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Short album full of pain, despair and loneliness - 77%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 23rd, 2008

A short album at about 36 minutes but "In the Falling Snow" is ambitious for its size. The music fairly sizzles with melancholic guitar noise as sole ISB member S Holliman painfully groans and grunts the simple and plaintive lyrics. Like much bedroom BM of its kind, the album sounds fairly Burzum-ish with simple programmed drumming that at times is more hindrance than help to the music. Holliman includes quite a lot of synthesiser work to make up for the limitations in this approach to BM including a synth that does an angelic choir on a number of tracks. The music barely strays out of the minimal and repetitive but Holliman combines the raw guitar work, the synthesiser playing and the drumming in ways that can be surprising at times: to take one example, the title track becomes so full of despair with those pained synth tones and Holliman's groaning you feel you can't take any more. Next thing you know, Holliman takes the music to another level by dropping in an effect that gives the music a shaking feel, making it quiver with emotion too deep to describe!

Each succeeding track seems to get a bit darker and more trembly with more of those gnashing vocals which to be honest start to get a bit comic. The one exception is the short and dramatic clean-toned instrumental in the middle of the album which is a welcome airy relief after the heavy plodding rhythms, the laboured vocals and the pained noise textures of previous songs. Then it's back into the fray with "Dreamscapes" which isn't very remarkable and sounds Burzum-wannabe. "Acid Lights" is at least a step up and away with the inclusion of warm synth violins which surprisingly don't make the desolate music and vocals sound any better: the synths actually seem to heighten the pain and the perhaps growing derangement of the vocalist. Later songs retain the leaden rhythms but the keyboard and guitar work becomes grander and more complex. "Our Children Die" may not boast great drumming but there is a long plaintive lead guitar drone tone riff contrasting with the now-rejoicing hobgoblin vocals. The album closes with a sorrowful elegy combining clean but brooding guitar chords and a higher pitched lead noise guitar which are effective in their repetitive duet.

The music has a good sharp and raw sound and if only Holliman could have varied the rhythms more or employed live drumming on some tracks, especially in the album's second half, the guitars would have been boosted by a lot of power which could have helped to amplify the pain and anguish. The mumbling vocals are evil enough but because they tend to rumble beneath the music you're only vaguely aware of them as somewhat cartoonish grumbles. Most tracks tend to end fairly suddenly or fade out quickly which to me is at odds with the often grand music - I usually associate sudden endings with a loss of nerve or uncertainty as to how to end a song decisively.

Lyrics here often have a cryptic quality and on some songs like "These Cold Desires" and "The Lost Man", they have an almost haiku-like quality and require you to interpret them for yourself.

The album's short enough that you can hear it in one sitting which helps to emphasise the unity of the songs though they don't necessarily form a concept. Effect is what is important here and you do come away impressed by the pain, despair and loneliness in the music. Hmm - maybe not something to listen to late at night when you're already feeling lower than low and life seems hopeless and uncaring ...