How hard can the loresome foursome from Portland strike back in their 6th LP?
Words by Jake Sanders:
When this reviewer sat through the first playthrough of Falls of Rauros' 2019 album, there came a moment once it finished where a review felt like a hollow offering to a band who had tailored an album to such a powerful panorama of one's existence. Those who know the dissected feelings that have been shared across my various social media platforms would almost certainly roll their eyes at another critical unraveling of what Patterns In Mythology represents; even now, three years on from its initial release, I still find myself discovering new, and thoroughly buried snippets of sound and lyric that urge a sense of adrenalized emotion out from within.
"Equal parts sea serpent, and Sea World’, now that years have passed, and ample opportunity to explore the depths of this tome have emerged. On drives, in solitude, trekking headlong down the seafoam-soaked jetties of South Padre Island, this group crafted a divine soundtrack, and what was unquestionably my album of the year, for 2019. It was too triumphant to fail, and too grand a summit not to scale. It was, in a word... perfect.
After taking a cautiously ample frame of time to sift this album from top to bottom, the day has come to publish any notions and prejudices held towards it, of which there are many. One doesn't simply craft something so great that its following stands unchallenged by the shadow of its own peak. One rises to meet their legacy in glorious battle, and today, Falls of Rauros has handed all of us the Key To A Vanishing Future.
Let's open the door together.
Since the last review committed to this group was a track-by-track telling of precisely what the work was, it seems only fair that this time the piece shall be less practical and bulleted, and significantly more about feeling, a pre-requisite of what this group has committed to building over the past few years.
The album seemingly rejoins the party where it left off, slipping out of a cave of choral sound as deep and ambient as when it first left listeners, nearly three years ago. There's the ascension to a steady trill, letting off the pedal at a minute and a half in, letting in the Black Metal of old with all the strength that this group has been building for more than a decade. An arc of sound resides in here, one that plays integrally across the six tracks as a common theme. Many of the melodies that listeners will confront in each piece make a reappearance later in the song, a kind of sound continuity that both broadens the expectations of where the group once stood, and divides fluidly the sea of their catalogue, leaving only the bedrock of their newest age, the Colin Marston partnered production and style that came at the time Vigilance Perennial (2017) came sailing through a labyrinth of catharsis and evolution.
Where the album recently mentioned birthed a new identity came in the form of some pretty dramatic overtures that capture the serenity of a tranquil wilderness. It shifts rapidly into the excitement of charging battle cries, thrusting triumphantly forward into a movement of adventure, and enlightenment. It was a complete overhaul of sound from their benchmark of Folk-inspired sound in 2011's The Light that Dwells in Rotting Wood.
The second stage of grasping where this release comes from is by inhaling the sweet vapor that was Patterns in Mythology. Measured for clarity, it established the group's continual evolution towards writing with big guns, a talent that is reserved for the masters of the genre. Micro-choruses that drown in the prestige and sobriety of coming to grips with hard realities. Thoughtful lyrics that radiate with anyone who has ever stumbled upon their own wounds, and catastrophic builds that wrench hot liquid from the eyes, and call back from the depths anyone struggling in a hell of their own despair. It's a tidal wave of an album that crashes against an immovable granite foundation and soars up into hopeful skies. Few people have ever crafted an album that feels like the captured spirit of a fireworks extravaganza, but somehow four guys from Maine did, and this reviewer envies anyone who has yet to take their first ride on the coaster that is this album.
Finally, audiences come trudging through into this blizzard of ambition – a dual threat of two halves, split evenly at the A/B-Side fault line. However, where the first three tracks take their genetic sound signature from a firmament of 2017 ambiance and discipline, there's a newfound respect for more bass in its mix, and lingering solos that catch the ear and ensnare the careful listener. It's the newest inertial collision of inspired soundscapes, ending on a third stop that marches eloquently towards a cadence of snare and choral plucking that adeptly provokes metalheads to guess what's coming next, only to pull the rug out from beneath them.
So as to not undersell the impact of what this reviewer believes to be a weapons-grade contender for song of the year, it bears warning that most people probably aren't prepared for what these guys have seemingly, deliberately tucked away into the stern of their icebreaker of a ship. A dripping bass intro ascends and descends a smooth scale, giving way to a spotlight solo that shamelessly steals all the attention thirty seconds into the piece. With a dualizing counterpart that trades a tremolo bar for bar, this song decides — quite abruptly, in fact — to shed its obvious demeaner for a microcosm of old school interpretative death metal in its first verse that will donkey punch anyone not ready for the change-up. It's stunningly ingenious, and only rivaled by what comes next. In shades of its own cold brilliance, Falls of Rauros does what few Black Metal bands can profess to have accomplished: they wrote an effective single. These choruses are plain catchy, and this reviewer often finds that the words and melodies are so easy to get stuck in, that this track might very well serve as a future converter for unbelievers.
“Persist while the known world narrows.
Find courage! hold fast, while the known world narrows.”
This is only the fourth track, and the vehicle hasn't come to a full stop.
Stepping solidly back into the path of their 2019 selves, the guys slink into their fifth track with the familiar quicksand approach to creation that has led them to so much success in recent years. The pace remains a constant. Slow starts that jump straight into a gallop that breaches through the tropes of Black Metal monotony with all the awareness of a wizard. Intermittent gasps of layered sound from the bottom up shake with the will of a cruel wind, leaving audiences to guess where each new measure will land, as it seldom remains in a reliable pattern for longer than a few bars. Three-quarters of the way through this journey, a treat lies in store with another bird-song solo that makes copious use of tightest frets, ending only once the intro comes full circle, sliding back into place as if it was there all along.
In what feels like a most fitting finish, Falls of Rauros offers to their fans a service of both nostalgia and victory, ending the ride with Poverty Hymn, an excellently compassionate tune that tackles adversity in a soul-searching method of tackling the gift of life, the chance to suffer as one, to find meaning in who and what surrounds you, rather than what one can possess.
A signature finale comes barreling out of grey skies and into hills of lush greenery, a purifying feature that has become a staple of the Portland quartet's catalogue:
They know how to bring it home.
At precisely four minutes, the long inhale comes before the climax, and coda. It's like saying goodbye to a long lost love. Standing on the cliffs of one's recent endeavors, caught in the whipping winds of an early spring morning, Key to a Vanishing Future sails away into the haze of an amber morning fog, a magnificent galleon on the seas of chaos they've traveled for years now, unsure of when the next shore comes. It's bittersweet, therapeutic, and just a tad bit on the nose that their showmanship can not be capsized.
With a farewell solo that screams into the stratosphere, it's hard to tell what's calculated, and what's teetering on the fingertips of what even they can control with efficiency. It all feels so grand, so larger than life, and stands tall like a tattered flag over a withered landscape.
With a final euphoric decree, they cry, "never take for granted what you have." They must not have known they were talking about themselves, and the gift they've brought us all.
Key to a Vanishing Future is out now, courtesy of Eisenwald. You can get your own piece of history on their Bandcamp, and coincidentally, it's the Bandcamp album of the day, for Bandcamp Friday! Read another perspective of a legendary release, treat yourself, and the men from Maine today. It's an emotional breakthrough waiting to happen.