The artist that would reinvent and experiment by their own free will yet nonetheless set only to tape a self-perfecting note of progress within their steadfast original vision does at times appear prevalent within the steel-lined bubble of independent black metal but, it is still somewhat extraordinary in the uncultured and shallowly opportunistic world of modern music. Were you to flit through the succession of releases from Portland, Maine area atmospheric black/folk metal band Falls of Rauros you’d undoubtedly hear ‘The Mantle’ as a spark of influence for formative releases and then ‘The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood’ (2011) as a first realization of potential, a clean and melodious event that saw the quartet arm in arm with Austin Lunn (on session drums) and under the Bindrune Recordings wing in the exact right alignment. There the identity of the project would move on to a slightly raw implementation and then recrucify with ‘Vigilance Perennial’ (2017) bearing a selection of compositions that had thoroughly identified their strengths in creation of comparatively tasteful post-rock influenced atmospheric black metal that never lost sight of its melodic drivers. It wasn’t momentum but determination shared between a natural collaborative relationship that produced the follow up, ‘Patterns in Mythology’.
Whether they’d intended to capture the blustering brine of coastal Maine mid-Fall or simply wrote what came naturally to their long-running musical relationship the fellows in Falls of Rauros not only lead with gusting cinematic overtures of post-black metal dynamism but they carry that thread while ‘riffing’ up the methodologies that defined the somber, single-minded ‘Vigilance Perennial’. In this sense I’d immediately felt that this was what they’d intended to do with ‘Believe in No Coming Shore’ (2014) but didn’t have the insight, budget, or a relationship with a producer/engineer that could elevate this type of post-rock/gaze influence to the level of dramatic tension it calls for. Colin Marston is a key instrument in the successes of ‘Patterns in Mythology’ beyond the compositions themselves as his dynamic and pristine render (production, mix and master) enhances every aspect of the release. It is easily one of the finest sounding post-black metal records in recent memory and the general vibe of the pieces within are well represented by the crashing waves on the cover art. There is no question that this is an exceptionally beautiful and evocative work but, well, is it any good as a metal record?
Since there are extensive records of my opinions among three ‘metal’ community databases I can pull directly from the last time I had any thoughts on Falls of Rauros in 2014 where I suggested that ‘Believe in No Coming Shore’ was “Lo-fi adult contemporary rock… wearing a black metal mask,” to paraphrase kindly. The same way I’d take back a lot of the “I’m bored with cavern-core” comments of that era, too, I’d say that this was always a band I’d written off as a take on Agalloch‘s more prominent releases with more modern influences, some forest folk blended with the ‘blackgaze’ thought process. Though there isn’t much redeeming about being a rude prick when it comes to music there is still a part of me that sees the general sway and sound of ‘Patterns in Mythology’ as a sort of adult contemporary version of black metal. The triumph of the full listen isn’t necessarily that it subverts that established expectation of style rather that it further perfects and polishes their core musical identity to a point of glistening. Circling back to 2011 with ‘The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood’ and my suggestion of it as the vital blueprint for Falls of Rauros since, this can be taken a bit further in terms of setting the two records side-by-side and measuring the gorgeous progression of the band’s compositional skills while also noting that the two records are full of similar phrasing, structures, and general vibes. The bass guitar presence and tone (see: “New Inertia”, “Last Empty Tradition”) is the most striking similarity while also serving as a good metric for the quality of sound design and presence since that second album. It may be ‘easy listening black metal’ but there is nothing lax about what Falls of Rauros do in shaping folkish atmospheric black metal into memorable, emotive songs.
Though the majestic gloominess of this style of black metal-adjacent music is attractive to me, and the actual rendering of Falls of Rauros is immaculate and astute, the listening experience never touched me (as is typically intended) with its melodramatic post-black narrative. I have some great admiration for the artist who buttons up in their very best when presenting a recording and I truly love when a musician uses iteration upon their own work to create a distinct sound and style but at some point it does appear to elude the furioso of black metal for the sake of creating a cinematically viable beauty above all else. This isn’t a particularly viable criticism on paper but, when returning to a black/folk metal band’s discography and finding both the black and folk metal elements rubbed clean does begin to feel like a very intense modern post-rock band in wolf’s clothing. As my own devil’s advocate I would part ways by suggesting, if that was the case they’d still have done an incredible job regardless of how you’d label it.
My recommendation for this release should be somewhat unexpectedly high due to my general disinterest in post-black metal but I believe the cumulative experience of ‘Patterns in Mythology’ nearly breaches the thin shell of the atmospheric black metal ‘genre entry’ and creates something inductive and accessible for newcomers, an exemplar piece to gauge further interest off of; Thus my recommendation is reasonably high despite being unlikely to personally indulge in its graces a great deal until their next release rolls in. Time will tell. For preview purposes I’d recommend the two lengthiest and most dynamic pieces on the record starting with opener “Weapons of Refusal” and then jumping over to the very heavy rock intro to “Last Empty Tradition” for the very best of the experience.
Breathe again the air uncorrupted. 4.0/5.0
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