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Untamed By Time: False - Portent Review

Five Minnesotans take us on a ride into the abyss on an unpredictable hound from hell.

Photograph by Samuel Claeys

How many groups can claim to be the heir apparent to the throne of a dead group? It's not an outstanding claim to say a group or artist shares distinct similarities with another. Without it, there would be no other musical genres. Everyone takes from the source material they know and that formula has produced some of the finest music to ever grace our ears. It is, however, a bold statement to declare that an artist has willingly crafted the reincarnation of a sound that has been lost to time. FALSE, the quintet from Minneapolis, has come forth with their second offering, a dark little star known as Portent, and only fools couldn't recognize how deep this band drinks from the well of WEAKLING.

A Victual To Our Dead Selves hums the tune of the damned, a low tone that is the last respite before it's too late to get off this frantic and mesmerizing disaster. Anyone familiar with the pattern that WEAKLING developed knows what to expect of the Sophomore efforts of this group. It's an uneven, drunken, cacophonous composition that feels more erroneous and otherworldly than all of its competitors. Distant guitars trill and dance over a viciously spread fret that lays a fist pumping heartbeat to the sounds of chaos. Between this drum-rolling, never once is the keyboard imitations of a full-section orchestra lost, a cascade of despair and desolation being carved as a luxurious landscape for the blast-beats, tremolo lines, and disruptive solos that add a most welcome, and startling oasis of clarity in this miasma of noises that shouldn't work together, but carve a path nonetheless. It's reminiscent of all of the things metalheads look for when trying to resurrect the sounds of a group who took their presence with them, and somehow FALSE has unearthed the secret, less than ten minutes in.

Rime on the Song of Returning is the second movement in this ‘blackened ballet’ and picks up right where its sibling left off. The track constantly feels like you're losing a second each measure; it's deliberately without symmetry, staggering drums and vocals throughout its verses with all of the poise of a rabid dog. It thrashes side to side, a sinister guitar singing falsetto in its background that sounds both adventurous and formidable against the wall of fury that it's attempting to overcome. It's a ship lost in a maelstrom, and three and a half minutes into this track will leave listeners floored by both the emotionally-driven vocals that can be heard with rasping clarity, as well as the desperate clashes of a cymbal fight that threaten to shatter a kit. This is exactly the kind of thrill that bitter fans seek when carelessly sifting through new music, and it's precisely the high-quality craftsmanship that reminds people why this sub-genre takes actual skill to sound good performing. Just when the song gets the adrenaline pumping, it drops listeners off a cliff that could suck the happiness out of a funeral doom segue. As if it weren't enough, in true asymmetrical fashion, FALSE picks up a third talent with a slightly groovy interlude that pushes the boundaries on what reviewers everywhere will dare to label them as. The vocals get a little lost between strong "I" vowels, which is to be expected when you're dropped into another whirlwind of snare heavy fills and keyboard tones that can easily overwhelm its peers when left unchecked, but the song accomplishes much in its twelve minutes of life.

Our tour ends with a slow-ball called The Serpent Sting, the Smell of Goat. It features a sailing melody that drifts from chord to chord, a reverberating harmony that matches well with the hollow monotone droning that slowly descends into a distressingly low range. A nice trick comes into play during this track, that I can only describe as being both a practiced skill, and potential for greatness. Rachel's vocals here manage a pained, asthmatic wheeze on the inhale that border on a medical emergency, and this reviewer can say with all assurance that this isn't a vocal signature one hears everyday. It's shaking, nearly apneic, and it sounds labored and punishing. Machine guns firing endlessly, and guitar tone pulsating, this third movement sinks into an adagio of arpeggios, rhythmically teasing what little hope there is behind this characteristically bleak migration. Its conclusion, which is dragged through a thorny field of frets, blasts, splashes, and demonic gasping, is a thing to behold. It tests a stamina this group teases behind it all, an omen of return to the classic American black metal that can be unleashed at any time they please. As a tri-tone cries out into the abyss, an acoustic medley plucks away into the depths of its own creation, fading away like a friend lost to the void. With a minute and a half left, a funeral dirge takes this album out of your hands and into fond memories. Seldom has an ending felt so bittersweet.

Portent is the effort of a group thirsty to prove themselves to the waiting masses. FALSE has been compared to WEAKLING, and other groups that have sampled from traditional black metal legends in a way that makes it seem as if they're a derivative worship group of their predecessors, but it is this reviewer's humble opinion that they are a group that actually gets it. More often than not, bands that attempt to make disorder deliberately fall tragically short, which is not the case here. There's a discipline behind it as if they've been stepping on each other for so long they're brought to life by the awkward closeness, and as a listener, anything that can make me feel unnerved by how much chaos is between the measures is a win that must be recognized. Portent does not re-invent the wheel when it comes to the WEAKLING formula, but it certainly revives it in a way that should lend most metalheads an optimism about the health of the American scene. FALSE are pioneers in their own right, and the foundations they're laying now will compel others for years to attempt to harness this same power.

FFO: Weakling, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathspell Omega, Drudkh

Portent crawls up from the abyss on July 12th. Snag your piece of history HERE.

Cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski


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