Falloch unfurl majestic wonder on ‘Where Distant Spirits Remain’

Leaves are about to get crispy here on the East Coast of the United States. The evenings already are refreshingly chilly, zip-up sweatshirts have returned, and pumpkin beers are on the market. It’s the time when, as far as I’m concerned, nature is at its apex. It doesn’t get better than this, and I tend to dig into woodsy metal when autumn comes calling.

This is a time when bands such as Agalloch, Alcest, Primordial, Ulver and Woods of Ypres creep back into my collection, and while all of those bands don’t pay tribute to nature (in fact, only Agalloch explicitly do that), their styles make for smooth consumption these days. But a new band Falloch emerged from Scotland that shares the same philosophies and styles as the aforementioned groups, and their debut album “Where Distant Spirits Remain” not only will be one that remains in heavy rotation for me the next few months, but in subsequent years, this will be on the list of go-to records once the trees start changing colors. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Falloch’s style is described as post-black metal and folk metal, as those labels certainly fit, and their music is decidedly gorgeous. Yeah, I know it probably isn’t cool to tag a new metal band with that description, but can you not say the same about Agalloch, Alcest, Primordial? It’s OK to be more sensitive, and Falloch certainly address that side and let you fawn over the majesty unfurling when you simply look at a pocket of woods, a rushing stream or a lawn full of orange, red and brown leaves. This music fully engulfs you and fills you with wonder, and I found my blood surging many, many times when listening to this record. Funny, I did see some reviews elsewhere that derided this band for being labeled as metal because the music doesn’t fit into their rigid little window of what the genre entails. Don’t be so pigheaded, kids. You’ll miss out on an amazing record if you snub your nose at delicacy and melody, all of which are present in full.

What also stuns me about Falloch is this band is but a duo, which is amazing when hearing how full-bodied and dynamic this sounds. Andy Marshall and Scott McLean create something that sounds like six or seven people would be needed to achieve, and the vocals are clean, soulful and emotional, never reaching into growls or shrieks (other than over the chorus of “Where We Believe”) that most other bands of this ilk employ in abundance. That also gives “Where Distant Spirits Remain” a unique voice, because it seems so few bands are confident enough to just sing and use the ability with which they were gifted. Yeah, maybe it comes off as less brutal, but this music doesn’t sound intended to be savage in the first place.

Here’s where I’m contradicted, by the way. While Falloch’s music, to me, sounds best in the autumn, this duo has frost and snow on their minds. So we’re not in agreement on seasons, but it’s their music, so I guess I’m the one who’s wrong. Oh well. The band said that “Beyond Embers and the Earth,” a heart-stopping epic that begins aggressively before melting into gothy/poppy passages and folk whistles, was inspired by the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands during winter, and you can hear in this track how inspired and moved they were by the landscape. Opener “We Are Gathering Dust” has nice acoustic flourishes dancing behind the harder-edged stuff here, and the song eventually trickles out into babbling water and ambiance. “The Carrying Light” gets into some progressive rock and metal while also allowing in some shoegazey guitar squall to put the edge on this bloodletting, throbbing track that could be labeled a ballad; and “To Walk Amongst the Dead” has plenty of traditional folk in its mix and its lush for the most part, but the tempo and volume rise and caterwaul near its conclusion, making it a sweeping, surging song that’s nothing short of awesome.

Falloch officially, from just this album, are one of my favorite new bands. I could gush on and on, but why bore you with all of that? I love this style of metal, and I’m already setting some time aside Saturday afternoon to take this in again while I have some lovely brews. If you let yourself get caught up in “Where Distant Spirits Remain,” my guess is you’ll be hooked as well. It’ll give you a head rush, cause your heart to swell and connect you more spiritually with what’s going on outside. And OK, I’ll concede, maybe the winter is just as good a setting for these songs as autumn. Whenever you listen, prepare to be infected by one hell of a new band that should set the standard for post-black metal and atmospheric folk metal in the future.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.falloch.com/

To buy “Where Distant Spirits Remain,” go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=1045

For more on the label, go here: http://candlelightrecordsusa.com/

Fleshgod Apocalypse push orchestral interests over the top on ‘Agony’

If you were into the first full-length and follow-up EP by Italian tech-death band Fleshgod Apocalypse, get ready to have your expectations shattered. In a good way or a bad way? That kind of depends on what you like in your death metal.

While always a band that relished in adding classical flourishes to their music, they really go full bore into orchestration on “Agony,” a record that certainly stands apart from “Oracles” and “Mafia,” both of which were released by Willowtip. The band moved to Nuclear Blast for this effort, and it sounds like they really put their money where their mouths are, beefing up the sound, adding a ton more dramatics, and overloading the thing with synth-lead symphonics. It’s an incredible-sounding album, one that just explodes from your speakers or headphones. But is it for you?

Most of the reaction I’ve seen to the record has been favorable, and I happen to really like the album and the changes that they made. It makes Fleshgod Apocalypse kind of stand out in the tech-death community and also cements them as one of the sub-genre’s most exciting bands. But there have been naysayers as well because, you know people. A band just can’t change without hand-wringing. And I understand that, too, even if I tend to have little patience with people who can’t handle when a group changes things up a bit, and as long as they don’t go too far from their core sound (um, Metallica), what’s the big deal? Let it sink in and maybe you’ll like it.

Anyhow, my review of the new Fleshgod Apocalypse is live over at Lambgoat. Check it out, read how I feel about the changes they made (I’m guessing you probably figured that one out), and look at some of the other stuff going on at Lambgoat. Also, if there’s a band you like who you’re fairly certain has a new record due soon, but you’re just not sure when, their release calendar is pretty comprehensive. Find the link to my review below:

To read the Fleshgod Apocalypse review, go here: http://www.lambgoat.com/albums/view.aspx?id=2941&band=Fleshgod%20Apocalypse&review=Agony

For more on the band, go here: http://www.fleshgodapocalypse.com

To buy “Agony,” go here: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/Search/flesh_god_apocalypse

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblastusa.com