It’s not often that one can take a clear look at the very roots of a musical genre/movement with relative ease. Thanks to the technological help of the Internet age, though, we are doing exactly that today! And with that, welcome to the twenty-fifth episode of A Scene In Retrospect, in which our staff writers Jake and Ashley will take a look at one of the cornerstones of early djent: The Hidden Words by Fellsilent. Please enjoy!
Returning to the genesis of a movement is never uninteresting. Today’s journey took me back a full ten years to one of the foundational records of djent: Fellsilent’s The Hidden Words. This album became a bit of a pattern for all progressive metalcore records that came after it; something that’s a lot easier to see from this vantage point. Aside from pointing out that members of this band went on to work in genre heavy-hitters Monuments, Heart Of A Coward, and TesseracT, I wanted to see the state of this music at the time, and how fully-formed it was. While The Hidden Words does show its age, there’s no denying that there are plenty of elements already in place to give djent the green light to rise to the heights it found thereafter. I was a complete novice to this album before signing up to write for this piece, so without any nostalgia coloring these glasses, let’s walk through the record together!
Opening tracks on albums are always extremely important in my eyes, and I deem “Erase/Begin” to be of utmost importance here. First, we get a taste of the djent riffs that slowly make their way to full volume. Following after is a shrill vocal performance which will immediately draw comparisons to SikTh. It’s a furious start to an album whose dynamics are still impressive to this day. The same could be said for the mid-record track “Void”, which follows pretty much the same formula but with a more indirect approach in establishing the song structure. What’s clear is that a sense of spaciousness was valued in the compositions, and it’s something that I too deem important for writing interesting songs. The vocals bounce back and forth on the record, from the shrill rasp to a more radio-friendly rock and roll approach complete with harmonies. There’s plenty to like about what Fellslient did on this record.
With great riffing on tracks like “Immerse” and “Oblique”, the guitar work is easily the most memorable part of the album for me. The active fretboard gymnastics and the breakdowns scattered across the tracklisting never fail to make an impact. While these riffs and ideas have been copied to no end since their proliferation through albums such as this, they are still a meaningful and important part of the sonic make-up. Understanding the impact of The Hidden Words isn’t difficult: the riffs, the vocals, and the song structures are still present today. While time hasn’t been terribly kind to the production and some idiosyncrasies of the vocals (to my ear), Fellsilent left a crater-sized mark on the landscape of progressive metalcore that remains to this day.
Fellsilent’s 2008 debut album was as enthralling as it was ambitious. The Hidden Words drew from some of the best metal of that era; it was technical, tight, groovy, and had some of the most beastly and stomach-churning guitar tones ever to be heard in modern heavy music.
There were two main schools of thought in Fellsilent. The dueling vocals of Neema Askari and Joe Garret had the rapid and varied range of SikTh vocalists Justin Hill and Mikee Goodman (which was great news for SikTh fans, as during that point in time, that band had disbanded, supposedly never to return), but the time signatures and mechanised low-end brutality of Fellsilent were inspired in the extreme by Meshuggah and other Fredrik Thordendal works. That’s not to say, however, that we got a clone of either Meshuggah or SikTh. No, The Hidden Words was its own creature, with a distinct mastery of songwriting and production which raised the bar for many later bands. It is also notable that members of Fellsilent would also contribute to more renowned and established names such as Monuments and TesseracT.
The Hidden Words was a technical behemoth that snarled intensively at its listeners, although Fellsilent were proud to add a progressive layer of clean vocals and melodic interludes at nearly every available opportunity. But the album was also a game of two extremes. When they weren’t doing that, they were making sure that listeners were banging their heads in adrenalised elation. There was some really chiseled, technically astute industrial grit to this record, heard best in songs like “Drowned In My Enemy,” and the “Void” interlude.
Fellsilent, as of yet, had no real reputation, and so The Hidden Words came virtually out of nowhere. I think it’s fair to say that today’s purveyors of prog metal and djent will invariably gravitate towards a more glossed approach to record production, even in their rawer moments, but back in the late 2000s, djent was a mound of still-wet clay waiting to be modelled to the discretion of whatever band dared to experiment. And so The Hidden Words was a unique contribution to the playing field. This album was also a new product for British metal enthusiasts to wave with pride.
It may be true that Fellsilent are one of the unsung progenitors of early djent, but one needs to understand the power this album wielded at the time. There is a prevailing sense of charisma and confidence to The Hidden Words. The band really stepped in at the right point and gave the listeners a run for their money, ultimately providing their own unique spin on what it meant to be heavy in the new age.
That’s all for now folks; I sincerely hope you liked what you’ve read! What are your thoughts on this momentous record? Are there any particular bands/albums you’d like to see included in this feature? Leave it all in the comments!
See y’all back here in fourteen days for more A Scene In Retrospect. Until then, do stay safe everybody, and as always…
…thanks for reading!