Falloch – Where Distant Spirits Remain

Posted on July 21, 2011

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Candlelight

9/27/2011

Yep, the band name and typeface on the cover art made me double take, too. Even more damning is that the music within pulls a pronounced influence from a certain Northwest dark metal squad. Well, maybe damning isn’t the right word, considering Marrow of the Spirit’s ranking as the finest album this young decade has yet seen. For an admitted (committed?) Agalloch lover like myself, the debut from Glaswegian duo Falloch should be, as the kids say, a total no-fucking-brainer. Add in some soaring post-black metalgaze – or whatever Decibel is calling it this month – and gothic female vocals (my kryptonite), and Where Distant Spirits Remain is destined to be a slam-dunk for anyone who digs on forests and acoustic guitars and misty moors.

But before you take the high road to your trusty online distro, let me take the low road afore ye and tell you that, as a sum of their influences, these Scots are a more than decent clone.  If you’re into that sort of thing and can’t wait until Gallowbraid’s rightfully anticipated full-length debut, go for it. As pure worship goes, these dudes nail it, right down to the high register vocals and pseudo-hookery of opener “We Are Gathering Dust”’s dramatic acoustic chorus. It soars into the ether like a “Neige’s Greatest Hits” compilation, shadowy and innocent at once. The requisite classical interlude, predictable but always enjoyable, flows into the recurring oceanic motif this sub-sub-genre’s been rocking since Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde. If the very next track weren’t rollicking metal thunder, an oblivious passerby would think it was one of those nature recordings housewives do their morning yoga to in your local 24 Hour Fitness. Then “Beyond Embers and the Earth” rides in on a cavalcade of double bass to remind you that, yes, this style can bring the heavy, if only for a moment before a flute melody straight from the Braveheart soundtrack compels you yell “Freedom!” while some guy in a mask cuts out your bits and bytes with a rusty scalpel. Or maybe that’s just me.

It’s difficult for me to level any concrete criticism towards this as my inner fanboy swoons over majestic epics like “To Walk Amongst the Dead.” He keeps begging me to rewind back to that part where the subtle piano fills around the major key tremolo, and then to the sweeping, gale-force riffing before yet another gorgeous acoustic break, this time complete with cello. And violins join in the swell for one final mid-paced paean to Ma Nature? Damn it, I want to knock this album for knocking off so many things from so many bands, but the truth is it just scratches me right where I itch. You’ve decoded the lock to my heart without being nearly original, sirs. With great power comes great responsibility.

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