It’s never easy for a band to follow a debut with a sophomore release that is as strong or stronger. You have to find the right balance between what your fans already know and love and evolving and growing the music without alienating those fans. Some bands have knocked it out of the park (Black Breath), and others have swung and missed (Em Sinfonia). Was Falloch able to score another home run? And why the fuck am I using baseball metaphors?
The answer is mostly a yes. You have to go into this album without the expectation that this will be just like their first one. Because of my ravenous love for “Where We Believe” off of their first album, Where Distant Spirits Remain, I went into this album expecting more songs like that. After my initial listen, I was sorely disappointed that nothing sounded like that song. I let my thoughts and feelings sit and stew for a few days, then went back for another listen. I was able to appreciate all of the different aspects and qualities that this album brings to the table much more than during my first time through. I just had to get over my bias.
While their first album was a black metal-infused folk/post-metal offering, this time they drop most of the black metal elements and focus on the folk/post-metal with a bit of doom in one spot. In fact, they explore and expand upon the folk aspect much more here. The instrumentation for these parts is far more diverse now. A perfect example can be found in “I Shall Build Mountains.” The song starts off heavy and builds momentum, but breaks in the middle with a beautiful interlude that gives you the feeling that you are standing at the summit of the mountains you have erected, staring in awe at the beauty that surrounds you, before coming back down and regaining the built-up momentum from earlier and finishing strong.
I want to touch upon two other songs that I feel are the highlights on the album. The first is “For Ùir,” which is the shortest song on the album provided that we exclude the interlude found two songs later. At just under four minutes, this song is absolutely breathtaking. It begins with folky acoustic guitar, ethereal vocals and subtle piano, and it ascends, carried out by what is probably my favorite moment on the CD: a soft, hummed outro. One of my musical weaknesses is humming. It’s so simple, yet rarely used. The second one is “Sanctuary,” which is the album closer. This song is a journey in and of itself. Close to the halfway point, dreamy piano is layered over the guitars, joined by the chanting/humming vocals I so love. The song then builds up its finish with a hypnotic, trudging bass line and even more of those distant humming vocals, finishing out with what is no doubt the heaviest part of the album.
The only real negative of This Island, Our Funeral is found in new vocalist Tony Dunn’s vocals. On Falloch’s previous album, the vocals were very soft and subdued, but it worked. I was able to connect with them and get lost in their mellow effervescence. The vocals here are entirely different, with almost no signs of the quiet, gentle style from before. They are more powerful, but that doesn’t always lead to a pleasant result. Most of the time they hit the mark, with certain points working quite well while other instances fall flat. Screams were well done in the past with a sort of tortured style, but at the beginning of “Brahan,” in the one spot Dunn utilizes screams, it is fucking embarrassing. A few lines are belted out in a weak, raspy manner. It would have served the song better to sing these lines instead.
All in all, I was very surprised and pleased with This Island, Our Funeral. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it’s mostly on par with their debut. Aside from the vocal issues, this is a natural progression and evolution for Falloch, and I am eagerly awaiting what they have in store for us in the future. Just don’t go into the album expecting a repeat of their debut. I have to stop making that mistake with bands. Meow.
This Island, Our Funeral is out January 27th on Candlelight Records.
Rating: 3.5/5 StarsFalloch