Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Falloch: Where Distant Spirits Remain (2011)


It's been a long time since I've mentioned my love-hate relationship with post-metal. Like many, my first introduction to the genre was Isis. Though divisive, they are clearly one of the most influential bands of the last decade or so. I personally would rank them among my top 25 bands of all time. But that love for their elusive brilliance has led me on a quest with at least as many disappointments (Alcest, Russian Circles) as successes (Bloodiest, Altar of Plagues). Falloch is a Scottish post-metal band that caught my eye, so I dared to take the risk of disappointment on the odd chance of success.

Nearly every review of the band's debut Where Distant Spirits Remain mentions two bands: Agalloch and Alcest. Those are perfect analogies for their approach. They seem to come at post-metal from the same direction as the post-black metal bands, but without any black metal in the mix. They also have a folksy, pagan metal vibe drawn from Agalloch, rounded out by the occasional flute.

Such a description doesn't tell you whether it's worthy of praise or damnation. Well, in this case, it's the latter. The record suffers from the same problem I identified in Alcest's Écailles de Lune: it tries too hard to be pretty, forgetting the edge of metal almost entirely. But it's even worse than that. At least Alcest's work is achingly beautiful. Falloch instead have crafted something that could have been created by studio musicians, packaged with stock photo cover art, and sold on a rack at Bed Bath & Beyond, right between "Zen Meditation" and "Rainforest Sounds".

I would hate to drag this through the mud any more than necessary, so I won't go on a diatribe about how they might be hipsters (see their band photo/video), or how the (ordinarily very good) label could be making an ill-advised cash grab, or some other speculation. But one further aspect must be mentioned. As bad as the passively boring music is, the actively annoying vocals are even worse. They're soft and breathy, with an irritating whine, and they crack or falter when he tries to hit the higher notes. Another reviewer brilliantly described it as "the rejected third member of Savage Garden." That's like the Cadillac of analogies, right there.

OK, to be fair, "Beyond Embers & the Earth" is actually pretty good, but not great, and certainly not enough to warrant anything better than a scathing review for the album as a whole.

The Verdict: Falloch is possibly manufactured, probably false, and patently boring. Avoid Where Distant Spirits Remain at all costs. I give it 0.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. Good music to fall asleep to, though. Well, minus the vocals at least.

  2. I saw you dismisssed Russian Circles, have you heard their new album Empros? That shit is HEAVY (Metal Bandcamp)

  3. They had their chance with Geneva. I don't see myself giving them another chance.