Really special, really important bands don’t come around every day. In fact, they don’t come around every year. Not to whine, but being a writer who is inundated with music every day and only gets to truly know a fraction of the records I hear every year, coming across a band that fundamentally changes your feelings about metal or music in general happens by chance. So any time it does I try to embrace that fully.
A few years ago, I started hearing rumblings about this band FALSE, a group out of Minnesota that was keeping their business well under the shadows, with only the lucky few who witnessed them live even knowing who was behind the madness and understanding the force of this band. The arrival of their untitled debut recording in 2012 already was an anticipated moment for me after everything I had heard from the band from very trusted sources, and the music on that document instantly transformed me into a FALSE believer. Same goes for their contributions to their split effort with Barghest, and finally seeing this band live, where they manage to conjure something brutal, psychologically draining, and absolutely mesmerizing, it all came together for me. Now, with their first full-length in our hands, I can say this without flinching: FALSE is the best black metal band in America, possibly the world, and they are one of the few groups who can stop me dead in my tracks when experiencing their music.
The band still eschews almost all interview requests and does not issue promo photos. Finding their names isn’t impossible, but they’re not exactly out there splashing their social media accounts everywhere. It is clear the focus is on their music, and while, yeah, that whole remaining secretive can be seen as something that actually could draw added attention to FALSE, it doesn’t come off that way. And if you doubt that, tackle this five-track, 60-minute watershed album for domestic metal. People like me whine that too much music sounds so terribly alike. Who cares about that when a group like this can pull off a full-length record with this much ambition, emotion, violence, imagination, and creativity? Those other groups don’t matter. Almost every cut is more than 10 minutes long, and each song grabs you from the start, drags you through fierce twists and turns, and turns you up at the end utterly breathless. A lot of good music has come out this year; plenty more will come. But here’s guessing that matching what FALSE bring on this record won’t be topped, just like their EP from three years ago remains one of the finest metal recordings to come out in all of the 2000s. Period.
“Saturnalia” kicks off the record, letting noise sizzle for a moment before the band launches. Rachel’s vocals wrench and slither, as the band hits panic-inducing sections, portions of synth haze that mixes perfectly into the chaos, and intensity that storms heavily. There is plenty of exploration and emotional tumult as the song develops, crushing you into corners, eventually letting you take a breath, then killing again. As the song reaches its last quarter, Rachel howls, “Give us solace in the moonless sky,” as the music bleeds fury and then your heart reaches a dangerous level. That sets the stage for “The Deluge,” a song you have to hear to believe. It might be the most perfect thing FALSE ever created, and the way they build each layer largely is responsible for that. Out of a synth smog, the song rupture and rambles forward. There is a lot of dark melody weaved into the cut, and Kishel’s keys keep adding depth and texture, the guitars cut pathways, and the vocals scar your flesh. A sort of calm comes over the scene, though you know the clouds are about to break, and when they do, what comes next is an absolute revelation. Guest vocalist Sarah Green’s choral-style singing bursts above Rachel’s growled lines, acting as an emotional tidal wave, a total holy-fucking-shit moment that could be the best recorded metal moment of the year. I know it’s only late May. I know that’s hyperbolic. Hear it and see if I’m wrong. I can’t see what will top that one minute’s time. (If you don’t believe me, check the great Steel for Brains site, who debuted the song this week: http://steelforbrains.com/post/120113434952/the-key-of-passive-suffering-a-conversation-with)
If you need time to breathe and reflect after “The Deluge,” it makes sense, but instead, tumble head-first into an untitled cut that wails into rupturing melodies, with a great dose of blackness afoot, vocals that could lacerate, and some really great guitar work that has a classic metal feel to it. In fact, that happens a few times over the span of this album, which is a good time. The final two minutes of this thing just boil over and give the song a truly epic conclusion. “Entropy” is the longest cut at 15:28, and is it ever a world toppler. It unfurls majestically, with guitars catching fire and then the whole thing blowing apart. Synth sheets rain down, as the rest of the band tangles you in a black metal pretzel, with the vocals unleashed in a tempered manner. There are some murky, moody sections, with their artistic tributaries trickling more slowly. But late in the song, a new sense of intensity and speed is realized, as the band drives the caravan down a canyon wall and through the gates of hell. The vocals strike hard, the music causes thunder claps, and it all fades into an ambient void. Closer “Hedgecraft” runs 13:19, and it opens into melodic punishment and a pace that lets the colors and fires slowly build. The guitar work spirals, while Rachel’s words work to run your face into the gravel, and later they strike the gas pedal again on an assault that could cause you great anxiety. In a good way. The band tears into a smothering Iron Maiden-like gallop as the song goes on, with the vocals piercing and then everything dramatically changing the pace yet again. Every element is brought on heavily, like hot wax being poured from a cauldron, and as the guitars glimmer, the music erupts, and the last gasp of vocals deliver their final messages, the song quickly fades into the night, leaving you a heaving mess in a pool of sweat on the floor.
This first official FALSE record had a ton of anticipation behind it, especially with people like me who are in total awe of the band. Having had the better part of calendar year 2015 to absorb it, I still haven’t uncovered every mystery and fully swung through every curve. This record is an astonishing work of greatness, an album that can be held aloft to show just what the United States has contributed to make metal greater and black metal richer. This is a rare band we don’t hear very often. And this record has the power to knock down cities.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/False/3540332204
To buy the album, go here: http://www.erodingwinds.com/product-category/music/gilead-media-releases/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/