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This is Falls of Rauros's third full length album and by far the most impressive release that they have put out. While the production quality still maintains vestiges of amateurism (befitting the howling vocals and reverb-heavy guitars), the songwriting itself renders the album capable of sitting among some of North America's and Europe's greater black/folk masterpieces.
The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood contains three lengthy black metal songs spaced apart by acoustic passages. The black metal is violently beautiful and violently sorrowful, made so by the clash of melodic guitars and horror-filled howls, dying into and being reborn from deep, thoughtfully written dual acoustic guitar parts. Throughout the album a sense of progressiveness is kept up--and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word, not as a reference to the annoyance sweeping the world of death metal; melodies that continue to move forward toward a tantalizing, grandiose climax, never allowed to become stagnant. That climax comes toward the end of "Silence", the band having performed a remarkable feat of not letting any song or passage from the rest of the album feel complete until this second to last song has reached its peak.
The lyrics are fairly standard for bands of the atmospheric/neofolk/Cascadian vein: furious denouncements of humanity's destruction of the Earth and wishful dreams of atavism. Now, "standard" shouldn't imply a lack of originality; I'm always interested in reading a new lyricist's take on the subject, and am often blown away by their method of articulating their feelings. My reaction to Falls of Rauros's lyrics was somewhere in the middle of amazement and passiveness. On the one hand there are magnificent pieces of poetry along the lines of "Our linear perception closes doors, strangles the truth, subdues the primal in all that lives", while on the other hand the vocalist offer a couple of angsty outbursts like "I don't believe you, I will not listen to a single fucking word" which could have easily been replaced by lines much more thoughtful and equally effective.
Altogether this is a very solid, moving release that undoubtedly reigns over the band's first and second albums. Falls of Rauros is still active and I am beyond excited to see what they produce next.
The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood belongs to the many albums of contemporary black metal on which nature and atmosphere are in the main focus, and where influences are gathered from a wider spectrum that just the usual Burzums, meaning that one may find big doses of experimental song progressions and professional musicianship instead of purely primitive hammering into a scruffy four-track. Black/folk metal names like Shroud of Despondency, Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Fen, Wodensthrone, October Falls and Alcest are easy to drop in regard to Falls of Rauros’ third full-length that is very similar in spirit and overall aesthetics.
That said, one can spot the post-rock qualities right in the beginning of the album as ”Earth’s Old Timid Grave” kicks in with richly detailed acoustic guitars, developing heavier with the inclusion of reverberating, Red Sparowes esque electric guitars. ”Banished” and ”Awaiting the Fire of Flood That Awakes It” are responsible for the most of the album’s metal, running for almost 25 minutes together, providing relatively ’complex’ and versatile compositions yet never forgetting the importance of emotion and natural flow. On the latter of the two, I can’t help but to compare its lead melody pattern to Disillusion’s Back to Times of Splendor. ”Nonesuch River Chant” is a brief acoustic interlude after which ”Silence” begins, the last metal piece of the album, and it’s as well done as the previous ones. Fittingly, ”The Cormorants Shiver on Their Rocks” concludes the album in grandiose melodies that comprise e.g. pianos and chanting male vocals in the background.
Undoubtedly, The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood wasn’t an easy record to concieve as it sounds so very well done in all aspects, including the natural yet rich production. The riffs are all full of emotion, not to forget the convincingly delivered screams. The record’s only proper fault resides in its unsurprising style that ultimately brings nothing new to the table. Everything is epic as hell and so be it, it works after all, but I’m left with a feeling of wanting to hear something more daring and original from an album that ends up being very close to its influences. If you haven’t got enough of albums in this vein, please do check out The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood because it is indeed very well done. Those who are already replete with their The Malediction Fields and Diadem of 12 Stars might not spot anything outstandingly refreshing here.
3.5 / 5
[ http://www.vehementconjuration.com/ ]
I stumbled over Falls of Rauros by sheer chance and I'm surprised I hadn't heard of them before. In their style of atmospheric, folk-influenced melodic black metal, FoR are not very different from their compatriots in Cascadia (Echtra, Fauna, Wolves in the Throne Room), the West Coast (Oskoreien, Petrychor) or Kentucky (Panopticon) and their lyrics express similar ideas and themes: anger, frustration and sorrow at the damage humans have done to their environments around the planet, a mixture of despair and hope about what is to follow, and a yearning for a better future for humans in which we rediscover our connection to nature, the cosmos and to one another.
The album divides into six tracks of which three are short instrumentals and the other three are long songs, each over 9 minutes in length, with lyrics. "Earth's Old Timid Grace" is a languid instrumental of acoustic and electric guitars that establishes the melancholy mood of the recording; a clear melody is established about halfway through the piece. Suddenly the music dives straight into "Banished", the first of the sung tracks, a smart work mixing a melodic post-rock style with black metal guitar elements and a furious roaring vocal lamenting the demise of humanity and the loss of what made us good being replaced by violence and ruin, and expressing hope for a better future. Although the song's main task is to carry the angry vocals and lyrics, the music itself lacks emotion and atmosphere and is at odds with the singing in that respect - it needs more black metal to convey the anger and sorrow expressed in the vocals.
"Awaiting the Fire or Flood that awakes it" begins with an extended folk/flamenco-influenced acoustic-guitar tune that is joined by trilling black metal guitars and then by the whole barrage of melodic guitar riffs, deep bass rhythms and busy percussion. As before, the singing, drenched in reverb and set far back in the mix, is angry and blurry and lead guitar solos dominate the track. The song works best though when black metal and folk elements and related aspects are brought in for dramatic and emotional effect.
After the second short instrumental which basically acts as a long intro, "Silence" comes onto the scene with strong urgent rhythms and lead guitar melodies. The lyrics are howls of despair after the hope that was expressed in "Awaiting ..." and the song alternates between surging waves of black metal / post-rock guitar riffs and soft mournful acoustic-guitar melodies. Twinkle-star effects are sometimes heard. The song slides into "The Cormorants shiver on their Rocks", essentially an extended coda anchored by a repeating melody loop on acoustic and electric guitars.
By themselves, the vocal tracks are not nearly as powerful and distinctive as they could be: the warmth of the music and its self-assuredness don't match the anger and passion of the singing and lyrics. There really should be more aggression in the music with more showers of black metal guitar noise rather than break-outs of lead guitar soloing. The short instrumental pieces as a group are better than the longer tracks considered together as they express sorrow and resignation for the human condition and its downfall. On an album like this, expressing highs and lows in emotion as the lyrics rail against humanity's idiocy in despoiling the environment and coming to the brink of extinction, then clutch at straws of hope and then fall into depression and despair, I think musical Sturm-und-Drang are called for. As there are many US black metal bands interested in post-apocalyptic themes and playing atmospheric music with many influences from native and foreign folk musics and post-rock, the danger for FoR is that without a very strong and expressive style of music that can dive from one emotional extreme to another and back to match the lyrics and voice, the band will lose itself in a huge sea of generic sound-alikes.
The so-called ‘atmospheric’ blackmetal seems to be right on track lately. Falls Of Rauros with their tolkien-ish name and their pagan beliefs return, three years after the amazing “Hail Wind And Hewn Oak” record, to preach against the modern werstern civilization that leads this planet straight to extermination.
In “The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood”, they choose to keep the lengthy tracks, only this time fewer in number (just three), which combined with another three short interludes limit the record’s running time but gain in consistency. With the guitars always in blackmetal motifs and the melodic bridges enhancing the folk aspects of the music (in the veins of pioneers Agalloch), the changing of rhythms (from slow to mid-tempo and backwards) and mood give a narrative tone to the compositions of F.O.R. And peaks such the one near the end of “Banished” (“one day we’ll build upon the ruins of this dead world”) can at times send thrilling chills through the spine.
This record is equally addressed to blackmetallers and followers of the folk/atmospheric (but not pseudo-gothic!) sounds. And now, with the substantial coming of autumn, load it in whatever portable music player you possess, head for an evening walk through your nearest park and feel the odor of damp wood emerge. Maybe returning to nature isn’t such a naive option anymore?
Originally written for:
The word “folk” immediately will evoke several pictures in your head, covering the whole bandwith of possible sounds. It could sound like the tacky troll in the woods right up to pure melancholic touch with nature. I think nearly everybody has enough of the first possible variant and so everybody should cheer when I tell you, that Falls Of Rauros are serving the second one. The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood offers a good mixture of black and folk metal, although the focus may lay on the folk passages.
The introduction is a folky one, with a huge load of melancholy and it’s named Earth’s Old Timid Grace. This introduction directly reveals the best part of the record: Those melancholic, folky acoustic passages, without vocals but with gentle drum patterns. All tracks on this record follow some kind of natural stream which means, that you can easily follow the progression and that there are no edges/stylistic inconsequencies. The negative aspect of this is, that sometimes the structures are really predictive and therefore a bit verbose.
Falls of Rauros tried to make the songs as varied as possible, without disturbing this natural stream of composition. The black metal tracks are pending between calm/melancholic passages and passages that are full of power, without evolving to pure frenzy. The lead melody is contrasting the general sound of the songs, as it is strangely warm. The interspersed acoustic passages are adding a somewhat mystic touch which enhances the comparision with Agalloch.
Even the small instrumental passages, or interludes if you want to call them so, especially Nonesuch River Chant, are integrating nearly seamless. Their calm acoustic execution invites you to dream a bit and they are the most immersive parts of the whole record. Those moments are, at least in my opinion, the core of the record and they surpass the black metal passages easily. The production itself is quite good, only the vocals are a bit to quiet and maybe have a little to much reverb in them.
The second output of the americans is a really good example of how to compose a folk black metal album. Purely intense acoustic passages are combined with melancholic screams and a tight wall of guitar sounds to form nearly 44 minutes of listening pleasure. The six songs of the record could easily have been one really long and intense song, as the transitions between the tracks are nearly seamless. Therefore, the record itself follows the same natural stream as the tracks and so there is no stylistic inconsistency which could destroy the illusion. This is, as well as in the tracks itself, positive on the one hand, negative on the other. It demonstrates, that Fall of Rauros really know how to write good songs, but at the same time it’s a bit predictably from time to time. If you want to escape the fury of standard black metal, and want to escape the forlorn urban landscapes, you should risk an ear, as well as everyone who likes Agalloch.
Originally written for http://threnodies.com
Folk metal is a hit-or-miss genre for me. While most folk metal bands that have incorporated melodic death metal influences in them have largely been personally enjoyable, bands and albums with a pure folk metal sound such as Skyclad or Korpiklaani have never attracted me at all. Falls of Rauros is one that has fused elements of both black metal and folk metal together and The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood is the result, a 45-minute epic journey.
Having an album artwork that resembles that of bands like Shroud of Despondency has certainly helped to pique my interest in the music, being a fan of the aforementioned band, and once the album starts playing, it is comforting that Falls of Rauros does not disappoint. Right from the opening track Earth's Old Timid Grace, the prominence and importance of acoustic instruments such as the acoustic guitars in the music as per many folk metal bands, is evident. The chords played on the acoustic guitars, accompanied by the slow pace of the drums and the eventual introduction of a melodic lead electric guitar line with a warm tone, provides for a soothing introduction to Falls of Rauros.
With one final strum on the electric guitar, the listener is introduced to Banished, a 11 minute track that displays yet another of the many faces of the band shown thus far. The repetitive riffs played by the instrumental section provides the foundation on which the songs on The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood are written on, as the vocals, bleak, desolate and reeking of raw emotions, instantly reminds listeners of bands like Summoning, though Falls of Rauros tends to lean more towards the black metal side of the spectrum. Variations in the vocals are also utilised accordingly, with whispers occasionally used to emphasise the emotions that the band is trying to relate to listeners.
The fat and warm tone of the lead guitar throughout the album, along with the sad and emotional notes pulled out of the strings, while nothing fancy or showy, fit the overall ambience and atmosphere of the album. Acoustic guitars are also often utilised, at times reminding listeners of Opeth's acoustic outputs in their later career, such as on Awaiting the Fire or Flood that Awakes It. The bass guitars on the album also aren't neglected, with the heavy rumbling tone, providing the dark undertones, further enhancing the experience of the songs, such as on Banished. The drums also at times display technical brilliance, despite the usual slow and relaxed pace that Falls of Rauros tends to travel at. However, mostly it feels as if the aim of the band weren't to show off any of the individual members' talents, but rather to have the listener experience the music as one huge melting pot without breaking down the music into individual instruments.
The band's songwriting capabilities are also not to be undermined as most tracks on the album range in the 10 minute region, yet are capable of keeping the listener enchanted throughout. Even the interlude Nonesuch River Chant fits so well with the tracks before and after it that the entire album sounds as if it were one long track rather than 6 individual tracks, with the band going from one style to another in a smooth flow.
While the black metal influences are obvious in the music, what made The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood such a wonderful experience are the beautiful melodies that have been incorporated in the music and the seeming lack of sense of urgency in the pace of the music with an almost childlike innocence (at least in terms of melody), giving one a relaxing listening experience, a welcome change from the usual uptight and aggressive atmosphere and mood that black metal bands tend to emit.
Bindrune Recordings has become the de facto imprint for rustic and largely original sounds within the black and doom metal spectrums, from the more minimal and ritual (Blood of the Black Owl), to the Midwestern dalliances of Shroud of Despondency or Obsequiae; even spanning the ocean to the glorious traditional charge of British Wodensthrone. Falls of Rauros would not be the first time the label has visited the backwoods of New England, having released the full-length debut of New Hampshire's Cold Northern Vengeance a few years back. But they now expand this Northeastern grasp to the temperate mountains and forestry of beautiful Maine, with The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood, an effort appropriately nurtured into the North Appalachian climate and wilderness.
As this is a folk/black metal hybrid, acoustics play an important role, and to be truthful they also provide some of my favorite moments on the album. Brooding, lower ranged patterns are spiced up with sullen ambiance of the "Nonesuch River Chant" or the tempered grace of closer "The Cormorants Shiver on their Rocks", but they're also interspersed with longer pieces "Awaiting the Fire or Flood that Awakes It" or the primal river-flow of "Silence". These are fused with a powerfully produced wall of polished distortion and sailing, sorrowborn melodies that are at heart simple, but effective enough for the emotional needs of the listener; and a long, drawn vocal snarl that focuses on the quality of its internal pains rather than a quantity of syllabic throughput. The two centerpieces ("Banished", "Awaiting the Fire or Flood...") do suffer from a sense of bloat, but they're coherent enough and sequenced through enough mild shifts in tempo that one never becomes exceedingly bored when listening.
The album also sounds enormous, not hidden in the caverns or hollows of the landscape like a recluse, but straight in your face like a rush of autumn winds beating at the tree-line. There are numerous periods of errant despair contrasted with passionate swells, almost as if this record were an arboreal tide, a gray and green lattice of the Earth's sadness, wept out through the centuries of blood and loss. That said, I can't say that the metallic tracks here were exceedingly memorable or immersive enough that I'd continue to return to the album's coniferous eaves. I rather enjoyed the acoustics more than the distorted riffs, and though the vocals pulled their weight of lamentation, I felt that the writing (especially the longer tracks) was predictable and passable in spots. Nonetheless, this is still a decent record, obvious effort was expended in its creation, and fans of the Bindrune roster or the territorially opposite Cascadian black metal scene will find something rich and familiar here.