Falls Of Rauros
The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood
posted on 9/2011 By:
Bands like Fen and Agalloch have won over a lot of people with their focus on emotional sensitivity over brutality and their strong integration of non-metallic components as opposed to straightforward, balls-out intensity. And while they don’t necessarily sound that much like either of those bands, I feel comfortable lumping Falls Of Rauros into this somewhat nebulous category. They’re a little more intense than Agalloch and a little more one-dimensional than Fen, but this project’s heavily folk-infused take on atmospheric black metal should be of great interest to anyone who appreciates this burgeoning and somewhat divisive style. However, while The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood features some stirring moments of compositional depth and vivid emotional outpouring, the lack of unity and cooperation between its various components holds it back from reaching its full potential.
Falls Of Rauros is much closer to traditional black metal than many of their dreary-eyed compatriots. The vocals consist exclusively of harsh screams; the guitar sound is reedy and warm; and there’s a palpable air of secluded menace that feels in line with black metal’s more scathing practitioners. The musicianship is tasteful and expressive, particularly in the drumming department, with an abundance of colorful fills and cymbal flourishes that mesh well with the interwoven guitar melodies. Riff-wise, Falls Of Rauros prefers an airy approach to more readily distinguishable guitar riffs, typically layering several different melodies that share a theme in an effort to create a cascading flow of sounds. While the lack of concrete, identifiable riffs takes some getting used to, it also allows the band to flex their talents at weaving together varying figures to give the songs melodic depth (see the acoustic/tremolo interplay that opens “Silenced”). While the production is disappointingly thin, there’s no doubt that a lot of care went into making these songs sound bombastic and passionate.
What really hinders Falls Of Rauros’ success is the basic lack of continuity between this album’s heavy and quieter sides. The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood can basically be divided between its acoustic and metal components, and while both of these components are very well-crafted, they rarely feel seamlessly connected, or even partially integrated with each other. The black metallish segments are rich and substantial, and the folk segments are gratifying in their own right, but the union of these two extremes is problematic in numerous ways. In fact, despite the similarity in melodic style between the acoustic compositions and their metal counterparts, I was surprised at how often these two elements felt completely at odds with each other.
Take the acoustic intro to “Awaiting The Fire or Flood that Awakes It”: beautiful and heartfelt, yes, but what on earth does it have to do with the metallic riff that follows it? The uplifting, twinkly-eyed picking of this intro is not only an inadequate preparation for the song as a whole, but its incongruence with the first real metallic passage affects that passage’s impact out of the gates, as well. This kind of jarring leap is repeated later in the track, where a tense acoustic interlude awkwardly transitions into a dramatic riff topped off by an anguished scream that sounds out of place, and subsequently not genuine. Despite its strong start, closing epic “Silence” is similarly bogged down with recurring acoustic transitions that keep the song from achieving any sort of momentum or engaging narrative flow. Again, I must stress that the quality of the acoustics themselves is not the issue here; they’re generally articulate and well composed, and the three short acoustic-only tracks are quite enjoyable. But the manner in which these elements are incorporated into the album’s primary thread leaves a lot to be desired.
One need only to listen to “Banished” to see what The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood could have been had more attention been paid to writing cohesive songs as opposed to sticking together appealing mini-compositions. This track shows a focus and thematic unity that is sorely missed in the two other long tracks on this album. The band doesn’t give false impressions with an inappropriate intro passage, instead delving right into the metallic meat of the song from the onset. They maintain this pace steadily until around the halfway point, where an ideally constructed transition leads into an intense and dramatic sendoff. If the entirety of this album was constructed with this kind of compositional seamlessness, I would be singing a completely different tune with this review.
Falls Of Rauros has produced an ambitious and heartfelt piece of music that feels a bit outside of the grasp of their capabilities as songwriters. The vision is there, and it is admirable, but the execution of this vision is flawed and ultimately unsatisfying, especially considering the promise this album shows at times. The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood is proof that an album can be overflowing with emotion and still succumb to the same problems that plague albums that are devoid of it. In terms of communicating a certain sentiment to the listener, Falls Of Rauros has definitely succeeded, but their actual craft leaves me wanting more.
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