Generally speaking, the last decade and black metal haven’t gotten along very well. With a few exceptions, the genre has fallen to fairly abysmal lows considering how many quality albums were being released in the early to mid 1990’s. Nowadays, the “magic” of the genre is more or less depleted, leaving behind nothing but fragmented shells of black metal acts which don’t really have the same intensity that most bands had back then. It is apparent that, when listening to nearly every single classic black metal album, the genre was about more than just the music. It’s difficult to describe to those who haven’t really heard it in full, but the sheer emotion put forth in said albums was quite daunting. However, black metal has for the most part dripped off into a muddy puddle full of heartless black metal bands that play the same old thing over, and over, and over, and over. The only saving grace to the genre are the few bands who remain that embrace the genre for what it really is, a form of expression.
I can guarantee that, when one thinks of such bands, Finnish folk/ambient black metal act October Falls is not the first to cross your mind, if it does so at all. It’s quite a shame too, since sole mastermind Mikko Lehto has more than his fair share of ideas to contribute to a slowly fading black metal scene. Lehto has composed two full-length albums, three EP’s and one split since October Falls was created in 2001. The vast majority of this work, one LP, two EP’s and the split, that is, contain nothing more than serene dark folk which brings to mind some of the atmospheres created by the most emotional of black metal albums, but other than that hints at nothing toward the genre. However, 2007’s EP The Streams Of The End
incorporated harsh black metal amidst the folk melodies and melodic leads, created something which is relatively intriguing, and undoubtedly well-composed. One year later, and Lehto is back at it with October Falls’ second full-length album The Womb Of Primordial Nature
. The album continues where The Streams Of The End
left off, but this time bringing to a more melodious, refined level, creating something truly remarkable for the modern black metal scene.
The first reason why this is remarkable is just that, it isn’t pure black metal. It is a clever hybrid of October Falls’ earlier folk music with a very melodic style of black metal, filled with complex layered riffs and the astounding drumming contributed by guest musician Marko Tarvonen, that’s right, Marko Tarvonen from esteemed Viking/folk metal band Moonsorrow. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, then the fact that The Womb Of Primordial Nature
is one of the most sound black metal releases in years should be. The album is divided into four rather lengthy tracks, two of which extend over ten minutes with the remaining two falling just short at eight and nine minutes, respectively. Each track has a centralized focus, whether it is a lingering riff, a folk interlude, or something as simple as a traditional chorus, every track has something familiar within its run time to drive home the fact that you are listening to a single connected track, not just a ten minute clump of various ideas called a single “song”. It is this focus on a specific portion of the song that helps draw the atmosphere of the album closer, making it more unique and personal to each song, since a heavy, depressing atmosphere was obviously something that Mikko Lehto was striving to achieve. It is down to earth and attributes a lot to nature, much like what Agalloch tries to convey on Pale Folklore
, but it is distinctly different in it’s delivery.
The guitars aren’t of your traditional black metal fare; there are very little grinding riffs to be found, even in the rhythm section. Both the lead and rhythm guitars contribute to a single wonderful melody which complements the numerous acoustic interludes and bridges with perfection. Each track is literally filled with melodic guitar leads, so fans of such riffs will certainly not be disappointed. The guitars contrast with the raspy, perfectly executed vocals with a firm resolve. It is this contrasting between each of the instruments which makes everything work so beautifully, since nothing sounds the same or lazy. Even the bass works its way in, giving sweet licks about five minutes into “III”, letting you know that every single instrument was remembered and composed as such.
It cannot go without recognition the sheer quality of the drumming on this album. Moonsorrow drummer Marko Tarvonen drags the music away from the normal black metal blast beats and gravity blasts with a superb performance, barely ever, if at all, resorting to the cliché black metal style to keep the beat going. Whether it is double bass, crashing cymbals, or a biting snare, the drums are always a surprise and never predictable. This, along with the perfect songwriting and instrument performance, makes each track a highlight, while also giving the added benefit of including absolutely none (zero!) filler material on the entire album.
October Falls cut the fat off from around to edges to deliver the album which The Streams Of The End
was striving to be, and what many bands who play the same style so desperately desire. The Womb Of Primordial Nature
is, without a doubt, the most solid black metal release of the year, and is in the top five albums of 2008. It is everything and more which a listener could want out of a folk/melodic black metal album, and it is a sound which I certainly hope Mikko Lehto continues to pursue along with October Falls’ original sound of dark ambient and folk. If I was to put my money on who, at this moment, has the most potential out of any unknown band in the metal world, I would bet on October Falls without a single shred of hesitation.