Review: Falls of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial

1400
50
Share:

Falls of Rauros have returned from the wilderness with their fourth full-length album, Vigilance Perennial. From start to finish, they display the confidence of a band with the experience and production resources to keep doing what they do best: create emotionally charged, highly accessible black metal while wearing powerful influences from folk and prog rock on the sleeves of their grass-stained cloaks.

With Agalloch out of action and Wolves in the Throne Room’s last metal album over five years in the past, there’s certainly room atop the tree-covered mountain of nature-centric, post-rock infused black metal (although the like-minded Panopticon unquestionably holds a mighty claim to that territory). Falls of Rauros may come from the wrong Portland – Maine instead of Oregon – but that has certainly never blunted their engagingly melodic and riff-centric take on the sound usually associated with Cascadia. Judging from their publicity materials, the band does not seem entirely comfortable with claiming the black metal tag at this point, and that makes sense given how they’ve constantly mixed that style with mellower influences throughout their discography.

On their latest record, Falls of Rauros continue to embrace the improved production values that emerged on Believe in No Coming Shore while placing even greater emphasis on harmony. The album’s defining characteristic lies in the mesmerizing interplay between guitar, bass, drums, understated keys, and the consistently coarse, anguished howls. All the elements are nicely balanced and clear on the recording, allowing listeners to appreciate fully the expressive array of tones.

for2016

Par for the course with this band, opener “White Granite” kicks things off on a relatively quiet note, a bluesy melody gradually gaining heavy accents from the rhythm section before the distortion kicks in for a section of full-fledged doom with the customary black metal vocals. By the third minute, we have the first signs of blackness in the riffage, albeit overlaid by the kind of rocking lead guitar you’d never hear on a truer band’s album. Things get properly heavy about halfway through the seventh minute, but even then the track remains exceptionally warm in terms of both composition and recording – a statement that this band will continue flying in the face of the hoary conventions of coldness and alienation many still consider essential to black metal as a genre.

That said, second track, “Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes” is more of an unabashed atmospheric black metal piece in the aforementioned Cascadian tradition. Plenty of double bass and tremolo picking show up to reassure the purists Falls of Rauros have not departed from their roots. The intense riffage eventually recedes for a moment, the bass and drums taking the spotlight for an interlude before the guitar returns for a soulful solo leading into a vicious, yet mournful, conclusion.

Next comes the two-minute instrumental break of “Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains,” which is as slight and soothing as you might imagine from the title. At just over two minutes, it’s the only track to clock in under nine. That’s just long enough for listeners to pop a fresh bottle of their favorite microbrew before “Arrow & Kiln” hits hard with a battery of blast beats. The riffs alternate between blackened aggression and folky hooks, and there’s even room for a full-on prog-folk jam toward the track’s midpoint. The rhythm section maintains a propulsive undercurrent as the clean guitar chords develop into another killer lead. Drums and bass again get some room to breathe, each taking over momentarily during a transitional section before guitar and vocals come roaring back once more. In these moments, the band fully reveals the power of its dynamic arrangements, working in tandem with the cleanness and clarity of the production.

Closer “Impermanence Streakt Through Marble” introduces a clean guitar melody backed by the drums and bass, retaining the minor chords as they are joined by a distorted black metal riff and blasting. The juxtaposition nicely sums up the band’s approach, resolving into a section of driving, yet atmospheric black metal until the proceedings are broken up by another tastefully prog-flavored guitar solo. The vocals reach their greatest urgency as the record wraps up with a compelling combination of tunefulness, dexterous picking, and pounding rhythms.

for2016-2

At this point, we’ve all heard countless bands joining elements of folk, post-rock, and prog with various forms of metal. If that sort of melange has never moved you, this album probably won’t be the one to change your mind. However, there are two aspects to set Falls of Rauros apart from many of their peers. One is a strong appreciation for the pleasures of a mid-tempo groove drawn from doom metal. The other is a studied understanding of how dynamic songwriting and production make either a haunting harmony or a brutal assault hit the listener with far greater force.

The band has refined its approach with each album but never changed direction. The time may be right for that consistency to achieve greater recognition, with Vigilance Perennial serving as a gateway for a wider audience of serious metal aficionados and more casual appreciators of black metal’s friendlier side alike.

4 OUT OF 5 FLAMING TOILETS OV HELL

NEW_TOILETSCALE_4_of_5


Vigilance Perennial is due out March 31 on CD/LP/Digital formats via Bindrune Recordings in the U.S. and Nordvis in Europe. Pre-order at the following:

NORTH AMERICA: https://thecollectivedistro.com/
EUROPE: https://www.nordvis.com/falls-of-rauros-a-7
DIGITAL: https://fallsofrauros.bandcamp.com/

  • Joaquin Stick

    Believe in No Coming Shore is my jam, can’t wait to hear something off this one! The way you describe it, I’ll be more than pleased.

    • Dr. K

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure if you liked the last one, you’ll like this one. Only problem with that is, for me, that’s one of the hardest kinds of albums to come up with a final rating for in a review.

      • Joaquin Stick

        Agreed, even if it’s really good, if it’s more of the same, you kinda expect it? I save my 4.5 – 5 range for things that totally catch me off guard.

  • Eliza

    You mentioned Aglloch, which means I will listen to this.

  • JWG79

    “associated with Cascadia” = the right way to put it.

    Calling something Cascadian Black metal when it’s not from the geographic (or at least extended ecological) region just feels wrong to someone from ‘here’. And I know the counterargument goes “yeah but French Canadian Black Metal” isn’t a subgenre, so why let CBM get away with it.

    Well, because it’s actually not a subgenre label. It’s supposed to be a descriptor much like you actually would say a band from Northern Quebec actually is a French Canadian Black Metal Band (unless they’re inexplicably lost-in-the-wilderness Anglos).

    Just because some music critics and writers lost track of the distinction and attached it as a subgenre label doesn’t make it right no matter how well-respected they might be. Just because a bunch of Greek, Italian, and Argentinian bands tagged themselves “cascadian black metal” on Bandcamp doesn’t make it so, either.

    Subgenre: atmospheric black metal. Fits article subject.

    Descriptor: Cascadian. Doesn’t.

    See Also:

    http://cascadia.wiki/images/thumb/1/11/Cascadia_map2.svg/300px-Cascadia_map2.svg.png

    • Dr. K

      You make a good point, and obviously I made sure to tiptoe around this issue, but the thing is, if you just say “atmospheric” I’m thinking Burzum, but if you say “Cascadian” I’m thinking Agalloch – and one is a lot closer than the other in this case.

      • JWG79

        But then, Agalloch make things more complicated by being from the region, but some members being on record as being against being pigeonholed by what the phrase has come to mean (rather than the nuanced combination of location and inspiration).

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt

      How do you feel about Thousand Island dressing?

      • Óðinn

        It tastes good, but is quite unhealthy. I only have it on a rare occasion.

    • Óðinn

      They’re from Portland, bro. 😉

      • Black Smallbeard

        lol

      • JWG79

        I think it’s a complex balance of the two, but not one that can be reduced to formula.

        Except to say that to me CBM isn’t just about nature. It’s more evocative of a deep sense of belonging within pacific northwest that is hard to articulate fully. Bands not from here nearly get it, but (IMHO) not nearly enough to be correlated.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          “General Portland Or Seattle Area Black Metal”

          doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely

      • Vault Dweller

        Yes, but not Portland Oregon; they’re from Portland Maine. Thus, calling them Cascadian by region is a no-go.

        Portland (OR) copied their name from the one in Maine.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Honestly, Cascadian BM is a far more accurate descriptor here than just atmospheric bm. It’s the term that has become associated with this particular style, amd eventually as the style spreads, will lose it’s regional meaning – unless another term replaces it.
      Necropole is a French bm band, but the style they play is so distinctly Finnish, they’re a French band playing Finnish black metal.
      It’s a matter of conveying a point and describing sound.

      • Black Smallbeard

        also Necropole rules . . . but the french have been aping the finns since the second wave. sometimes i even like it better.

        but i dont think necropole calls themselves French Finnish BM

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          I doubt they do it themselves, only most reviews and/or descriptions I’ve read have. And it applies to the raw-but-melodic kind of black metal in general, you’ll run to it every now and then.

          • Black Smallbeard

            what i call “the good stuff”

    • Patrick Bertlein

      Absolutely agree, the music is a response to the region itself, the sound is a reflection of the environment. A band can have a similar sound, but if they are merely copying it without being inspired by whatever their local flora and fauna is, they are missing the point.

      The guy from Fauna actually came up with the term.

  • InfinityOfThoughts

    Very excited for this. Believe in No Coming Shore was fantastic. I haven’t been able to catch them live yet but hopefully some shows pop up when the album is released.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    *Pagliacci intensifies*

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt

      You betcha!

    • -trees n’ boners black metal-

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt

    *BOIIIIIIIINNNNG*

    • Joaquin Stick

      Forgot to thank you for the Blizz at Sea the other day. You the best.

      • Pagliacci is Kvlt

        Hope you enjoy the album as much as I do.

        • Joaquin Stick

          I never actually got all the way through it until yesterday. That 22-minute behemoth is siiiick.

          • Pagliacci is Kvlt

            I love that song. The way they worked the movie samples together is brilliant. And dat organ.

  • Óðinn

    Black Metal with no gimmicky racism. Thanks, Jason Kolkey.

  • Ryan Levitation

    Vigilance Perennial, not Vigilance Eternal. These guys always write profoundly moving stuff that sounds similar to Cascadian but captures the essence of this cold northeastern part of the country. Looking forward to this immensely.

    • Dr. K

      Certainly just as subject to a typo as anyone else and definitely noticed one in the copy … but this is not one I see …

  • Black Smallbeard

    welll . . . . except we know Wolves is active and we should have a new album from them soon. And Agalloch may be no more but Brony Superstar John Haughms new album just came out

    • Joaquin Stick

      The other dudes from Agalloch just signed their band Khorada (sp?) to a label. Hoping that turns out well.

    • Patrick Bertlein

      Yeah I think that kind of proves the point, Pillorian will very unlikely have anything resembling a “Cascadian” sound, more like Norwegian from the 90’s.

  • Óðinn
  • Waynecro

    Nice review, Kolkey! Thanks a bunch!

  • Count_Breznak

    Forget peak Lovecraft, it’s peak trees’n’shit.

  • Óðinn

    New album by The Obsessed, bitches.

    https://youtu.be/BiQofYI7K7w

  • You mentioned Falls of Rauros, which means I will listen to this.