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The Plague Of A Coming Age - 67%

Buarainech, January 31st, 2014

Despite having garnered more of a name for themselves since October Falls have been off my radar for quite some time- not since their duo of EPs entitled The Streams Of The End and Sarasus in 2007. Since then they've released a handful of well received albums of which The Plague Of A Coming Age is their third, and from what I have gathered they have been mixing the twin styles of Melodic Black/Dark Metal and Acoustic (Neo)Folk from those EPs through all 3. Having not heard them I cannot say for sure, but if ever during October Falls' evolution through the past 6 years this blending may have seemed unnatural or forced then that mountain has well and truly been climbed over now- this is seamless and wonderfully organic-sounding stuff.

There is definite ebbs and flows on this album as it sweeps between a vibe like (a less intense) Primordial on opening instrumental “At The Edge Of An Empty Horizon” to a host of Folk/Black Metal comparisons both past and present like early Ulver and Dornenreich on “Bloodlines”, Gallowbraid plus their countrymen Wyrd on “The Verge Of Oblivion” and in the dreamier passages of “Snakes Of The Old World” like their most often touted spiritual brethren- Agalloch. At times it feels like those comparisons to Cascadian bands are mostly sonic rather than musical, as there is a lot here rooted staunchly in the European Pagan Metal tradition, but that slick, modern production turns out to be the uniting force that binds this album together.

There are times where it branches out from that aura of Autumnal beauty, like the clean vocals on the title track which share a delivery style with Jonas Renske of Katatonia, but are nevertheless wonderfully unique in tone and fragility whilst the martial drumming on “Beneath The Souls” shows the Neofolk leanings and the acoustic ballad of “Boiling Heart Of The North” has an intriguing Gothic overtone. For the most part though this album rarely goes outside of its modus operandi and that I feel is its key weakness- it is all grey throughout and therefore I find it too safe, too samey, not as musically adventurous as many of its peers. The biggest problem I find is with the lack of contrasts- for 50 minutes we are swept along on a sea of snow and fallen leaves but with no altering between darkness and light. This is stuck perpetually in one atmosphere that October Falls are either unwilling or unable to break out of.

Perhaps that is a sign of this album's mournful spirit at work and doing its job well, but I find this a difficult album to get excited about, and therefore also a difficult album to write about. I can understand why fans of the band would find this beautiful, but for some like me it may be too ethereal to connect and leave them feeling cold and dulled. October Falls are a band that no comparisons can really do justice to, they are a band that seemingly will only inspire either love or disregard and I cannot tell you which it will be with you. You will just have to find out for yourself. [6/10]

From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine-

Lehto Gets it Right - 95%

TheStormIRide, March 25th, 2013

“The Plague of a Coming Age” is the fourth full length album by Finland's October Falls. In the humble beginnings of the band, they played a minimalistic style of folk akin to Tenhi, Nest and the like, but later in their career (with 2007's “Streams of the End” to be precise) the band began dabbling with heavier elements. Well, I should say that they skipped the dabbling part and dove in head first. “The Streams of the End” saw the band incorporating their ambient natural sound into a sort of folk metal version of Opeth.

Continuing the trend of utilizing metal music, October Falls released two well received full lengths prior to this 2013 release. The first thing I noticed about “The Plague of a Coming Age” is the significant lack of a nature photograph as the cover. While, yes, it is still nature oriented, it’s a painting and not a photograph. Second, is that the band traded in their typical long-winded tracks (usually over the ten minute mark) for shorter, and one would conclude, more to the point tracks. During the recording process, studio updates from main man Mikko Lehto hinted at a less conceptual focus, with the use of clean vocals and more dynamic structures.

Even in the beginnings of October Falls, before the acoustic albums even, Lehto stated that the band’s sound was heavily influenced by mid-period Katatonia and Opeth. Coming full circle, “The Plague of a Coming Age” gives more than a passing nod to “Brave Murder Day” and “Morningrise”, with sentiments of Agalloch, as well. I’m not saying that October Falls is copying any act's previous work just that it’s a great starting point to conceptualize what this sounds like. Passages go from acoustic folk tinged rhythms straight into doom-laden, heavier sections, which still manage to retain a folky feel to them and into borderline atmospheric black metal.

The use of shorter songs allows October Falls to experiment slightly more with different tempos and more differentiation between tracks, which was one of the flaws of their earlier output. Whereas the earlier material took lots of time to develop between slower, folky sections and heavier metal sections, this material allows the band to focus on individual ideas for each track, giving a more dynamic playback. Even the longest track on the album, “Below the Sun”, shows the band utilizing slower tempo distorted riffing with melodic passages flowing throughout, but does not showcase huge dynamic shifts within the track itself.

Tracks like “Boiling Heart of the North” and “At the Edge of an Empty Horizon” show the band incorporating an Agalloch-ian acoustic folk style, with the former expressing some clear male vocals (by Amorphis singer Tomi Joutsen), sounding similar to “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” era Katatonia, with winding acoustic passages and minimalistic distorted melodies. Most of the tracks show a harsher raspy delivery, once again similar to early Opeth but with a more black metal feel to them at times.

“The Plague of a Coming Age” feels much moodier than previous releases. The shift from folk melodies into the bleak, mid paced Opeth worship on “Bloodline” goes from serene to doomy and menacing without warning. One thing that should be noted is the use of heavier drums, courtesy of Moonsorrow drummer Marko Tarvonen, which are really tom heavy on most sections, but build up into a faster, almost blast beat style, as heard on “The Verge of Oblivion” and the title track. The bass lines roll along, with walking patterns all over the place, thanks to Ensiferum's Sami Hinkka. Even with the proficiency of the drums and exciting, enjoyable patterns of the bass, the true star of the show is Lehto's guitarwork, which encapsulates the mood of each track perfectly. Ranging from swirling folk patterns, to fast paced trem lines, to extremely well thought out lead riffs reminiscent of the “Morningrise” era of Mikael Åkerfeldt.

Some sections border on black metal, some are folk and some are a form of doomy progressive metal, but it retains an amazing cohesiveness, despite the differences between each track. Any fan of early Opeth or mid-period Katatonia will absolutely love this album. The sullen, introspective moods captured on “The Plague of a Coming Age” are worth the album price alone. Lehto was on to something when he shortened the track lengths and focused on a dynamic album, as the end result is something more powerful than any of his previous metal infused albums. October Falls should be cemented among the greats after this album.

Written for The Metal Observer: