Vigilance Perennial, the new album by maine band Falls of Rauros, first saw daylight this spring. but as dusk creeps into our days and the wind recovers its fangs, it's hard not to remember them as an autumn band. The folk/black metal act’s fourth full-length may be more brilliant, melodic and accessible than anything they've done in their 12-year history, but music like this finds significance in darkening, decaying days, especially when its done this well.
These five tracks sprawled over nearly 45 minutes continue to expand the dimensions of these four Mainers’ project, collapsing the edges of this often puritanically harsh genre into long passages of gorgeously melodic guitar-folk. More than seven minutes of opener "White Granite" could be considered an intro before the track explodes into the tightly controlled mayhem of a blast beat, a swaying, pummeling tempo that registers impossibly fast yet still somehow attuned to the human heartbeat. The glowing opening tones of the post-rockish intro to "Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes" break apart twoand-a-half minutes in, letting the band's ecstaticically black tempest begin to wash over the album.
As it matures beyond its Nordic infancy, today's atmospheric black metal is a genre that can sometimes feel teetering on mainstream approval. Spotify offers the genre as a public playlist, and bands like Deafheaven have elevated it into indie-rock circles. Anecdotally, I've talked with people who've compared music like this to avowed classical compositions by the likes of Penderecki and Shostakovich. Some Vigilance tracks reflect modern influence, like the Mark Knopfler’s plaintive guitar compositions (the two-minute interstitial track "Warm Quiet Centures of Rains" does this affectingly). But no track illustrates the band's dynamic commitment to energy and complexity than the 12-minute "Arrow & Kiln," a composition that's one of the most overwhelming and powerful pieces of music released in Maine in 2017. Embedding a three-minute instrumental folk ballad as eminently listenable as a sea shanty between its most arresting passages at beginning and end, Falls seem to highlight this era's tension with the genre's accessibility. Though it cameos briefly above ground on the genre’s popular adjacent sonic landscapes — Irish folk music, modern post-rock, virtuosic '80s power-metal guitar solos — the song is both born and laid to rest on black metal's antisocial terrain, as Falls' show how far they've come to perfect the form’s blistering tempos, cacophonous guitars, and guttural, shrieking vocals.
I suppose in 2017 it's tough to gauge the pulse on whether music like this should be described in niche terms. Falls of Rauros are a metal band, yes, but that's only one way of looking at them. If you're someone who, like me, finds a sort of meditative calm in aural chaos — as if the relentless interior tensions in head and body can finally be given purchase on an exterior plane — then Vigilance Perennial can feel almost therapeutic, a sublimated experience that transcends the commerical trappings of genre. No matter how you wanna listen to it, it slays.
Portland last saw Falls of Rauros play at the release show for Vigilance Perennial back in April. They play again this weekend on the same stage at SPACE Gallery, on the second night of the inaugural two-day festival of heavy music curated by Last Mercy Emissions. With the album's strides both in the accessibility of the genre and a further darkening of its ever-bleak tunnels, the group's live show, reputably fantastic, should be as dynamic a display as heavy music gets.
"Into the Aether," with Falls of Rauros + Anicon + Theologian + Rare Storms + Cemetery Flowers | Saturday, Oct 14, 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | $13 ($20 with two-day pass including show Fri, Oct 13 at Geno's Rock Club | https://fallsofrauros.bandcamp.com/
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