The Fall of Every Season is a one-man doom metal project from Trondheim, Norway, helmed by Marius Strand. Amends is his sophomore album, coming out on Grau Records a full six years after his debut, From Below, continuing in his established mode of melodic death/doom descended from the original “Peaceville Three“ (My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost) and similar to Denmark’s Saturnus. It is also one of the most powerful, emotionally resonant works I’ve heard in this genre in quite some time, and a rare, memorable demonstration of the potential of metal music to take command of the hearts of its audience.
I’ve posited before that metal, as much as it can appear at times to be brusque or mindless, has at its heart a deep strain of romanticism, in as much as it has as its raison d’etre the provocation of powerful emotion. Romanticism, classically, holds that the human mind is an interpretative mechanism; the act of perception is not simply a passive intake of information, but a synthesis of objective reality and a projection of our own thoughts and feelings based on past experience. Even an act of perception as mundane as, say, looking at a wall brings with it certain pre-baked assumptions. What you see might only be concrete or plasterboard, but it brings with it the concept of a boundary, something that confines or protects – this might be positive or negative depending on your state of mind. In a nutshell, what you perceive is as much an abstract concept of your own creation as it is an objectively present object.
In this worldview, the role of the artist is to lead their audience to an elevated state of perception, to find the universal in the finite and the miraculous in the mundane. Metal music accomplishes this, but usually in a very blunt force trauma sort of a way, whipping its audience up into a state of empowerment and aggrandized perceptions by dint of its sheer fury and exuberance. Doom metal is perhaps better suited than most of the genre to achieve a more thoughtful sort of revelation, and this is what The Fall of Every Season deliver with Amends. The album is designed from top to bottom as a conduit to heightened apprehension, and does so subtly, gently, with slow-burning instrumentation across four huge (ranging from eleven to fourteen minute) tracks that allow the listener ample time and space to get into Strand’s state of mind. Amends isn’t depressive, nor is it saccharine; rather, it presents the listener with a relaxed, balmy clarity and calm.
“Sole Passenger” opens with a slow, warm acoustic melody being played in counterpoint to a churning bass line, establishing the contrast between the album’s downbeat, quiescent mood and its fiercely personal sense of yearning before the two collide and give birth to a downward-spiralling riff that manages to evoke both simultaneously. From there, the song unfurls as though in slow motion, simple, sweet melodies played with crushingly heavy production being embellished over the course of several minutes and creating a reassuring sense of continuity and stillness. Strand’s vocals alternate between a clean, smoky baritone reminiscent of Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg and an incredibly deep death growl which nevertheless doesn’t evoke anger or morbidity so much as a sense of strength and resolve. Amends isn’t afraid to flex its muscles, particularly on the extremely heavy, riff-driven “The Mammoth,” but even this song is a gentle giant, directing the power of its riffs and death growls in sympathy with the listener rather than against them; it’s compassionate, not aggressive.
The album’s highlight, however, is the achingly beautiful “Aurelia,” which best encapsulates the album as a whole with its alternation between slow, thunderous chord progressions and lyrical, melancholy sections of piano. It brilliantly captures the feeling of revelation found in nature, of the profundity to be found in isolation away from the clutter and the noise of other voices and minds. “Amends” excels at this impression of open space and sublime isolation, its songs’ gradual, unhurried evolution lending a sense of vast, untouched expanses that belong to the listener and the listener alone.
If there’s one factor that solidifies Amends in my mind as a masterpiece, it’s the fact that I’ve only grown more and more enamoured with it after repeated listenings. At first, I read its long stretches occupied by simple, repeated melodies as wasted potential, and thought they would be improved with the inclusion of more creative counterpoint. I came to realise though that in this case, the simplicity of the album’s “empty” spaces did not entail a lack of nuance. Amends derives its character from these empty spaces that allow the listener room to breathe, and this would only be muddled and diluted with the addition of more instruments and textures. With this in mind then, Marius Strand has created an extraordinarily beautiful, virtually flawless album of the sort that can only come from total unity and clarity of artistic vision. That he possesses such a vision in addition to the instrumental ability and melodic sensibility to realise it makes him worthy of the highest praise I have to offer.
01) Sole Passenger
02) The Mammoth
03) A Portrayal
05) Come Waves