FLEURETY, Department of Apocalyptic Affairs (2000, Supernal)
This album has four different covers that the owner can choose to display. Fleurety were prescient enough to understand that there would someday be a blog that fetishized skull album covers, making sure one of the cover choices featured a skull. Naturally they would want a piece of this action. What’s happening here is pretty simple: a grenade is cock-blocking the skull’s big moment in the spotlight. Skull thought he’d be the envy of all his skull friends, but nope, this asshole grenade nudged into the shot at the last minute. And who’s gonna argue with a grenade?
This album is just barely metal, residing on the genre’s outer fringes in what we might as well call the “avant-garde.” Fleurety’s early material remains some of the best and most interesting Norwegian black metal ever recorded, and with the EP that precedes this album (1999’s Last-Minute Lies), the Fleurety duo did what most good Norwegian black metal bands do — they went weird. The resulting follow-up, Department of Apocalyptic Affairs, is perhaps the weirdest of the Norwegian post-black metal oddities, at least of the listenable ones. (Zweizz is probably the weirdest, but that’s so over-the-edge weird that it’s easy to disregard as pure junk. Zweizz is one-half of the Fleurety duo, by the way.) At its best, this is akin to Arcturus in the second album era (La Masquerade Infernale) stretching into the territory of Ulver’s fourth (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) with a desire to rid themselves of the metal altogether and worship at the altar of Bjork and the weirdest of Radiohead’s b-sides. But it’s never quite as good as that sounds on paper. At its worst, it’s an incoherent mess, as heard on opener “Exterminators.” Yet my enthusiasm (fuck it, I’ll call it like it is: it’s total lust) for this whole movement makes the whole thing endearing despite its faults. Pretty amazing cast of guest performers too: key members of Arcturus, Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, Virus, Mayhem, Winds, and Beyond Dawn. It’s a really nice package as well, with all those different covers and a nifty folder that houses individual cards for each song, credits, and pictures. Thanks to the Discogs.com marketplace I finally picked up a real copy, an item that had been high on my want-list for a long time (I don’t totally remember why I didn’t buy it when it was first released). I probably won’t display the cover with the teddy bear and the grenade — will probably go with the skull panel. That seems the natural choice, but I must admit I’m being tempted by the lemon grenade cover (lemon-nade?).
— Friar Wagner