Where Distant Spirits Remain
posted on 10/2011 By:
Probably the last thing a new band dropping its debut album needs is a nagging clamor of snickering and hand-wringing from such an incessant bunch of
Proximity of naming aside, Falloch sounds much closer to Alcest than Agalloch most of the time, and in particular, despite all the press touting the black/shoegaze-iness of the band, there’s far more of a delicate folk influence to the band’s hardly-black metal than there is a My Bloody Valentine gauziness or loping post-punk beat. The album is awash with soaring melodies, acoustic guitars, subtle keys, and other touches that clearly mark it a naturalistic rather than misanthropic outlet. However, the biggest sticking-point for the vast majority of metal fans will be Marshall’s vocals, which are almost exclusively clean, delivered earnestly but also as wispily as possible without jumping into falsetto territory. They are significantly less soporific than Neige’s barely-there clean vocals for Alcest, and at time more reminiscent of early- to mid-90s emo than anything typically heard in metal, with a reasonably acute Sunny Day Real Estate vibe poking through at times.
Hopefully listeners can get past these assorted obstacles to appreciation, however, because Falloch’s predominantly gentle, post-rock accented folkish black metal is quite artfully done, featuring some serious songwriting chops. This is a band that easily writes effective and engaging songs across eight-to-ten minute stretches. Opening tune “We Are Gathering Dust,” for example, has at least three distinct sections, but the relationship between them always feels natural and intuitive rather than forced. Lead single “Beyond Embers & the Earth” is a stand-out track, kicking straight in with a speedy shuffle-blast and crystal-clear chiming guitars. The way that the timbre of the vocals passes the melody immediately along to the tin whistle around a minute into the song catches me by surprise every time, and it's entirely delightful.
The primary flaw of Where Distant Spirits Remain is that most of the proper songs (five of the total seven) follow more or less the same formula. To these ears, that’s not much of a problem since the formula is a winning one, and despite being structurally similar, each song introduces enough unique elements to avoid being a mere carbon copy of the rest. This includes touches like the guitar solo and tasteful string embellishments on “The Carrying Light,” the female vocals that close “Where We Believe,” and the lyrical cello lines and massive crescendo on “To Walk Amongst the Dead.” If Falloch’s actual sonics never approach black metal’s traditional ferocity (despite a few passages of forward-barreling blasts), the songwriting is always anchored in the genre’s heritage. The same kind of approach to song (and album) construction and sequencing that so enlivens Primordial, Agalloch, and even Emperor is frequently on display here. Falloch is nowhere near to being on a par with any of those legendary acts, but remember for a moment that Where Distant Spirits Remain is a debut record, and a deeply impressive one at that. If Falloch can find the inspiration to move from an Imrama to a Journey’s End, or from a Wrath of the Tyrant to an In the Nightside Eclipse, the future could be a truly special kind of place.
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