With winter choking on its last breath and spring around the corner, it’s a great time to explore some more atmospheric music that will sound perfect when rain is pouring down and fresh smells are in the air. That sounds so metal, doesn’t it?
What’s funny is I had to come in and amend this piece because now there are many inches of snow on the ground, with winter having one last laugh before fading away. Way to read over my shoulder, jerk. But the fact remains that when white stuff is being ushered out, my musical tastes tend to go from grim and frost-bitten to things that make my mind expand and wonder about possibilities. There are two new albums coming out this month that make me feel this way, though we’ll look at just one today, and while the music makes me think of trickling streams, mushy grounds still smarting from the snow it absorbed the last few months, and clean air, there still is music that can make you grasp backward, reminding us the ice can return at any time.
Today we talk about “The Plague of a Coming Age,” the new record from Finland’s October Falls, the brainchild of M. Lehto, who has been its primary force since the band began in 2001. They also are not to be confused with other groups that take on that autumnal month as a descriptor, such as October File and October Tide. It can get confusing, and I sometimes have a hard time keeping it all sorted when I scan my iPod. Lehto’s band blends sounds of groups such as Opeth and Katatonia from their earlier years, but the music also has many traits of other like-minded warriors such as Winterfylleth and Agalloch. There is plenty of room to breathe when taking on these songs, and the way everything cascades downward makes me think of sheets of rain soaking the terrain below.
While Lehto remains the driving force behind the music and handles guitars and vocals, he has two capable creative partners to help him flesh out his sound in bassist Sami Hinkka (Ensiferum) and drummer Marko Tarvonen (Moonsorrow, Barren Earth). “The Plague of a Coming Age” isn’t exactly about the sprouting of new life or brighter days ahead, but for some reason when I hear the music on their fourth full-length effort, I can’t help but think about walks through muddy wooded areas, warmer weather, and a new round of life. Instead, the album examines the trials and tribulations of ancestry, pays homage to bloodshed and lives lost for things to be as they are today, and the path made possible for these creators to travel. It’s deep in scope both lyrically and musically.
“At the Edge of an Empty Horizon” is a gripping, spacious opener that’s basically an instrumental introduction and leads right into “Bloodlines,” an emotional, thorny song that is full of melody and Lehto’s passionate screams. Weird thing about his vocals is that there’s hushed sense to his wails and growls and never sound monstrous, but they fit the music perfectly. “The Verge of Oblivion” begins with calm, cleaner tones, and fires crackling, but it’s not long until that cloud bursts and the storm soaks the soil. “Snakes of the Old World” is my favorite track on the album, as it’s catchy, loyal to days and pioneers of old, and it has something in it that reminds me of later-era Bathory.
The title track is another stunner, with textured melodies, soulful clean vocals, crunch where it needs to be, and an approach that reminds a lot of current-day Amorphis. “Mouth of a Nation’s Harlots” has a slower start and takes some time to develop, but once it does, winds sweep up, and intensity overrides all other emotion. “Boiling Heart of the North” begins with dripping piano and strings, then Lehto’s singing comes in, sounding sullen and mournful, and this gorgeous ballad will sound great on nights when warmer air dominates and it’s time to reflect. “The Weight of the Fallen” erupts with fast drums, soaring guitar melodies over top of the piece, and guttural, low-register growling that give the song violent overtones. “Below the Soils,” the longest track on the album at 7:28 and the closing number, is largely mid-tempo and obviously emotional, with Lehto unleashing his final growls and the guitars simmering and blistering before the record comes to its end.
October Falls have come up with another great chapter to their musical story, one that makes the wait from 2010’s “A Collapse of Faith” totally worth it. The music that is perfect for the dawning of spring will let you dream and wonder, not only about where you’re headed but perhaps from where you originate. Music that helps you feel that way is special and cannot be deliberately manufactured. October Falls are one of the more genuine, thought-provoking bands out there and always seem primed to take you on a mental trip somewhere new.
For more on the band, go here: http://koti.welho.com/mlehto4/of/of.html
To buy the album, go here: http://www.eitrin.com/search.php?mode=1&match=1&search=OCTOBER%20FALLS
For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/