FALLS OF RAUROS – Key to a Vanishing Future (2022)REVIEW

The auld, crooked empire crumbling around us and the dementia of witless, calloused survival tacticians resultant offers permanent change for the mind of thee modern individualist whom spares none their shove-aside within the slow motion chaos of impending unravel. Without a future to envision, shape and pass in preparation for the next wave of communion the clotting mass of too-short human lives leaves crater without purpose, a greater void for their coming kin to curl up alone and die within. As the meek continue to inherit purposeless station, so are their minds diseased by a frequently cornered state and to the point of feral devolution. Portland, Maine-based atmospheric post-black metal quartet Falls of Rauros have internalized the great panicked existential weight upon current and future generations in presentation of their sixth full-length album, observing the gamut of their selves and expressing it via six well-condensed forms with some notable, universal appeal. ‘Key to a Vanishing Future‘ speaks loudly as a point of passionate renaissance for the musicians involved as they achieve something aggressively new, a brilliantly engaging collaboration inarguably refreshed by a collective process of internalization and experimentation. Their efforts here should be considered one of, if not the most distinct and engagingly voiced records from the band thus far.

As some of the floatier waves of opener “Clarity” begin to waiver into a Fluisteraars-esque use of tremolo, a sort soft-swerving brush-sticked post-black mannerism wherein movement hints at an impressionistic, sentimental tone before one of the biggest, most gorgeously faceted hooks of this sixth Falls of Rauros full-length floats in natural, euphoric phrase across the middle of the song. But, which one? The implication being that each step and stage of this song’s conversational carry escalates beyond the last as if it were a point of refrain unto an even more intense reveal, gesturing forth with a brilliant clutch of melodic ideas in hand. This sort of poetic, upswinging rambling comes in contrast to the broader-stroked atmosphere of ‘Patterns in Mythology‘ which’d been less musically verbose to some degree. Hitting the ~3:28 minute mark on this piece provides a glass-distorted viewing of ‘Key to a Vanishing Future‘ at its most glowing sort of indie rock/folk metal mused nugget of the anthemic, almost prog-rock side of Falls of Rauros wherein the view seems to stretch on forever in terms of beauteous atmospheric/post-black metal whipped naturalist cinema. In my mind each song afterward is then tasked with matching that level of gracefully bent structure alongside the tone set, which was just as much of a mood as it were a catchy guitar hook, but I’d hold back on expectation as separate scenes with similarly fluid exchanges of ideas follow but little is presaged beyond the curious sensation of sentimentality, surrealism, and high-dramatism occurring at once and from various artistically shot angles.

Sure, if you like heavy and mean-assed black metal per an exclusive identity-bound contract then the heaviest Falls of Rauros record to date still won’t likely be the blizzard’ing beast destined but I do think the additional dips into progressive death metal and a generally more eclectic approach is something musically too strong to deny in witness. Without suggesting I’m on the fence, or troubling folks to pry the maw of their minds a bit wider, the vibe here is restless yet confrontational on even the softest, prettiest pieces and this’ll keep the five-riffs-a-minute or die crowd engaged with the swaying puzzled-together course presented. That doesn’t mean a sort of dark metal trawling song like “Desert of Heart” didn’t dip for me with its iced over cloy and the hug-heavy sweeping of its rhythms but they have balanced some of it with a few sharper edges. The bleary-eyed modern heavy rock guitar refrains of “Survival Poem” (see: ~2:40 minutes in) help to pull together similar use of post-rock meter into one of the more transcendent moments on ‘Key to a Vanishing Future‘ wherein we hear most all of the traits and candor that’ve made this project notable over the years structured into a gloomy indie rock downpour without end; Those old, yet to be de-fleshed bones having animated for the sake making something new (but not entirely unexpected) is sort of my read on the full listen in a nutshell. Not every moment hits for me but the whole of the experience has.

Over on Side B we finally slide into my personal favorite piece on the album “Known World Narrows” as it hits a certain current of weird-jazzing metal air within its second movement’s salvo of riffs, the sort of inquisitive Voivod-ian prog-death metal bounding you’d expect from the longer form songwriting of Krallice but with a blackgazing, half-sped folken post-rock ditty revealed on either side of it. Even when they are cutting into this ‘heaviest’ moment on the album it comes in waves, elevations arriving with their juxtaposition’d lift almost randomly in sections, careening higher by the moment while likewise softening. This ride between realms of sentimentality and edgier, somewhat technical metal bounding is the most profound piece of the lot for my own taste. The almost confused tonality kept me returning to the piece for the sake of identifying and embracing the cuts between scenes which take place throughout the song, and it’d be the one piece to spark some interest in how this song might play out in a live setting and how the crowd’s energy might shift in response. From there the Super 8 captured ride of “Daggers in Floodlight” does get a bit cuddly, sappy in a too-slick jazz-easy kinda way as it drools out but this is a manner of seduction you’ll have already noted in each of these pieces thus far wherein a heavier, more directive movement will eventually turn the entire piece around into a much stronger reveal (see also: Wayfarer). It is the best sort of propaganda, to receive notable compositional detail in stages ’til it serves a single ‘big’ moment and exits by restating itself in deconstructing stages of an additional final form.

Right, so, you’ve gotten the idea then that these are all two or three staged boss fights and this well-stated sense of reveal concentrates the impact of each song to be singularly captivating and this creates little necessity for shared motif beyond relational tones and modes expressed. I mean, man, the bones of the greater beast are wild to pick at -sure- but this is an album for folks looking to be stricken dumbfounded by a dramatic piece of modern music, not black metal hecklers. If feelings of dread, overwhelming anxiety for future Earth, and the damning weight which the exploitation of the past set upon future generations enters your thoughts while listening then you’ve more-or-less gotten the subject of ‘Key to a Vanishing Future‘. The tone of the full listen does successfully depict a tormented, passing beauty in its movements as if to repeatedly hit the edge of our shrinking habitable environs and stare directly into the effective wallop upon the psyche felt in step from overgrown thicket into scarred wasteland. The exuberant ’til gloomed and back again verve of the full listen comes alongside the quartet’s strongest, most directive material to date and in a sense it overacts in the way that an extreme metal album should; The only caveat I’d felt in matching theme, the artists’ breakthroughs, and the music itself was that the sense of dread, the lowness of it all was a bit understated.

Of course it’d be fair to again suggest that Falls of Rauros are selling a modern and progressive post-rock guitar album here, which’d likely not have gelled with me if it wasn’t a weird, kinda fantastical one with an inarguable flair for self-warming dramatism. The wintry pulse and stately delivery of moderne atmospheric proggy post-black metal shouldn’t be understated here, as they’ve created an unique brand of intensity with their delivery but the listener is nonetheless getting an accessible, pure pleasure experience with minimal dreary excess. In the realm of post-black/atmospheric black metal ‘Key to a Vanishing Future‘ is even more pleasantly accessible than expected, wherein a few saccharine moments shouldn’t detract from the strong point of view in hand. It ends up being a record of worthy feature in a growing line of quality from the Maine-based project, I’d felt like they’d ‘gone for it’ here in such a way that it’d been easy to override the usual hesitations on my part for their respective niche. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Key to a Vanishing Future
LABEL(S):Gilead Media,
RELEASE DATE:March 25th, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.