Recommended for fans of: Alcest, Lantlôs, An Autumn For Crippled Children
Call it what you will – call it “Atmospheric Black Metal”, “Post Black Metal”, “Blackgaze” – the music of Italian duo Falaise remains as searing, as soulful, and as spellbinding now as it was when they first stepped out onto the proverbial stage a little under ten years ago.
And to prove the validity of this statement, I’ve selected them as the focus of this month’s Synn Report, which covers all four of their albums, up to and including their latest record, After All This Time, which was released just last week.
2015 – AS TIME GOES BY
The calm, Shoegaze-y intro of “Frozen Dawn” will perhaps prove a little off-putting for listeners looking for an instant blast of extremity (though, to be fair, they’ve probably come to the wrong place for that in general), but those with a little bit of patience, and a little bit of perseverance, will eventually be rewarded by an explosion of sound and fury part way through “Loveless” that firmly establishes what Falaise can do when they really cut loose.
That being said, the more aggressive aspects of the band aren’t really the main focus (though they do play a key role, there’s no doubt about that) and it’s the blending of mesmerising rhythms (including some understated-yet-excellent drum work) and melancholic lead melodies during tracks like “Eternal Sleep” and “Lost Moments” which epitomises the true heart and soul of the band.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you should discount the propulsive power of a song such as “No Destination”, by any means – especially when the hammering drums and howling vocals combine into a veritable whirlwind of energy and emotion – nor should you discount the vital role of the shimmering synths in elevating numbers like the album’s ten minute, An Autumn For Crippled Children-esque, title-track to a higher level of consciousness.
And while the band’s enviable grasp of the classic “quiet/loud” dynamic is certainly undeniable (the sombre, dreamlike “Withering” being a prime example) it’s their ability to inject their music with a sense of inexorable momentum – especially during cuts like the blast-driven “Pointless” and the bombastic “The Lump in my Throat” – which keeps them one step ahead of many of their peers.
2017 – MY ENDLESS IMMENSITY
The band’s second album builds organically on the foundations established by their debut, marrying an even more melodic and melancholic sheen to an undercurrent of arguably less frantic, but more focussed, (post-)metallic power on tracks like “The Embrace of Water” and “You Towards Me” (with the latter also showcasing the band indulging their more atmospheric, Post-Rock inspired inclinations during its absolutely captivating second half.
On “Crimson Clouds” the band continue to lean more towards the Shoegaze/Post-Rock side of their sound – with suitably atmospheric and engaging results – but it’s the darker, more desolate strains of “Dreariness”, where the Post-Black elements come more to the forefront in a manner closer to early Chrome Waves and/or early Deafheaven that really signifies My Endless Immensity coming into its own.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, “The Abyss” continues to build on this foundation of increasingly dense rhythms and intense emotions, while also continuing to expand the band’s melodic palette in small ways (especially when it comes to the subtle incorporation of keys and synths into the warp and weft of the music), while “Sweltering City” eases off a little to allow these many layers of lead melody and aching ambience more space and time to breathe.
Concluding with the suitably grandiose synths and radiating distortion of “Pristine Universe” and the titanic, stunningly cinematic, “A Veil of Stars”, My Endless Immensity firmly establishes itself as the sort of album perfect for gazing out into the void, or looking deep inside yourself, and pondering the meaning of existence. Which is no small thing, when all is said and done.
2019 – A PLACE I DON’T BELONG TO
On album #3 (which I believe we actually hosted a premiere of, back when it was first released) the band’s musical maturity is even more obvious, even if the fires of their youth continue to blaze undiminished.
This is evident both in the way that the eloquent intro of “Once, My Home” transitions so smoothly and effortlessly into the song’s more up-tempo (though far from upbeat) central section, where the incorporation of more staccato rhythmic hooks and tense, electrifying tremolo lines are all tied together with a gleaming lead guitar refrain, as well as during the shift from depressive, multi-layered distortion to moody, meditative ambience in the middle of “When the Sun Was Warming My Heart”, and in so many many other ways.
The title track continues to prove that Falaise have lost none of their power or presence, even as they continue to allow their more melodic and atmospheric ambitions to soar ever higher (and, as a result, quickly establishes itself as one of the best songs of the band’s career), while both “An Emptiness Full of You” and “Leaves in the Wind” demonstrate that, if anything, the band are even more willing to go to extremes now, whether that’s pushing the blackened fury to a new level of intensity, letting their fretboard fireworks or sublime synths take centre-stage, or stripping things back even further to really let their more ambient aspirations simmer… all in the course of the same song(s).
And then, to complete the musical journey the album has taken you on, “Consumed Soul” finds the duo tightening things up just that little bit more, delivering a track which marries the raw, emotional power of early Alcest to a sense of grandiose songwriting scope reminiscent of Mare Cognitum at their best, before the driving percussion (once again an unheralded highlight of the band’s sound in so many ways) and soaring lead melodies of “Holding Nothing” bring the record to a captivating, cathartic close.
2023 – AFTER ALL THIS TIME
The band’s fourth album finds them refining their sound even further – focussing on fewer, but longer, and more intricately arranged songs this time around – while also adding new shades and colours to their sonic palette, at times hinting at the most absorbingly atmospheric output of Blut Aus Nord at their most melodic, at others touching upon the irresistibly euphoric vibes of Astronoid at their dreamiest.
The aptly-named “A Dream of Relief”, for example, is seven and a half minutes of lilting leads and thrumming, reverberant rhythms – interspersed with moments of restrained, contemplative calm – that continues to unfold and reveal new layers as it blooms into life, while “Keeping You In My Memory” opts for an altogether darker path, one which features some of the most densely packed and aggressive material of the band’s career, alongside some of their most mesmerisingly minimalist moments, in a devastatingly dynamic display of light-and-shade songwriting.
The long, slow build up at the start of “One Day” is definitely worth the wait – trust me – as the song then blooms (or, more accurately, explodes) into brilliant, technicolour life, eventually climaxing in one of the most physically intense, emotionally invigorating, passages of metallic music you’re likely to hear all year, after which the pulsing ebb and surge of “Flow of Time” carries you forwards on waves of energy and emotion towards its own progidious, Post-Metal-infused finale.
The high point of the album, however, is “Feeling Out of Place” – equal parts vulnerable and visceral, bleak yet beautiful, thrillingly powerful yet intensely introspective – which serves as a phenomenal example of just what so-called “Post-Black Metal” can achieve without pandering towards the outside expectations or middle-of-the-road mediocrity, after which the more stripped-down and straightforward strains of “Fading” serve as a sublime coda to bring the record to a conclusion.
Thanks, Andy. Really enjoy these. Normally it’s difficult for me to get into the back catalog of a band I just heard of. Having the context of how each fits in with their other work is a great resource. 154 parts is difficult to fathom- like the distance between stars . Quite an achievement. Congratulations.
Thank you buddy, that’s very kind of you to say. And I am (pleasantly) surprised myself that this particular feature has gone on this long (and doesn’t look to be ending any time soon!).