October Falls // The Plague of a Coming Age
Rating: 4.0/5.0 – Focused, convincing and a grower
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Websites: koti.welho.com/mlehto4 | facebook.com/octoberfalls
Release Dates: EU: 2013.03.15 | US: 04.16.2013
Back in ’10—when I was wearing an onion on my belt ’cause that was the fashion in those days—I reviewed a record from Finnish atmospheric black metallers October Falls called A Collapse of Faith. At 40+ minutes of a single song, my Angry Attention Deficit Disorder hindered me from loving this record. While it was good, had great melodies, interesting ideas and an old school production that added a fuzzy atmosphere to the whole thing, I was never able to really bring myself to come back to it. It might have been perfect for some of the depressing, snowy days that we get here in Sweden, but I’ve got a quite bit of go-to music for that. Still, I was curious was when I received the promo for The Plague of a Coming Age. With its fantastic cover art, and its 9 easily distinguishable songs, I thought this might be a step in a direction I could enjoy.
Turns out I was right. From the very opening strains of The Plague of a Coming Age—drums, wind and sweet, sweet harmonies in harmonic minor—it was obvious that this was a plague I could get behind. A plague I could really support. In any case, while opening track “At the Edge of an Empty Horizon” is just an instrumental, it merges seamlessly into “Bloodlines,” which ups the speed but maintains a distant, atmospheric sound. This heavier sound, which makes up about 2/3 of the music on the record, really hits a sweet spot of a mixture of old school Ulver, Opeth and Agalloch (with a just a dash of Primordial). It works perfectly in its dreamy haze, often lilting along in 6/8. The songs are slow and doomy with Lehto’s dying croaks buried under wall of sound — bittersweetly harmonized guitars, thick, bassy drums and an all around outstanding bass performance by Sami Hinkka (Ensiferum).
The other defining side of October Falls is what I will admit is Angry Metal Guy and M. Lehto’s shared love of early Ulver and other acoustic and mellow sides of metal. The intro on “Snakes of the Old World” sounds like it came straight off Kveldssanger, while “Boiling Heart of the North” or the intro to “Below the Soils” are more reminiscent of the clean work of Primordial or Shroud of Despondency. This side of the band offers much needed dynamics. Moving slowly and carefully, wandering into melodic acoustic work, is precisely what makes the blast beats on “The Weight of the Fallen” effective and heavy. The opening harmonies and calm lay a trap for the listener on “The Verge of Oblivion” and when the cans kick in after those few seconds of calm, it is immense. This strong use of contrast is what always made bands like Opeth or Theatre of Tragedy so successful, and October Falls uses it masterfully here.
It should be noted, too, that the production on this record is really fitting. While one can offer up a complaint about a lack of immediacy and attack—and therefore extremity—because everything is so padded by the wetness and ambience, The Plague of a Coming Age is almost more like a dreamy alternative to reality. In the context, a context not meant to be the most extreme thing you’ve ever heard, it works well. And it’s cool to hear Tomi Joutsen produced like this on his guest tracks “The Plague of a Coming Age” and “Boiling Heart of the North.” His voice is so perfect for this kind of music – which has made him such a successful vocalist in Amorphis – but he’s never been so ‘under-produced’ before. Hearing his voice here, raw and less condensed, adds immense flavor to an already great record, but is cool for the Joutsen fanboy or -girl to hear.
With its more focused approach The Plague of a Coming Age is an immense change from A Collapse of Faith. Some may find the band moving away from long songs and putting out a record with 9 pretty short tracks (comparatively) to be surprising or unwelcome, but for the fan of melodic, atmospheric metal, it feels like October Falls struck gold. The melodies will haunt you and enchant you, the songs will pull you through emotional journeys. Hell, even the artwork is extraordinarily evocative and subtle. This plague will stay with us all for a long time to come.