Review Summary: Unlocking the future.
I remember Patterns In Mythology
like it was yesterday. Magnificent, sprawling landscapes made lush with crescendo and brilliant atmospherics. Black metal is rarely made to achieve the lofty standards of fans and critics alike and yet, Falls Of Rauros smashed through this jaded glass ceiling with their 2019 effort, transcending the realm of atmospheric black metal and fully endorsing the glacial artwork that adorned its cover. Fast forward a couple years and you could almost feel the hype when Keys To A Vanishing Future
and a subsequent single was announced. It was tempting, but I made it to a full album listen without
hearing a single note from the new record before it. This made things interesting. It’s rare that I can put off something so hyped, so massive, knowing full-well I’m likely to enjoy the product—a prediction made true in unexpected ways. Let’s talk about that for a second. My expectations (like a lot of the guys reading this review…probably) predicted that Falls Of Rauros would simply carry on where they left off. Majestic compositions in the style of Patterns In Mythology 2.0
, lush climes dancing across sheets of compositional ice while black metal fans “ooh and ahh” in equal measure. Not to mention the continuation of quality, a level-headed measure of the transcending (now the band standard) musicianship of these Maine natives.
Of such lofty heights, Keys To A Vanishing Future
falls just short of the famed Patterns In Mythology
—but not for doing the same thing to the nth degree. Let me explain. It would be all too easy for these veterans to simply flick on the autopilot switch, churn out massive atmospheric black metal renditions, lap up the praise and call it a day. I can’t help but feel that should this band have done so, criticisms of idea recycling and “resting on one’s laurels” would have been far and few between. As such it’s commendable, applaudable even, that Falls Of Rauros have taken a new path, shaped new ideas and taken risks. Because that’s what Keys To A Vanishing Future
is—bold, forward thinking and on the edge of something uncharted for these Maine visionaries.
What’s clear is the shift in the band’s sound. The subtlety of “Clarity’s” introduction, the building, burly riff dominance and the tension loading of that dissonant melody. “Clarity” breathes familiarity within the Falls Of Rauros brand and yet there's an unmistakable angular shape to the track’s composition separate to anything that could be found on Patterns In Mythology
or even Vigilance Perennial
before it. That’s not to say that Keys To A Vanishing Future
has forgone on the world of lush crescendos, rather the group’s new direction streamlines their folk sensibilities into soundscapes more reminiscent of Darkthrone’s black metal aesthetic, instead of the billowing winds of Agalloch, Alcest and the like, simply shading their music so lightly towards the older school of sentimentality. “Desert of Heart” continues the band’s trajectory towards a different school of thought. Gentle guitar melody dances throughout the song’s run-time, while the distinct rumble of the bass worms through the foundation of sound and pinches a few moments, un-aided, in the limelight. The track itself is a ride of emotional; hopeful melodies push back against the tumult and rage of percussion, while the swirl of synth keeps the listener grounded to what is, and now. “Desert of Heart” also features one of the group’s greatest guitar solos to date. At every turn Falls Of Rauros continues to breathe in musical ideas and breathe out excellence.
“Survival Poem” (one of the album’s pre-release singles) is a show-stopper. Folk themes run rampant throughout the song’s length and yet, the music itself teeters on the doomier end of the musical spectrum, before returning to the bite and furor, a return to the Wintry blast of Vigilance Perennial
’s (specifically, “Impermanence Streakt Through Marble”) snow-covered forest. Multiple harmonies run parallel, a marriage of guitar and atmosphere, punctuated by progressive black metal flourishes.
Even as the album finds its way towards its closing moments, the one-two punch of “Daggers In Floodlight” and “Poverty Hymn” shouldn’t be understated. The former is a showcase in contrast, eventually resulting in the album’s heaviest track. Shrieks and barks punch through the track’s more linear, straight-forwards style—flourishes of death metal mixing into the icier black metal riffs. While the album’s final track offers a musical new dawn after the stormiest of Winter nights. “Poverty Hymn” is starkly reminiscent of Patterns In Mythology
’s braver, uplifting moments. The closer provides a familiarity, without falling into the issues mentioned above. A nod to fans who wore the band’s last effort on their sleeves and a little “thank you” to those who journey alongside this Maine four-piece.
Where Patterns In Mythology
was instantly (and recognisably) a gorgeous release filled to the brim with sensual synth, crescendo and articulate refrain, Keys To A Vanishing Future
takes a little longer to explore, digest and sink in. This is mostly due to the group charting a new course through their atmospheric climes, their bold takes on simplicity and the reach it’s likely to have in the coming months. While Keys To A Vanishing Future
might not measure to the lofty heights of Patterns In Mythology
, it’s an introspective journey, a bold momentum builder that shows Falls Of Rauros haven’t ever considered just hitting the autopilot switch. Maybe Patterns In Mythology
simply set the bar too high? It doesn’t matter. It’s nonsense to write the group’s next explorative chapter off as directionless, paling or not ‘big’ enough. There’s boldness and strength to be found in reshaping what you know. There’s grace in giving up aesthetic for functionality. Keys To A Vanishing Future
is forward thinking, fearless and a sure highlight metal album in this [still] new decade.