By Jonathan Smith
Giving that Falloch‘s website describes their sound as a “wide variety of styles including Metal, Post-Rock and Folk, ” it only makes sense that the first full-length release from the band would be compared to acts ranging from Alcest to Les Discrets to Agalloch. There’s no one description or comparison that fits the Glasgow-based band, and that’s because Where Distant Spirits Remain is one of the most interesting and varied combination of sounds heard yet this year. The end result is a decent album that tends to spend time wallowing in a particular mood at the expense of always keeping keeping the listener engaged.
Opening track “We Are Gathering Dust” encompasses Falloch’s range, moving from more etherial post-metal moments of reflection and calm to (very occasional) raging black metal-tinged riffs. It’s in this variety that Falloch’s song writing does invoke Alcest’s more recent output. “Horizons” is an instrumental which emphasizes the band’s celtic connections, but it’s more effective when seen as a long lead-in to the first epic track “Where We Believe.” The latter opens with swelling synths and a very catchy guitar riff, and as a whole it’s one of Where Distant Spirits Remain‘s finest moments (or ten of them). By the time the album reaches second epic “To Walk Among The Dead,” however, the album has worn out its welcome. Album closer “Solace” would have benefitted from being placed somewhere else on the album; as it is it comes off as more of an after-thought than it deserves.
What’s also significant different from other acts is Andy Marshall‘s vocal style. In Alcest, frontman Neige’s voice comes off as something supernatural that blends into the world that he describes. They are part of the suspension of everyday reality that is entailed in listening to the French band. Falloch’s vocals, however, are always front and centre and very human. The decision to use more or less entirely clean vocals is a courageous one considering that Marshall’s voice doesn’t come off as very assertive. They don’t always match with the instrumental mood that is being created, and sometimes that’s an issue. If part of Falloch’s purpose is to invoke a soundscape focused on “themes of nostalgia, sorrow, nature and longing” (as described by the band’s website), it’s harder to get sucked into the music when the vocals sound taken from much more mundane circumstances.
Where Distant Spirits Remain is not the strongest release of its ilk this year, but overall it’s a good debut that shows much future potential and talent. The biggest issues found here (vocals that don’t always fit in as well as tendencies toward being long-winded) are hazards of the band’s chosen style, and both are issues that could very well be addressed by the next release. Given the amount of support that Falloch seems to be getting from the label, here’s hoping that the band will stay visible and be back soon with another collection of (more and perhaps shorter) songs before too long.