Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Falloch - Where Distant Spirits Remain (2011)

Formed only a year ago in Glasgow, Scottish two piece Falloch has already take a giant step into the world of metal music. Andy Marshall and Scott McLean wrote and recorded their album, and signed a deal with Candlelight Records in the process. The album, titled "Where Distant Spirits Remain," is more than just another heavy record. This is a jumping off point for a young band, one that combines post metal elements with folk stylings and melodic sensibilities. This is a foundation for what should prove to be a long and successful career.

The opening track, "We Are Gathering Dust," builds from the silence before an explosion of drums, bass and distorted guitars shatters the sound barrier. The vocal delivery in he verse section is as soft and melodic as it can be without losing the edge of the song. But the true strength lies in the chorus, with the slide of the bass providing a low rumble under the sizzle of cymbals. Things fade away for a lengthy period, with clean guitars layered on top of the sound of waves crashing on the shore. As the track builds anew, the faint piano tones that cut through it all create a beautiful harmony. The sudden impact of thrashing guitars and monstrous drums blindsides you with post metal fury, taking the song to almost sludge proportions. A fitting means to an end.

The vocals may be a focal point for some, especially on tracks like "Beyond Embers And The Earth." They add an almost plush feel to the song, providing melody where necessary. But amidst the sonic waves, the use of Scottish instruments is unexpected and refreshing, albeit sparing. Even the inclusion of acoustic guitars and strings succeeds in accenting the more harsh moments. The more intricate guitar work in the middle portion is where Falloch shows their metal chops, with echoing distortion and the constant thunder of the drums tearing down your walls. This is a sharp contrast to the effects laden guitar work in the latter half, accompanied by the light tapping of drums. The music starts to build, but never reaches the boiling point, choosing to fade to an eerie conclusion.

After the two tracks that open the album, one that falls short of the four minute mark is a surprise, with "Horizons" coming through as a glorious change of scenery. Flutes fill the air in this short but powerful instrumental, with barely the quiver of a leaf. Even as drums enter, they do not disturb your ear. As it drops out, "Where We Believe" takes over. The bass work is outstanding, taking the low end of the spectrum to new heights. The vocals return, as delicately as before, but the use of some more aggressive yelling hits you square in the mouth. The vocal hook in the chorus, sung over crunching guitar chords, is a hit. The piano tops it all off, creating this ethereal cloud that surrounds you. Some of music could easily fit in amongst the titans of post-rock, from Mogwai to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It carries a heavier edge than those aforementioned bands, but uses the same structure and melody to drive it all home. The light vocal outro tickles your inner ear, and moves you on.

The most complete performance comes on "The Carrying Light," a track that finds the band at their melodic best. The vocals are perfect, harmonizing with the utmost clarity and strength. Delicate clean plucking gives way to repeated guitar chords, which are the backing for a tremendously powerful bass line. A stunning use of light strings accents the evolution of the clean singing, followed by a piano melody. But suddenly, a wailing, rattling guitar enters, signaling the beginning of something much more hard and atmospheric. The guitar meanders through a period of fret work and an ever growing solo. The crash of drums and cymbals behind it lingers long after the music has ended. This is a vision realized, coming to life for a nearly seven minute waking dream.

Acoustic guitars, flutes and an occasional drum beat open "To Walk Amongst The Dead." The longest track on the album, this one showcases everything the band is capable of. There are aggressive periods of thrashing guitars and rapid drumming. But those can be linked head to tail with the smoothest of bass. The song rises and falls repeatedly, going back and forth between head banging distortion and mind altering acoustics. Each element is as important as the one before it, and as impactful as the next. Even the perfect moments, all of the pieces come together in a blissful assault of beauty and beast. So too, does the album. The finale is a mere three minutes of piano, with each note floating through the water on the shores. No tricks, no gimmicks.

This band is merely an infant, with only a year under their belt. For an initial release to offer this much power and emotional attachment is astounding. There are certainly heavy moments throughout "Where Distant Spirits Remain," but those moments are not the be all and end all of the album. Falloch is a band with far reaching talents, including a taste for the melodic. The way they manage to combine the two time and again is what makes this effort one that deserves repeated listens.


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