Black metal from the United Kingdom typically presents an atmospheric approach rooted in (Celtic) folk and post rock/metal. Last year provided a handful of worthy examples of this trend, with Primordial (Ireland), Saor (Scotland) and Winterfylleth (England) all releasing albums that explored the boundaries within this formula. Falloch seem keen on keeping this style alive into the New Year with their sophomore album This Island, Our Funeral, a record most comparable to Saor from the aforementioned bands. Yet, while these Glaswegians once included Saor mastermind Andy Marshall in their ranks, what is presented on This Island, Our Funeral has a distinctly clean approach that bears a black metal tag solely in a thematic sense. The result is a beautifully painted landscape that utilizes an overly pastel palette.
Other than an unnecessary interlude, Falloch compositions on This Island, Our Funeral are all solid iterations of what makes atmospheric black metal such a detailed subgenre. The band maintains a core post rock/metal sound reminiscent of Isis before adding hints of folk and black metal à la Ulver’s Bergtatt and Kveldssanger. Nothing here delves into uncharted territory, but Falloch’s approach feels more terrestrial in comparison to the mystical auras of their influences and peers. Several passages on the album sound like mortal renditions of pre-Shelter Alcest, with the track “For Life” in particular feeling like a secular interpretation of Niege’s childhood “Fairy World.” All of this may cause This Island, Our Funeral to sound like a tamer version of a band such as Agalloch, but this should be more appropriately interpreted to paint Falloch as an effective transitioning act for listeners not accustomed to the harsher elements of black metal.
However, there is a Nessie in the room on This Island, Our Funeral that must be addressed, as it (or rather, he) acts as an inhibitor on the album as a whole. Vocalist/guitarist Tony Dunn is a capable singer whose voice croons and soars atop the atmospheres that he and his bandmates conjure. Yet, this is precisely the problem: save for a brief bit of muffled shouting at the beginning of “Brahan,” Dunn’s vocals are exclusively clean. Though this is not as much of an issue on a track-by-track basis, it ultimately leads to a distinct lack of vocal variety that causes Falloch’s softer approach to feel even plusher than the music actually is. It would have behooved of Dunn to incorporate some well-placed growls within the fold; one cannot truly enjoy soaring in the wind if they have never been dragged through the muck.
So while Falloch may not have penned a masterpiece with This Island, Our Funeral, their method could prove helpful to virgin atmospheric black metal listeners that are curious about the subgenre. For more experienced fans, however, Falloch’s hygiene may prove a bit too tame, especially in regards to Dunn’s vocal performance. Hopefully this year will see another UK group release a more gripping offering from the subgenre.
Falloch’s This Island, Our Funeral gets…