Review Summary: To succeed without exactly raising the bar
Believe it or not, an artist's success has both obvious advantages and even some ramifications. Among those difficulties is the burden of heightened expectations due to a past endeavor striking such a chord with the public critically. Those raised expectations could either make or break public reception of a work. With Believe In No Coming Shore, Falls of Rauros risked falling into a similar situation, but managed to end up being an outlying case: can an album be considered a success when it just about matches the quality of the last" FoR's previous LP, The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood, is one of USBM's finest albums in years. With that in mind, Believe In No Coming Shore has some massive shoes to fill. For the most part, No Coming Shore meets those very expectations, yet at the same time doesn't exactly exceed them. What the album should truly be commended for is the fact that it matches The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood in quality, yet it doesn't sound like a rehash of their previous material.
To begin, No Coming Shore is much shorter in duration than the previous LP, clocking in at a brief yet succinct runtime of forty two minutes, rather than The Light That Dwells' hefty duration of fifty eight minutes. Falls of Rauros are known for how well they convey atmosphere and emotion through their works, and Believe In No Coming Shore is no exception. Beautiful acoustic passages, such as the one heard in the start of "Waxen Voices", transport the listener to tranquil landscapes. Tracks are loaded with tremolo picking and stampeding percussion which gives both scale and momentum to the sound scape presented.The album is also surprisingly fluid in its progression creating a full experience rather than a fragmented collection of tracks.
Both the musicianship and songwriting ability exhibited on No Coming Shore are for the most part phenomenal. Nearly every track is laden with both beautiful guitar melodies as well as serene acoustic passages, each played with great proficiency. The vocalist howls in a Weakling-esque fashion that pairs up perfectly with the sense of melancholy presented by the album overall. The drums pound with both energy and restraint when needed to complement the softer passages. The band also utilizes transitions between soft and heavy to great effect, even to the point where in some tracks such as in the middle of "Ancestors of Smoke", where the transition in style is drastic yet somehow executed seamlessly.
As stated before, atmosphere plays a big role in Falls of Rauros' songwriting. Each track presents a variety of emotions, whether it be the joyous energy in "Ancestors of Smoke" or the melancholy presented in the album's title track. If one were to attribute a location that describes the album, look no further than the album art itself. It's akin to a cold day at the beach with moments of sun to break the somber grey of the overcast. Beauty seems to be a common theme for FoR when it comes to there compositions, with the soaring melodies creating a balance between the raw emotion exemplified in the vocal performance.
However, Believe In No Coming Shore still has its share of problems that keeps it from surpassing The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood. Believe In No Coming Shore is not a groundbreaking record by any means. It is more or less a continuation of the ideas explored on Fall Of Rauros' previous record, with the aforementioned emphasis on atmosphere being present once again. In addition to that, there are some production issues with the percussion, which primarily include a grainy sound to the crash and clangs of the cymbals, which can be quite distracting when you consider how clear the guitar is mixed. While these issues are more or less nitpicks, the real problem with Believe In No Coming Shore is its lack of surprise that it gives the listener. Those who have listened to Fall Of Rauros' previous LP know exactly how competent the band is. One usually expects to have their expectations exceeded in addition to being met. While satisfying, Falls of Rauros' does not exactly top their last effort.
To be quite honest, meeting the expectations created from the acclaim of The Light That Dwells In Rotting Wood was already a hard thing to do, considering the level of quality that had to be met. In the end,Believe In No Coming Shore is competent follow up to the previous record while at the same time being a stellar black metal record on its own.