(Andy Synn wrote the following review and introduction of our full streaming premiere for the new album by the trans-Atlantic band Fawn Limbs, which will soon be released by Roman Numeral and Wolves And Vibrancy.)
Even those who love Metal at its most brutal, its most technical, its most chaotic, must admit, when push comes to shove and their back is against the wall, that the pursuit of extremity, pure extremity, purely for its own sake, ultimately leads to an inevitable and inescapable evolutionary dead end.
Or, should I say, an almost inescapable dead end… because while it’s true that over-specialisation will ultimately limit the growth of any species band – once you’ve attained a certain level of maximum brutality, terminal velocity, inhuman technicality, where else do you have to go? – certain artists, certain entities, have still managed to discover new and unique ways to survive, and even to thrive, while continuing to push their own limits in different, but no less extravagant, ways.
The secret to achieving this, of course, is realising that extremity isn’t a linear scale. It’s a spectrum. One which extends in multiple directions and allows for multiple interpretations and expressions of what it means to be truly “extreme”.
Which brings us, at last, to the new album from Fawn Limbs, which finds the terrible trio choosing a new, yet also disturbingly familiar, path to follow, which leads to a place called… Darwin Falls.
“I woke up in a bed of hay and roots. For a brief but fleeting moment, I couldn’t recall the incidents of the past days…”
Those of you who are intimately familiar with the band’s back-catalogue will perhaps recognise, if only vaguely, the name of this record, which was first mentioned on their 2018 EP, Thrum.
And, indeed, those people will quickly realise that Darwin Falls is both a spiritual and a literal follow-up to that record, one which continues the story of the EP’s nameless, faceless protagonist, while also expanding upon its moody, menacing, and at times utterly maddening, sound.
“It took a while for me to understand that these imprints on the desert sand, slowly being ebbed by the tepid wind, were indeed my own…”
Those who only know the band from last year’s mind-bending, flesh-rending, Sleeper Vessels, however, may well find themselves surprised, and perhaps a little shaken, by the direction of their new album, which – initially at least – seems to have traded that record’s blister-inducing blend of calculated chaos and mathematical mayhem for something altogether darker and more atmospheric.
That’s not to say, however, that these seven tracks don’t also deliver more than your daily dose of tactical-nuclear Tech-Grind too. It’s just that, if anything, the combination of creeping, ambient gloom and the pained, almost poetic pronunciations of the album’s unnamed narrator only serve to contrast and further enhance the extreme dynamic of the band’s music even further.
“I guess that’s just life, I can’t focus on dead things now…”
If you hadn’t already gathered, Darwin Falls is very much a concept album, purpose-built to tell a single, self-contained story – which, in and of itself, immediately differentiates it from its more capricious and convulsive predecessor – and, or so I’m told, draws inspiration from real events and real characters (although the mystery of who, what, and where remains unsolved and unresolved).
But don’t let this overarching conceptual structure fool you into thinking that this record is somehow more accessible, or less demanding, than Sleeper Vessels.
Not only does the story begin in situ – a move designed to leave the record’s audience as disturbed and disoriented as its mysterious protagonist – but each song (if that’s the right word… perhaps “chapter” would be a better choice) is composed of two competing narratives which pit the doom-laden drawl of the album’s anonymous orator against the rabid howl and gravid growl of the record’s feral, frenzied vocals, and it’s left to the listener to make sense of what they’re hearing.
“The unfathomable black mire of night had fallen while I was phasing in and out of consciousness…”
And while the song titles are designed to provide certain clues as to what is going on – casting fleeting light upon the people and places, meaning and motives, behind this strange and sinister story – the question of how to receive them, how to understand them, and how much to trust them, is entirely up to you.
“I crouched and stared at it, and it stared back at me…”
Even the basic elements of the music seem designed to unsettle and unnerve, juxtaposing the band’s abrasive mathemetallic assault against a series of eerie noir-ish embellishments and portentous, classically-influenced passages provided by a number of hand-picked players and performers whose more refined abilities help to imbue the whole album with an uncanny aura of haunting gloom.
“My feet couldn’t sustain my own weight, so I dragged myself onwards on the scorching soil…”
But if you’re going to ask me whether this is a “better” album than Sleeper Vessels… I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to rephrase the question.
Because while it’s still recognisably a creation of the same band – the same legacy and lineage – that’s a bit like comparing intelligent design and natural selection. One is the product of conscious choice and direction, the other the result of random chance and evolution. And both do the job they set out to do in different, but equally successful, ways.
Thankfully today we’re able to give you the opportunity to listen to the entire record in full for yourselves, meaning the answers you seek may be just a few clicks away.
So welcome, my friends, to Darwin Falls… I hope you survive the experience.
“And I fell. I fell for a long, long time. Then everything went black again….”
Darwin Falls will be released on August 13th by Roman Numeral (US) and Wolves And Vibrancy (EU).