My first exposure to Falls of Rauros was their sophomore release, The Light That Dwells in the Rotten Wood. Even though it doesn’t wander far from the style established by other great post-black metal bands of the Pacific Northwest, I immediately fell in love with its flow and seamless execution. Being the judgmental person we all know I am, I had merely assumed they hailed from the same wooded region Wolves in the Throne Room and Agalloch hid in. However, when the promo dropped for their third full-length (Believe in No Coming Shore), I realized this foursome hails from Portland, Maine; not Portland, Oregon. While their hometown doesn’t hold the title for most hipster city in the States (though it’s pretty damn close), Falls of Rauros share many of the same post-black/post-metal/folk traits of their Northwestern brethren. Hipsters aside, can Believe in No Coming Shore top its predecessor or will it be as bland as a “Seattle breakfast”?
Thankfully, this release has more flavor than it may appear. “Blue Misshapen Dusk” is a folking spectacular way to get things rolling. Crashing waves pass over the sand and flow straight into a beautiful instrumental that glides gently into “Ancestors of Shadow.” This next track exposes you to the standard post-black assault of Falls of Rauros; harsh Two Hunters-era vox, tremolo picking guitars, and constant BM drumming. It also feels like “Ancestors of Shadow” is intentionally placed at the beginning of the album so as to ease you gently into the new territory Falls of Rauros is about to pass through.
At first, “Ancestors of Smoke” continues where “Ancestors of Shadow” left off, making it so run-of-the-mill that it’s mostly forgettable. It shrieks and attacks like its predecessor until the 4:55 mark. At this point, it comes to a screeching halt. In its place rises a magical ‘70s influenced acoustic guitar lick that made my ears perk right up, half expecting to hear Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” While not far off, Falls of Rauros does prove that they have been drinking way too much with label mates, Panopticon (their recent split together is fucking awesome). While it’s not the same Kentucky bourbon Lunn has been guzzling down, Falls of Rauros have definitely been chugging back some sort of Panopticon/Agalloch cocktail. You’ll find more of these acoustic flavors on “Waxen Voices” and “Believe in No Coming Shore;” the latter closes out the album very similarly to how it began.
However, with this new found love for calming acoustic passages and soaring solos, Believe in No Coming Shore seems to lack the fluidity that made The Light That Dwells in the Rotten Wood such a great slab of melodic post-black metal. The only song that possesses that old charm is “Spectral Eyes.” This track takes everything they’ve done before and melds it perfectly with what they do now. Otherwise, the album feels too stripped down and forced. The issue I have is that Falls of Rauros were able to achieve impressive flow with these new elements in the two tracks from their 2014 split with Panopticon. But they lost it somewhere between then and now (mind you, “then and now” is still 2014). Another issue is the vocals. It’s been three full-length albums now of the same desperate sounding – yet standard – BM vocals. While it worked on past albums, most songs on Believe in No Coming Shore demand variety beyond post-black tunnel shrieking.
Thankfully, none of these issues break the album. My problems with “fluidity” will be overlooked by many (the interwebs are praising this as a masterpiece). However, compared to their last album, it feels like something’s missing. Getting past the flow (along with the filler issues of the 10+ minute “Ancestor…” tracks), the guitar work is stellar and the big bass presence makes those acoustic passages even more powerful. While not the masterful production of some other releases in the last couple months, the mix and dynamics do well to drive the emotion deep. And though it doesn’t pave new trails, Falls of Rauros step up their game and take Believe in No Coming Shore beyond the formula mastered by their northern border “neighbors.” If they continue down this path for future releases, I suspect we will be in for a real treat. Hipsters, be warned!