Gilead‘s seemingly permanent hot streak continues. First was a duo of Thou compilations covering all of their EP, split and miscellaneous material from the past few years, followed by not one but two year-end worthy records in the new Yellow Eyes and False, both of which we here at Treble gave ecstatic review. Falls of Rauros’ new album joins this fine company in good standing, but thankfully pivots away from the sounds of those other records the label has released this year, gesturing to the underlying ethos of Gilead being more a continuity of quality rather than of pure aesthetic.
The first thing a long-time listener of Falls of Rauros will notice when listening to Patterns in Mythology is that the focus has been shifted almost entirely to cinematic and intensely maudlin post-rock. Long stretches of the album not only often fail to qualify as black metal but even more so fail to qualify as metal entirely, choosing instead to focus on somber and rich atmosphere that would feel more at home in the first wave of major post-rock bands. However, this failure to be metal, at least for long stretches, is not a failure to produce quality compositions; the emotions pour out like cascading sheets of water, feeling often like an intense mourning when gazing back over the vast tapestry of history and the unfailing stupidity of man to corrupt every good dream. The band, in truth, has been headed this way for quite a while, with their past two records leaning more heavily on the folk and pastoral post-rock compositional forms the group had previous alloyed against their foundation of black metal inflected with bits of doom.
Patterns in Mythology is ever the richer for it, partly because when they decide to launch into a blast beat with harsh shrieked vocals, those moments now have substantially greater impact. The group thankfully is wise enough to avoid cornball clean vocals, a gamble that tanks many extreme metal albums attempting to offer a more mature tapestry of emotional timbres, instead allowing their keen ear for melodies that seem to wrap around the bond like strands of living wind. Their internalization of Tolkien leans most heavily on the somber sense of decaying grandeur that is the fixture of his surrounding words about The Lord of the Rings, portraying a world of glory and magic that slowly falls to corruption and the mundane. Their choice on Patterns in Mythology to use black metal as a seasoning element, a space they can emerge into when they want a seething and roaring intensity but not something that necessarily needs to lead every piece, allows a near-doom metal sense of loss to pervade these songs, where tremolo picking conveys sorrow more than rage or terror.
Granted, it’s not like black metal is in short supply either. There is no denying, given how frequently the guitars blast away in the background and the snare cracks away, that Falls of Rauros are a black metal band. It’s just that the emotional direction of their work feels closer to groups like Saor or Panopticon or perhaps even Progenie Terrestre Pura, groups whose unifying trait is the way that they use black metal as a means toward a richly cinematic and imagistic end. In the case of Falls of Rauros, their absolutely gorgeous clean guitar breaks on songs like “Weapons of Refusal” feel almost like a quiet and private post-rock mourning over the burbling sea of some departing river. It’s so, so easy to feel yourself getting lost in the woods and streams and quiet stones of this album and so very little of it feels in the mind-image like black metal. This is the same internal image set that the band has been circumscribing since their debut, something close to the fantasy of power metal but dosed with the mournfulness and somberness of doom.
The unifying element of the black, doom and power metal aspects of Falls of Rauros’ sound on Patterns in Mythology, as well as the post-rock and prog, is that of grandeur. In terms of enunciating that buried sense of hope one feels when gazing at the ruined stones of history rich in dreaming of a more perfect world, Patterns in Mythology is Falls of Rauros’ best. It’s a subtler album than one might expect, no doubt, offering little in the way of massive hooks or earworms over its runtime. But this is less because the music is or isn’t catching as much as it is that its far more imagistic and panoramic than focused headbanging and singable hooks. It feels like witnessing a strange procession of hooded figures carrying out a funeral right on the banks of a wide river flanked in sheer and towering gray stones, so vivid you can almost see their faces within the shadows cast by the cant of the cloaks of their hoods. The album is at once peaceful and meditative, like an eye lingering on and eventually accepting some sorrow. You don’t need earworm melodies when you are able to conjure images that clearly.
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.