If there is any justice in this world, Falloch will soon be generating the kind of column inches that have been justifiably devoted to French ambient-metal-general genius blokes Alcest in recent months. The only downside to this for an act that genuinely merits the attention is that when Andy Marshall and Scott McLean (the multi-instrumentalist Scots behind Falloch) do start gaining widespread acclaim, they will doubtless also be saddled with same ‘shoegazer’ tag that has attached itself to their Auld Alliance counterpoints. This would be a criminal act of disregard for a band that can create the kind of electrifying atmosphere and heart-stopping moments of fragile beauty that populate the bulk of their debut album, Where Distant Spirits Remain.
With four out of the seven tracks clocking in above the eight-minute mark, the band are able to mine a rich musical seam that looks to take in everything from the frenetic drumming of Darkthrone to the sparse, evocative melodies of Estonian composer Arvo Part. What makes these tracks work so well is that each element is given room to breathe: when the wave of howled vocals and churning guitar of ‘Beyond the Embers & the Earth’ crashes and breaks into a cascade of strings and piano, nothing is left feeling under-developed.
Naturally for a debut record, there are a few sticking points here and there. Some of the string arrangements and pan-pipe sounds can feel a little repetitive in places, and the female vocals on ‘Where We Believe’, courtesy of Carine Tinney, come precariously close to bothering the realms of an Enya soundtrack. However, these flaws are few, and the band are always willing to throw a few surprises in to the mix, like the Clint Mansell-esque climax to ‘To Walk Amongst the Dead’, or when the over-driven guitar solo kicks in during ‘The Carrying Light’ with a sound like Freddy Krueger tearing a panel off an iron shed.
Perhaps the band’s greatest triumph with this record is that repeated listenings reveal new, hidden joys every time –an understated, lilting piano melody that passed unnoticed before, or a spiralling riff that corkscrews its way into your subconscious. This is precisely why the almost inevitable ‘shoegazer’ tag is so far wide of the mark –who has time for staring at the ground when you could be closing your eyes and giving yourself over to a lush forest of textures and soundscapes.
Falloch aren’t re-inventing the wheel, or changing the face of music, but with their own blend of folk, black metal, swirling strings and dense layers of guitar, they’ve achieved something truly arresting. Listening to their first record leaves you both deeply sated and yet chomping at the bit to see where they go from here.