“But.” No other word in the English language possesses the sheer life-building/soul-crushing power of that three-letter word. It tears someone down after a volley of praise and it also builds them back up following harsh criticisms. When that word appears, shit goes down and gets real immediately. “But” becomes the ice-cold glass of water thrown in your face, the sudden acquisition of a winning lottery ticket, or the proverbial needle scratching across a record violently. So what does that word have to do with My Endless Immensity, the second full-length by Italian depressive upstarts Falaise, and why the sudden exposition on a word that we all take for granted?
Because that one word kept entering my mind during the album’s duration. You wouldn’t know it from the beautifully scenic instrumental “Nightgaze” that opens up the album, or the delightfully playful piano that elevates album highlight “You Towards Me.” The latter of which also deviates the duo away from the likes of those riding the coattails of An Autumn for Crippled Children or Alcest, going a bit further with the major-key instrumentation. The closing cover of Amesoeurs‘ “Les ruches malades” is admirable, even though it doesn’t deviate much from the original save for Audrey Sylvain’s airy vocals being replaced by keyboardist/drummer Matteo Guarnello’s shrieks. When Falaise allow themselves to delicately play beyond the depressive black metal tropes, the results hint of great things to come for this young duo.
But (here we go) two major stumbling blocks trip My Endless Immensity before it can soar off the ground. First of all, the production hurts. I was not surprised when my dynamic range finder kicked back a DR10 for “Nightgaze” and a DR5 for almost everything else1, as the sound is the very definition of brickwalled. Whenever guitarist/bassist Lorenzo Pompili revs up the tremolo-picking, or Guarnello starts blasting away behind the kit, any semblance of nuance and ambiance gets thrown right out the window. The first time I heard “The Embrace of Water,” I had to physically throw my headphones off due to the amount of distortion and noise, and I was listening at a low volume. When you have these beautiful, playful melodies peppering “You Towards Me” and the ten-minute “A Veil of Stars,” you want the production to breathe as much as humanly possible so the melodies have room to dance and enchant.
Worse yet, though, the rest of the album meanders about without anything sticking. “Crimson Clouds” rolls by, building to a seemingly powerful crest, and then just ends. Where there should be build-ups and crescendos, there’s just build-ups and more build-ups. Love ’em or hate ’em, when Deafheaven dropped Sunbather four years ago, they changed the depressive black metal landscape by incorporating shoegaze motifs carefully into old black metal tropes. Since then, many bands have been trying to catch up without writing engaging material first. Falaise, despite all their good intentions, fell into this trap here. If it seems like I’m being harsh, it’s because I can sense the potential from the strong parts on display. That said, they need to tighten their songwriting and get someone else to master their material for them.
But (again) there’s hope for this young Italian duo. With some editing and a better production, I can see Falaise dropping an album that will turn mopey heads in their direction. Give them a couple of albums, and perhaps the potential will be realized. As it stands, My Endless Immensity suffers from being a bit too ambitious, and definitely too loud. These can be fixed in due time and with practice.