Exploring the riches of one of the most daring black metal releases of recent time.
Tapping into one's natural surroundings is a practice common to bands of all kinds, especially those within the darker depths of metal. Some bands make use of particular sound effects and folk instruments, others let the music itself paint a mental picture through vivid soundscapes. No matter how you prefer it, few do it as well as Maine's FALLS OF RAUROS, who's latest composition Patterns in Mythology is an outstanding achievement in the genre for it's ability to blend a palette of sounds from across the spectrum into one cohesive, transcendental listening experience.
From the Winslow Homer artistic front to the melodies that swoon audiences from beginning to end, Patterns in Mythology is a body of work that must be appreciated for it's contributions rather than just the achievements. After 14 years of existence, it seems FALLS OF RAUROS have not only remained consistent, but have evolved in great lengths alongside the many changes that have come with the world and the music we consume.
Heaviest of Art had the opportunity of engaging in conversation with Aaron Charles (guitars/vocals) of the band to talk in depth about the release, from the artistic and musical direction to the significance of it all:
Congratulations on putting together what we consider an immaculate release that is representative of the growth you’ve accomplished as a band. What does this record mean to you?
This record feels to us like the next logical step in our journey. We’re very proud of it; it was conceived under tumultuous and difficult circumstances and we proved that such circumstances were no major obstacle for us. Whether or not it’s somebody’s favorite record of ours, I think it is objectively the most intricate and detailed of our career, and it certainly sounds the best from a sonic perspective thanks to Colin Marston’s expertise. Patterns in Mythology demonstrates where we are at in 2018/2019 as songwriters, composers, and instrumentalists, and I think we put our best foot forward and hopefully delivered something meaningful to fans old and new.
A display of classic Winslow Homer pieces greet us on the cover before one gets a chance to dive into the wonders of Patterns. What, if anything, drove the decision to go with these three particular works given Homer’s expansive collection?
The three Winslow Homer pieces were chosen after searching through many of his works, as well as the works of other artists and photographers. The decision to go with Homer was easy enough, as he lived in our hometown and did a lot of his best work at his studio there in Scarborough, Maine. He is very much a hometown hero, so the regional connection was potent and undeniable.
As far as choosing those three specific pieces, that was a matter finding pieces that complemented each other and would make a cohesive package as an LP or CD sleeve. That helped us narrow down our choices dramatically; we didn’t want the physical version of the album to look disjointed or thrown together haphazardly.
What about the paintings made them feel representative of your work?
We wanted to go with paintings depicting the sea primarily because we all grew up right on the Atlantic coast in Maine; the stunning and impressive sight of the Atlantic, the sounds, smells, and everything wrapped up in living in a coastal town played a role in this decision. The specific mood of the pieces we chose represent the album well as they are all beautiful and threatening at the same time. Homer has many works that give off an aura of peace and tranquility and we didn’t want anything like that, nor any pieces containing human beings or the works of civilization. We just wanted the sea in all its splendor and terror, and the jagged Maine coastline. Nothing else.
From Hail Wind and Hewn Oak to Patterns In Mythology, nature seems to be a recurring theme in your album covers. Would you say Maine’s beautiful landscapes are to blame? Or is that simply a decision guided by your passions?
Growing up in Maine has certainly instilled in us a deep appreciation for the natural world. Being surrounded by beautiful landscapes, from the mountains and forests of Western Maine, to the rocky coast of Eastern Maine, has proven to be an inexorable influence over us. However, our album covers by no means depict Maine typically. The original Hail Wind and Hewn Oak cover was a photo taken here in Maine, but since then our covers have featured other locations. But yes, certainly I would say that there is a connection between living in our home state and the continual use of landscapes on our album covers. It just feels right to us.
Aside from the art and your lyricism, the sonic palette itself speaks in great depth. Melancholic melodies, thunderous crashes, and soaring guitars. Musically, what was the goal coming into this record and how did you arrive at this unlabeled sound?
The songwriting process was very organic; being our fifth record, we have some experience putting together an album, and we know what works for us. All of our previous albums have informed the sound of Patterns in Mythology, particularly Vigilance Perennial which Patterns most closely resembles, but we have explored some new sounds as well. We maintained our inclusion of clean / acoustic sections and mellow moments, but this time we dialed up the intensity a bit and there are a greater number of “metal” sections; it’s our heaviest record to date.
Sure, compared to many Black Metal bands we aren’t very evil or brutal sounding, but by our standards this record is quite heavy. So musically speaking, the idea was simply to improve upon what we started with previous records while injecting more of a “metal personality” into the compositions. The unlabeled sound we arrived at is simply a product of all of our disparate and eclectic influences and personal tastes. We’ve never written a pure black metal record and Patterns in Mythology surely isn’t one of those either.
Patterns In Mythology is black metal in nature, but multilayered in its approach, incorporating folk, hints of shoegaze, jazz, and more. Are there any sources outside the metal spectrum that you’d cite as influential coming into the record?
It’s become increasingly tough to pinpoint and identify specific influences on our albums, but I assure you there are many non-metal influences weaving their way throughout Patterns in Mythology. We all listen to a wide variety of music and many of these influences are subtle and may even sound like metal in the finished product. Perhaps we’ll borrow an articulation idea from some rock or jazz album, or a harmonic idea from a folk record. Most of this is a subconscious process, so I’d have to really think about this to uncover specifically who influenced the record.
We had a half-baked plan to lets 60s psychedelic rock and psych-folk influences creep into the album; using 12-string guitars and classic effects like the Uni Vibe and whatnot. That ended up not happening whatsoever; once we started writing everything just proceeded organically and we didn’t have to shoehorn any pre-planned styles or influences into the songs. I’d say there’s a slight influence from Earth to be heard from time to time during clean sections, but a maximalist version of Earth. A lot of classic rock made it into this record, but rather than psychedelic 60s stuff it has much more in common with 70s rock in scope and mood.
In our review we made the claim that there is this resonating sound signature called "Maritime Metal." Can you feel it? Or has this all been so organic that the changes hardly register yet?
Nothing of the sort has registered with us, but we’re happy with that description for this record. It gives a close enough estimation of the sound and aesthetic we were aiming for with Patterns in Mythology. I can’t say whether or not the next record will fall under such a category, but time will tell. Typically, we just view ourselves as a black metal band, but only a black metal band in the loosest possible way.
At the end of the day we’re unconcerned with genre tags, and we care less and less about them as the years go by. They can lead people astray; if you handed this record to someone and said “you’re way into black metal, give this a listen” they could very well loathe it. But if you gave it to somebody more into melodic metal, they might hate the blast beats, or the vocals. Anyway, call it what you will, we’re fine with it.
You took another spin with Colin Marston after Vigilance Perennial and the results have once again been phenomenal, and yet—so different! Colin himself has quite the footprint in the metal community. Why work with Colin again?
There is a reason the results are so different! Vigilance Perennial was tracked and mixed in Maine at a different studio and was only mastered by Colin. He absolutely put his stamp on it, and made the master sound fantastic, but it was by no means a Colin Marston project through and through. Patterns in Mythology, however, was tracked, mixed, and mastered by Colin, so he had a hand in every aspect of this record’s realization. The results were fantastic. I said it earlier, but this is absolutely our best sounding record from a production standpoint. It sounds considerably heavier than our previous records, and crystal clear, but there is still an abundance of atmosphere and ambience floating about.
Furthermore, it was mastered without all the excess compression that would make it sound loud, flat, and tiring on the ears like so many modern metal releases. His dynamic mastering job makes the record sound amazing when cranked on your stereo (aka using the volume knob instead of relying on an overly loud master). We’re very happy with his work and perhaps we’ll work with him on the next one if circumstances allow it on both our ends.
The lines surrounding black metal are blurred now, further expanding the genre from what one considered to be a purely sadistic and malicious collection of tracks to a melding of musical influences from across the spectrum. What do you attribute this to?
I think the accessibility of information is what has caused this rapid development of black metal in recent years. The internet is an incredibly powerful and ubiquitous tool. Everybody has heard of black metal now due to internet journalism (or Until The Light Takes Us…). Because the proliferation of information has made discovering black metal easier than ever, the black metal “scene” of 2019 was an inevitability if you ask me.
So many people have come to be moved by the sound of black metal without necessarily being misanthropes or extremists of any kind. These people form bands, borrowing elements of black metal’s sound and blending it with other genres they may be partial to, whether it be indie rock, shoegaze, hardcore, prog rock, or electronica, and the result is that black metal’s original definition is mostly lost. It’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, just a fact. I don’t think modern black metal is any better than the classics despite often being more mature, nuanced, or musically accomplished. But I also think there’s plenty of great black metal and black-metal-influenced music being released today.
What is your outlook on the genre now compared to what it may have been initially upon first being introduced to it? If different, why has it changed?
I was first exposed to black metal at some time in 2003. Back then black metal was far less talked about among the general public and media publications. I was initially attracted to it due to my pre-existing love for heavy music coupled with the fact that black metal seemed genuinely dangerous, mysterious, and ineffable. I stumbled across it through my own curious research in finding new heavy bands to listen to and was immediately blown away and confounded. I didn’t know a single person that listened to this kind of music, so it felt extremely personal at the time.
To this day I love black metal every bit as much as I did back then. It doesn’t feel mysterious in the same way, but occasionally a band will enter my life that conjures up some of that original mystery. Despite the fact that it no longer feels dangerous or threatening, I still adore the genre, faults and all. It’s tough not to let out a sigh when talking about music with strangers or acquaintances and black metal is somehow brought up; unwaveringly they ask if you listen to Mayhem and then offer a jumbled and partial retelling of that tired murder story. But I can look past all that. The genre at its core is valuable and that truth remains.
In terms of the live setting, you had the opportunity of performing at Fire In The Mountains, a festival that triumphs on gathering audiences among the great outdoors. As a band who harnesses nature, the scenery fit you well. What did this performance mean to you?
Fire in the Mountains in 2018 was an absolutely incredible experience. It was the perfect setting for us to perform our music in but, beyond that, everything else that went into the festival is what put it over the top. There was a strong camaraderie there among a handful of bands we’re friends with, as well as many other friends from around the country who showed up to participate in the revelry. We got to stay on the festival grounds in our tents which far surpasses crashing on some random couch or in a cheap motel somewhere.
It truly felt like a getaway from not only our daily routines in life, but also any sort of typical touring environment. We played the sort of unofficial, DIY version of Fire in the Mountains a few years prior, so we knew the guys that set this festival up already. They’re intensely dedicated for all the right reasons; definitely inspirations to us. In many ways this festival felt like coming home, as well as an apex and culmination of everything we’ve worked towards during our years as a band.
Given the heavy emotional investment that went into the making of the record, how difficult will it be to translate the new tracks onto the live show?
We’re about to find out! We’ve never played any of these songs live but we’ll be performing a couple of them on our upcoming tour with Wayfarer starting on July 20th. All of our music tends to carry with it a relatively large emotional burden, as that’s an integral part of our sound, but we are usually capable of pulling that aspect off in a live environment. The thrill of performing tends to bring out all the emotion necessary from us. The trick will rather be arranging these songs for a live performance, which will require stripping away some layers, selecting the most important aspects of each song and trying to make that work in a club setting.
Another challenge is actually playing the guitar parts while simultaneously doing vocals and worrying about pedal switching. We never know how difficult delivering a vocal line will be over a guitar riff until we’re rehearsing for a show, because I always write lyrics without a guitar in my hand. Add the constant tap dancing that our pedalboards require of us and we have quite a lot to think about. Hopefully the new tracks will go over well live. With a little experience and road testing I think they will.
Where do you see yourselves now as a band compared to when you first began in 2005? What has kept you going for 14 years?
I truly feel that the core tenets and philosophies of this band have remained intact over the years. The same general amalgamation of genres and styles persists, though in different proportions and with some updates and adjustments. We’re always growing as a band, but we try not to completely ditch anything we’ve done in the past or change genres entirely. Organic yet measured progression is something we’ve strived for and I think we’ve achieved, more or less, thus far in our career. We’ll continue to push our boundaries on future releases, growing as both musicians and songwriters along the way. At least that’s the goal. I know for a fact that we are much better at arranging and layering songs now than we were in 2005/2006; back then we just threw everything we had at a song without too much consideration. Perhaps we’re now just a mature version of the 2005 Falls of Rauros.
The reason we’re still going is simple: we all love music and we’re continually driven to create music. This band provides an outlet for such an impulse. Beyond that, we all get along wonderfully and have known each other forever. There’s no drama or egos to contend with. We all want what’s best for the music and don’t let ourselves get in the way. For as long as we’re driven to create the music that Falls of Rauros creates, we’ll keep going.
Patterns in Mythology is out now via Gilead Media. Stream it in full HERE.