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As the album opens up with the smooth sounds of nature—the chirping of wild birds, a stream of water in the distant, etc—you close your eyes and imagine a great land of mountains and forests, full of green wonders. Soon, epic folk music fills the scene, and as the drums force their way into the atmosphere, you can already suspect that this uncertain mood will soon shift into the real content of “Into The Archaic.”
This is the first and only album that I’ve listened to by Falls of Rauros, and I can only say that this album has quite an interesting take on black metal. When I first listened to “Into the Archaic”, I was really puzzled. Many of the songs have several melodies all playing simultaneously, and if you hear it the first time (such as myself), you will have no idea what’s going on. For example, several different tunes literally collide with one another right around the fifth minute mark of the third track, “Contemplation of the Forgotten,” and it feels like the song is completely unfocused; I think it would even be appropriate to label it as a bit chaotic. Nonetheless, after I listened to the album again and again to experience this bizarre composition, the entangled mess gradually (and fortunately) grew on me. In just about every song, there are quite a lot of things going on. The songs are constantly shifting, progressing, and the atmosphere switches multiple phrases per song. In each one of these different “phrases,” the band members will typically switch the lead instrument from the typical blistering black metal electric guitars to soft, folk metal acoustic passages. For the most part, two phrases will go in and out in cycles, of which the genre will switch between black metal and folk metal. And this sinusoidal interaction eventually causes a buildup in the songs, leading to something much more complex….
As we journey into the later parts of the songs, we encounter some very unique riffs and melodies. Mainly, there is a lot of mixing of the two aforementioned phrases. These new “mixed” phrases usually occur toward the end of each song, just after the epic build up that takes place during most of the song. We also get a greater emphasis on the vocals in these mixed sections, since most of the time the vocalist either sounds very distant (which I find very authentic in terms of atmosphere), or he simply isn’t around. Also, these mixed parts are where we really see the convergence of several different melodies, usually being played by a bunch of acoustics all at once. And when they’re playing all of this, it actually works! This band somehow managed to fuse everything together without creating a huge disaster. In fact, what surprises me more is that no matter how many different riffs and melodies appear in this album, they are all relatively fresh and catchy, and few to none of them are redundant or generic. The atmospheres generated by the clash of these melodies is something nearly indescribable; it always feels so primitive, raw, and “black metal,” if you will. Yet the album still manages to conserve its folk metal influences, and delivers it accordingly in the acoustic passages. With all of that said, I feel the urge to state that Falls of Rauros had remarkable songwriting abilities on this album that truly makes them stand out.
Overall, I won’t go into detail with anything else, because all you really need to know before you get this album has already been said: “Into the Archaic” is a mix of folk and black metal (to the extreme), with varying emotions scattered throughout the album (ranging from sad to cheerful), and an atmosphere created by the use of multiple, raw melodies, with an ideal black metal production that makes it all seem like you’re really there in a forest listening to a live band. Furthermore, if you like folk metal at all, you will love this band. However, if you’re one of the “trve” black metalists, beware that this isn’t the average black metal played by the modern Darkthrone clones; this is something completely new. And by completely new I mean they’re not even European. These guys are American, and they actually seem to know what they’re doing in black metal (about time, America!).
And one last thing for those of you who managed to read to the end of this review: if you’re going to go search these guys up online or at the nearest store to buy this album, you might want to stop right where you are, because if you didn’t know already, this album is for FREE! Yes folks, the album is for free on Falls of Rauros’s MySpace page. Give it a try; you’ve got nothing to lose!
‘Into The Archaic’ is, first and foremost, an astonishing hybrid of black and folk metal. With a sound that could be compared to modern day greats such as the Canadian Gods Gris, this American act are slowly but surely lighting up the scene with their modern take on two genres which are by no means strangers to one another. Falls Of Rauros, who name is taken from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", however like to describe their music, “North Appalachian Heathen Black Folk Metal”. Considering this stunning sight, it’s hard to fathom why Falls Of Rauros haven’t received more attention. Perhaps this is due to the often ridiculed state of North American black metal which, in my opinion, is as strong as any of the leading European countries and Europe, as a continent. One might even consider bands like Falls Of Rauros pioneers in the field due to records like ‘Into The Archaic’. It’s powerful and often picturesque sounds, due mainly to those folk inspired elements, spread like wildfire throughout the body of the individual listener, infecting them with the marvellous Falls Of Rauros sound. As expected, there are some sections of this record that are portrayed in a familiar manner, but more so often than not, Falls Of Rauros should be considered somewhat avant-gardé and experimental, especially in terms of the soundscapes on offer, which are blessed by the dark and dense production, which may appear slightly lo-fi. However, instrumentation isn’t affected negatively at all, take songs like ‘The Winter Harvest’ for example, elements like bass, which are often overshadowed in the black metal industry, are highlighted and given primary roles.
The sheer amount of twists and turns that this record implements on it’s audience is the most eye catching quality that the record possesses. First, I’m a big fan of album art work. It will often attract me to a band, which it did on this occasion. The art work, which consists of a photograph of a stunning landscape by a lake, or perhaps river with trees in the background, is apt in portraying, through visual aids, what this record could possibly be about. Although the art work may seem somewhat clichéd, with it’s black and white take on this hybrid act, the instrumentation itself makes up for this fact. Falls Of Rauros are a band that consists of two members, both of which the audience has no idea what specifically is their job on the record. Both musicians are highly skilled in song writing, layering the instrumentation down in a way that makes it both accessible and fresh sounding with each song that twines it’s emotiveness around the audience like a boa constrictor readying it’s prey which is to be devoured. Atmospherically, ‘Into The Archaic’ is divine. The acoustics, dual vocals and intriguing production all add certain depths to the soundscapes which enhances the quality of the material. Even elements of the music like bass aren’t overpowered by the distortion used by the guitars, which is much lighter than expected. Once again, as with a lot of the great black metal records, ‘Into The Archaic’ ventures into the world of negative emotions with it’s head held high and confidently shows us, the audience, the power and prowess of the musicians on offer as Falls Of Rauros prepare us for a contagious and often infectious debut release.
One must acknowledge the acquired taste of such a record because ‘Into The Archaic’ will not suit the needs of every black or folk metal fan. This record is about breaking boundaries and setting new targets for the followers of both these genres, both individually and collectively. In terms of the guitar work, Falls Of Rauros don't opt for your standard tremolo assault, oh no. Instead, the band explores different tempos and allows a more accessible sound to seep through the beautifully sad soundscapes with varied instrumentation. On occasions, the bass will take centre stage, on other occasions, the often unrelenting double bass work will proceed to maul the audience with wave after wave of attacks. The standards are high, especially in terms of the folk inspired work present on this record. First, Falls Of Rauros primarily explore the realms of black metal which often lay hidden due to their experimental nature. The vocals, of course, are black metal inspired rasps, conjuring up the bleakest of emotions from sadness to sorrow and all connotations of those two words. The vocals, primarily, serve as an aggressive outlet as they tend to do in black metal music, this is an aspect which serves to showcase the negative connotations that infect the record like an illness around the immune system. Although there is a variation of vocals, which includes whispered clean vocals, the rasps tend to dominate the soundscapes, especially during the sections with a faster tempo. Thankfully, this record doesn’t rely too heavily of primal black metal aspects to carry the emotive nature of the record. Instead, ‘Into The Archaic’ blends traditional elements of black metal music, particularly in terms of percussion, which reminds me of bands of yesteryear, and combines these traditional elements with modern day aspects, like acoustics, clean vocals and brilliantly portrayed soundscapes, using varied textures and tones on guitar effects, as songs like ‘Retracting Our Lineage’ indicate superbly. Highly recommended.