Scottish post-metal dreamers Falloch regroup, create drama with ‘This Island, Our Funeral’

FallochAs much as people seem to get excited about the holiday season and all the comings and goings of that time, the best part of winter for me is right about now. There aren’t a million things to worry about, the snow falls a little thicker, and you can walk around outside and get that nice gust of freezing air bursting in your lungs. This really is a great time to let everything go.

Some equally adventurous music can help make this time even more rewarding, and one of those records for me since the New Year dawned has been “This Island, Our Funeral,” the second album from Scottish post-metal band Falloch. You won’t find very much aggression and skullduggery on this album, nor on their excellent 2011 debut “Where Distant Spirits Remain,” but that’s by design. Instead of viciousness, these guys revel in rich, gusting atmospherics, riveting melodies, and actual signing, which has become something of a rarity among the bulk of metal bands. Even if this wasn’t what the members had in mind seasonally when they wrote and recorded this record, its dropping in the States right at the heart of winter is ideal, as it soundtracks nature and the whitening of everything wonderfully.

Adobe Photoshop PDFFalloch did go through major changes since the last album, with biggest being former vocalist Andy Marshall moving on and forming his new band Saor, with whom we will visit next week. In his place is Tony Dunn, who also contributes guitar work, and he’s an admirable replacement for a singer whose work was etched deeply in this project, though he still has a little bit further to go before he truly earns the reins of this band. He has time. The rest of the band is comprised of guitarist/keyboard player Scott McLean (along with Marshall, a founding member of the band), and other newcomers since the last album bassist Ben Brown, and drummer Steve Scott. Now a full band bursting at every seam with power, they seem poised to get their future back on track, with this second record a serious step toward achieving their larger goals.

The record gets going with 9:17 “Torradh” that takes some time to get moving, but mostly because it’s setting up an ambiance. It’s initially breezy, with whistles lending a woodsy spirit, and then it opens up and launches strong melodies both musically and vocally. The volume and tempo keep pushing forward, and the band’s passion is evident, finally winding down with glimmering and trickling keys. “For Life” has a blistering start, with the vocals rising up with strength and the guitars going gazey. The track calms, letting acoustics to spill in and bring a rustic feel to the proceedings, and the singing picks up again and carries the track. Great soloing bubbles up, giving the track a glorious, epic feel, and the cut has a heavily textured, colorful finish that bleeds out into the air. “For Uir” has quiet, reflective guitars, wordless melodies, and a ballad-like sense to it, letting them get as melancholic as anywhere else on the record and providing a gasp of fresh air for listeners. “Brahan” then erupts, with some of the most aggressive playing on the album, the vocals delving into fierce growls, and everything blazing. Dunn goes clean again and lets his singing voice take over, with the band exploding with energy behind him. Later they deliver a slow-pounding finish that takes the song to its finish.

Another shorter track follows and paves the way for the two album-closing epics. “-“ is ever so brief, with pulsating noises creating cloud coverage, cosmic winds whipping through, and the brief trip pulling into “I Shall Build the Mountains,” a 10:31 journey. The vocals are a high point of this one, with Dunn sounding confident and in command of the band, and the music taking multiple dips and turns, from calmer, more tranquil tones to bursting, belowing explosions. The bass heads into jazzy, proggy territory at one point, which adds an interesting tone, and the final moments blast open again, with the music chugging hard, the band unloading everything have, and Dunn slipping into a more sing-songy approach. “Sanctuary” runs 12:17, and it’s the one place where it feels the band loads a little too much into a single cut. It certainly has its high points, with more emotional playing, storming pounding that pushes the tempo, and vocals that reach new heights. But it feels a few minutes too long, as the last quarter of the song treads too much water (like a young Thomas Magnum!), robbing the cut of its final fireworks that should leave your blood pumping. Instead, you’re just kind of ready for it to be over. Honestly, it’s a minor quibble on what’s otherwise a pretty solid piece of work.

Falloch have some uneven spots on “This Island, Our Funeral,” but for the most part it’s a rewarding, enthralling experience. Their style of metal is such a fresh gust of air considering most of what I hear these days constantly goes for the jugular, and I’m never going to be upset about a band that takes me on a sonic adventure. It’s great to hear these guys back on track, making strong music, and working toward being a part of metal’s future fabric. I would imagine that whatever they dream up for their next record will be the band’s strongest vision yet, provided they stay together and gel.

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