With Scotland potentially poised to proclaim independence from English rule in a very un-William Wallace fashion (ballots instead of broadswords), it seems only fair to highlight some Scottish music for a fookin change, eh? Today’s subject is Falloch, a folksy, relentlessly bleak post rock outfit that takes elements of traditional Scottish music and blends them with healthy doses of melodic, vaguely blackened metal. I suppose their sound could be described as Eluvilite mixed with Primordial and Agalloch, with some Enya thrown in for haggis and giggles. Their sophomore outing, This Island, Our Funeral strives to be a sweeping, dreamy and emotional platter, perfect for sitting on fog shrouded shores like the one adorning their lovely cover. While they achieve it to a point, it’s hard to call this a success, as so much of the material feels underwhelming and more like new age background music than something you truly dive into and listen to intensely. There’s some good stuff here, but something about their writing holds me at arm’s length more often than not, preventing me from fully buying in and drifting into the mists of the Scottish landscape.
The nine minutes of lead track “Torradh” pretty much gives away all the band’s tricks and stunts as it plumbs the depths of Primordial‘s more melodic material, layers on Agalloch-friendly trem riffs, then weaves in some soft piano breaks and quiet open spaces that scream post-rock. Over the top of all this, Tony Dunn exercises his high pitched, clarion clear vocals which sound oh so Scottish and just a wee bit folksy. He has a captivating croon and when all the elements come together, it seems like one would be enthralled, but the music just never swept me away, though I was more than willing to go along for the ride. “For Life” has a more aggressive approach, Dunn sounds plaintive and forlorn and the guitars are suitably weepy and burly as the moment dictates, but the same distance is there between the music and me.
This becomes a reoccurring problem throughout This Island, as the compositions seem respectable enough, but fail to grab my attention or inflame my passion. I like a segment here and an idea there, but as whole, the songs seem to wash by like tidal water, a brackish body of indistinguishable waves that leave nothing specific to focus on.
I will say, the downcast ballad “For Uir” is fairly evocative and works for what it is, and the ghostly, Agalloch flavored riffing throughout “Brahan” keeps the music reasonably interesting initially, but at eight minutes, they overplay their hand and things stumble in the home stretch. Even the various Tool-isms evident in “I Shall Build Mountains” can’t save the day, and though it starts out quite inspiring, at ten minutes, it simply can’t keep its head above the dark waters.
The band obviously has talent, and it’s frustrating to hear them playing well in songs lacking the “it factor” that excites the grey matter. I really enjoy Dunn’s singing and enjoy a goodly portion of the guitar-work from Dunn and Scott McLean, and despite establishing an authentically bleak, Scottish vibe, the music never completely gels for me, and that bums me out because I want to like this album.
What This Island, Our Funeral ends up as is a fairly pleasant background soundtrack. It won’t distract you from other endeavors or demand much of your attention as it drifts and meanders like the tide. Shortcomings aside, I’ll be watching Falloch in the future to see if they can find that missing ingredient and become something more than they are here. Good luck, lads, and good luck, Scotland. And oh yeah…FREEDOM!