Despite the especially subtle arrangements that Portland, Oregon band Agalloch created throughout their 17 years of existence, the influences they rooted throughout the American folk and black metal scene have been nothing short of immense. Countless bands have pounded that particular drum – mixing melodic tremolo, acoustic atmospherics and poetic, naturalistic lyrics.
It may seem trite at this point to discuss the band in conjunction with another group in this subset (this review joining countless others just looking to fill page space), but it demands to be restated for specific context: Portland, Maine-based Falls of Rauros may have begun life as an Agalloch derivative, but 2019’s Patterns in Mythology is a bold proclamation of denouncement. Finally, the band have constructed a series of songs that blaze trails into dark and unknown parts, and the results are, unsurprisingly, exhilarating.
After a satisfactory atmosphere builder in the shape of album opener Detournement, Falls Of Rauros do their best to convince you that they still have a bit of that old blood, with fiery second comer “Weapons Of Refusal.” It is a passionate assemblage of black and folk metal, building impressively over the course of its 11 minute and 11-second run-time with an especially measured momentum. After four releases, Falls Of Rauros are still capable of all the rip and rage but it’s since been honed down to a beautifully calculated process, though it’s barely discernible. It’s a massive machine, but certainly, it breathes more like a beast.
What this ultimately amounts to, however, is a majestic epilogue to their initial sound; a grand and tragic farewell to the band that inspired their fire but ultimately allowed them to become something more. Though that initial two-song tandem could have fit in with anything on their four albums prior (even if it very well may be their greatest recent achievement), it ultimately transitions them from old to new; every song afterward adventuring outside of that archetype in interesting, new ways.
The reasons for this overarching achievement are two-fold – one, the absolutely masterful production job helmed by Krallice’s Colin Marston, and, two, the slowing tempos Falls Of Rauros introduce within their already existing sonic scape.
Marston’s production manages to capture not just the earthy tones of the band’s Americana subconscious, but the deviations in persona that occur fairly frequently as well. It can keep a triumphant tremolo melody feeling spiritual and otherworldly while also giving absolute clarity to a giant, searing solo that neither side loses an inch in the mix is immense.
Falls of Rauros are no stranger to an abstract arrangement; Vigilance Perennial saw the band permutating their pre-existing formula by subjecting it to dissonance, less traditional song structures, and more intricate individual layers. Here, however, it feels less like dabbles and more like confident strides. This isn’t a lantern out the cabin door…this is a strut into an unending void. By disconnecting from the definitions that have plagued their entire career, the band may have very well created a new, more permanent one. That their courage led to accomplishment is commendable.
While some bands spend their entire existence polishing a plaque, Falls of Rauros continue to re-design theirs; album after album. Patterns In Mythology finds the band changing the material, editing the font, but, most of all, changing the damn definition emboldened. Progressivism may not be cvlt, but it’s certainly more rewarding.