Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review: Falloch - Where Distance Spirits Remain 

These Guys Are The Worst 

This always happens. Something original is going on in the underground and is starting to get some more widespread attention (Agalloch in this case), so a band wanting to cash in waters it down for the masses. Falloch make their influences pretty obvious, it is not hard to tell that they listen to a lot of Agalloch and Alcest. I also wouldn't be surprised if they listen to a bit of Fen. All they had to do was water down the so-called "post black metal" bands (seriously are we going to add "post" whenever someone experiments and adds atmospheric elements to a genre; it feels that in two years "post death metal" will be the new big thing) to be heralded as beautiful and wonderfully atmospheric. These atmospheres are watered down and recycled. When riffs do emerge they are utterly weak and powerless. Hell, these guys even manage to make blast beats sound tame. 

While Falloch do quite a bit of Alcest worship, especially in the shoegaze influenced sections, Agalloch are probably the band they are ripping off the most. Many people have pointed out that their name sounds similar but Falloch is named after the Falls of Falloch, which can be found in their native Scotland. Their logo, however, is suspiciously similar. The clean-toned arpeggios, the acoustic melodies, the general atmosphere - I feel like I'm listening to a watered down version of Agalloch with all the heart taken out of it. I feel that Falloch are what Agalloch are often falsely accused of being - "the musical equivalent of waiting in line", "castrated black metal" and "like background music, only more so" (all of those quotes are taken from negative Agalloch reviews on the metal archives). Yes, Agalloch are not the most aggressive and brutal metal band out there, but they never claimed to be. To be honest, I wouldn't even really consider The Mantle to be a metal album. But the difference was Agalloch has heart and they aren't just latching on to a trend (yes, their early work takes much influence off Ulver's first album, but they take those ideas in new directions and certainly aren't making worship music.) Falloch take everything Agalloch is and then take the passion out of it. Sure they have the whole nature image down, but their music just doesn't feel authentic.

This isn't really metal music at all. The vast majority of the music is post-rock. There is the occasional watered down metal section but absolutely no part of this album sounds heavy. And I'm completely alright with that. Agalloch's The Mantle (which a lot of Falloch's acoustic sections are derived from) wasn't all that heavy or metal, yet it remains one of my favourite albums of all time. However, I am a bit irritated that Falloch attempts to market itself as a metal band. It is like if a prog rock band had a few ambient sections sporadically placed in their albums and tried to claim they were an ambient band. While there is the occasional rasp, clean vocals dominate the album. This is what really makes this album horrible, without them the album would still be extremely lifeless and boring but still largely inoffensive. These vocals sound like the worst kind of alternative rock mixed with a bit of emo. Seriously, this guy sounds like he should be singing about how his heart bleeds the darkest black now that his girlfriend has dumped him. They are somewhat nasally and don't really fit in with this nature oriented atmosphere they are trying to achieve. 

Despite most of this album being quite an unpleasant experience, there are a few moments that are actually not all that bad. The most obvious example would be the instrumental "horizons". The atmosphere to this song I can actually buy. Its slow and haunting, almost hypnotizing. Sure this kind of thing has been done before but Falloch pull it off very well. The lingering arpeggios at the end are a really nice touch. The solo at the end of "The Carrying Light" is actually quite good, proving that the reason these guys are bad has nothing to do with lack of musical ability. The female vocal part at the end of the horribly named song "Where We Believe" is quite nice, although it would have been better if she was singing at a higher pitch. I won't deny that the sections with the cello are quite cool. "Solace", the piano outro could have been great. There have been great albums ended with a nice piano piece. However, it feels that they are trying too hard to end the album with the token beautiful piano outro. It ends up sounding kind of generic. Just a little tweaking and it could have been awesome, though. Any good aspects of this album are colossally outweighed by the bad and painfully boring. 

Falloch almost seem to be metal's answer to soft rock. I was originally recommended this because I mentioned I like bands like Agalloch, Fen and Altar of Plagues. It is embarrassing that this band is often held in the same esteem as those bands. Rather than atmospheric innovators, Falloch come off as parasites trying to get in on a trend by making it the most accessible as possible. I'm sure hipsters will love this. It almost seems like a way to say "I'm listening to metal" while really listening to something that is closer to post-rock. Again, I don't mind that these guys aren't really all that metal but come on, lets call a spade a spade. This band is all hype and no substance. 


The album's only good song:

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