Written by Lysander
Label: Candlelight Records
Genre: Progressive metal / Folk metal / Post-rock
01. We Are Gathering Dust
02. Beyond Embers and the Earth
04. Where We Believe
05. The Carrying Light
06. To Walk Amongst the Dead
Even though we’re at the warmest time of the year, the dying of the evening light signals the slow downturn from late Summer into Autumn, as we approach the movement into contemplation that the equinox creates. The essence of the calmer months is something that should be all too familiar to Scottish introspectors Falloch, who draw a lot of their inspiration from colder climes and the powerful forces of nature. “Where Distant Spirits Remain”, their début album released through the metal behemoth Candlelight Records, is a more placid offering from the label, foraging in various corners of post-rock, folk and progressive metal, drawing inspiration from bands such as Agalloch, Alcest and Les Discretes. Even though I initially thought the band name was a shameless sidling up to Agalloch, in turns out that Falloch Falls near Glasgow is the root of the band’s namesake, but you can still look at it and instantly know what you’re letting yourself in for by giving them airspace.
The band is currently only two members deep: Scott McClean taking care of vocals, guitar and drums and Andy Marshall on vocals, guitar and bass duties. The music has a very personal tinge to it, possibly something aided by the paucity of band members, seen clambering over tundra, tangia and snowy hills in the promo pictures, of which there must be all too many in Scotland towards the latter half of the year. Everything about the band, from the music to their image, is white – the white of cold, the white of pure emotion, the white of simplicity and the white of canvas, beckoning creativity, change, challenge and emotional control. It’s the scrap between these constantly fluxing states which Falloch attempt to wrestle with and this début is the cathartic product of that endeavour.
Where Distant Spirits Remain is very much a work of homage. A homage to nature, to sorrow, to solace and to those other bands whose sound is so close to Falloch’s own. This is not music created just to preach of personal torment and loneliness but to share that solace, understand it and interpret it through various paths. Falloch are heavy on their atmospheric metal but they also care to indulge in the territory of post-rock, at times shoving it to the prow of their musical movements and using it as a tool to elevate the listener above the all too desolate essence of ethereal loss that assails their music. Where Distant Spirits Remain is not so much about presenting emotion as exploring it, empathising with it as a vast ranging territory which can never be fully mapped out or moderated, and which always hides its own idiosyncrasies, myths and enigmas.
The musical territory is a little too vast even for Falloch, though. At seven tracks and 52 minutes, you can be sure to expect some long numbers here. It’s so vast, in fact, that Falloch have a tendency to get lost in it themselves. A lot of the songs contain a great quota of musical variety, summoning clean acoustic passages, glimmering post-rock and faster, energetic elements reminiscent of those black metal/shoegaze bands who swirl around the atmospheric metal scene. The songs have direction, certainly, but it’s too much of a scenic route than a direct path, the kind of country drive that goes on a little too long, and what once felt like a good idea before you set out starts to feel tiresome and dull, and returning can’t come quick enough. This is possibly not helped by the long instrumental sections which, most of the time, are just too simplistic to be interesting and though Andy’s voice, for its part, is pure and fluid as the music itself, I can’t help feeling that it’s a little too weak even for metal of this kind, the real pain and pallor behind the words getting stuck suppressed in his throat.
Falloch clearly have ghosts to reckon with, whether they be personal demons or the ghosts of personal want and chance which desire to make Where Distant Spirits Remain so much more than it is. This album wants to be greater but it lacks a certain conviction, a certain true soul which at times makes the music feel as blank as the white hills which Falloch walk. What causes bands like Agalloch or Alcest to be so effective for some is the true heart and atmosphere of nature converted to musical form, and though this heart also may reside within McLean and Marshall themselves, the transmission is lacking. Where Distant Spirits Remain, though occasionally successful, doesn’t inspire as much as its inspirations and lot of the time it wanders, drifts and strays into a miasma of washed-out indifference. A little more of that biting cold would do wonders for this music.