Review Summary: “Untitled” continues where “Dead as Dreams” left off, fifteen years ago.
While False play keyboard-heavy atmospheric black metal they seem to play it like few others, favoring an emphasis on song structure and frequent riff changes to straight-up atmosphere building. While keyboards are often used by similar acts to provide a melodic framework to support guitars of usually slower tempos (Summoning, Midnight Odyssey), False more frequently use them as a constant melodic contrast to their ever-shifting cold riffs and frantic tempos. The result on their debut is five tracks that twist and turn through a gamut of black metal aesthetics from creeping doom to epic blasting Emperor worship and beyond--always with that distinct melodic edge.
mostly barrels through its five tracks and sixty-minute runtime the raw recording quality often gives you that sense of half-missing something, yet still weirdly experiencing it--like a ghost in your memory. Recorded completely live by the band, the countless melodies, leads and keyboard lines often become buried under one another to the point where the listener occasionally can’t totally be sure if they’re there or not, they become so subtle. It’s like when you listen to a song you’ve heard before but background noise makes it hard to hear completely; your brain fills in the gaps from memory and you feel as if you can really hear it--the melodies, the beats--without actually experiencing it all consciously. While moving much of the melodic work on the album from “main focal point” to “subtle detail” in the mix might sound like a horrid idea, it actually mostly works to False’s benefit. This inadvertent moving of melody to the background actually gives the record a much more consistently suffocating atmosphere and allows the record to more easily retain its cacophonous energy, while still leaving enough room to simultaneously be “pretty.”
In terms of songwriting, False for the most part seem to be heavily concerned with keeping a frantic atmosphere through sheer song dynamics, using sudden changes of riff or tempo to keep the listener on their toes for much of the album. No single idea seems to overstay its welcome, instead being replaced by the next at just the right moment. While this doesn’t necessarily make False a progressive
definitely shows a band willing to go against the grain and utilize a much more complicated route to songwriting than that usually employed by its contemporaries. While many atmospheric black metal bands often utilize repeated chord progressions to create a hypnotic atmosphere to suck in the listener, False often seem intent on doing the opposite, using quick changes in riffs with little impact on tempo to give many of these changes a sort of stop-start, “whiplash” element. Which is to say, instead of fully hypnotizing the listener through repetition, False use their black metal aesthetics to lull their audience just enough before violently shaking them into wakefulness, again and again.
While the songwriting is excellent, though, the recording style does seem to rob the album of some of its potential power--because individual instruments tend to get buried underneath everything else at times, many of the fantastic leads and keyboard lines end up not having as large an impact on the sound as they could--and arguably should
--have had if they were recorded individually, with a more traditional setup. That being said, the much more “raw” sound also has its appeal, giving the record a distinctly “claustrophobic” black metal feel which most listeners probably won’t take as an entirely as a bad thing, even if it does rob the record of some of its potential.
In the end, False have crafted a mammoth of a record with their debut, filling it with an hour’s worth of ever-shifting, raw atmospheric black metal. Traversing everything from doom to blistering Emperor-inspired crescendos, Untitled
seems to showcase a band well on it’s way to becoming a top contender in the burgeoning American black metal scene.