sound of their own. There is a clear Norwegian tone within the music, which borders on the heavy, more straight ahead rock, with progressive touches added. This is just my opinion and I am sure that others will hear things that I have not.
This is an impressive album which demonstrates Fatal Fusion’s continuing development. The album kicks off with the atmospheric Gates of Ishar, the keyboards giving an Arabic influence to proceedings while the drums adopt an almost military march style, a little reminiscent of Magma’s Christian Vander. This segues straight into the second track, Shadow of the King; here the influences are more obvious, the Arabic feel of the keyboards continuing before the song takes on a Zeppelin/Rainbow vibe. The instrumental Astral Flight shows a different side to the band, here Uriah Heep meets a kind of jazz/rock fusion with some great keyboard and guitar work as the track moves along at a good pace.
The band’s progressive chops are ably demonstrated on the closing two tracks, which are twelve and sixteen minutes long respectively. Endless Blue Ocean opens with guitar accompanied by atmospheric keyboards, slowly building until bass and vocals join in, with the drums making their presence felt. There is some excellent Hammond work here from Elend Engebretsen, towards the latter half of the song the Hammond accompanies just the vocals before the guitar returns for a great solo to drive the song to its conclusion, where it ends with some sound effects to segue into the title track. This song has the most progressive touches to it, a slow burner with a symphonic feel at times, a couple of keyboard solos and great guitar work towards the end.
This is an album that provides excellent songwriting and performances, the use of some vintage instruments gives it an almost nostalgic feel at times, but the production brings the overall feel right up to date. There is some great interplay between the keyboards and guitar, which are ably supported by the bass and drums throughout the album. I was not previously aware of Fatal Fusion’s music before this review, but what I have heard here makes me want to investigate further.
01. Gates of Ishtar (2:36)
02. Shadow of the King (7:56)
03. Forgotten One (6:22)
04. Astral Flight (5:44)
05. The Emperor’s Letter (7:37)
06. Endless Ocean Blue (12:03)
07. Total Absence (16:03)
Total time – 58:21
Knut Erik Grøntvedt – Vocals
Elend Engebretsen – Keyboards
Stig Selnes – Guitar
Lasse Lie – Bass
Audun Engebretsen – Drums
Record Label: Karisma Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 25th November 2016