The Long and Lonely Road
Very few musicians gets it just right the first time. It’s truly an amazing thing to hear when a debut strikes all the right chords, hits all the right notes, and basically just blows you away. What I’ve come to realize about ‘As Time Goes By’ is that it doesn’t strike all the right chords and doesn’t hit all the right notes. Yet it still blew me away. There’s a curious charm, a nearly inexplicable magnetism present in these songs that creates a whole much greater than the sum of its somewhat rickety parts. The shoegaze/black metal combination has certainly been done before, but rarely with such a pure and genuine aura and such an obvious and powerful desire to send the listener careening down a long and lonely road.
“Catchiness” is often associated with “crap” when it comes to metal. If it’s got an easy to follow hook and sounds kind of bouncy it must be ill-written poorly thought out garbage. That interpretation is not the case here; the melodies create a motion that you can feel and they make you want to move to the music in way that’s not at all typical for the genre. On the other side of the things, the production will leave you wanting. There’s a hollow, insubstantial sound to the instruments, distant and cold. In some ways it works to build atmosphere, but it also muddles up a complex mixture of riffs, solid bass work and (mostly) engaging drumming to the point where some parts of some songs sound like mush where they should sound majestic.
Speaking of the drumming, it alternates frequently from very interesting and unique implementations to sounding completely off-tempo and poorly timed. It’s never quite enough to kill a song, but it’s more than occasionally distracting at best, moderately embarrassing at worst. Similar problems can be found (though much less obvious and frequent) with the other instruments. Again, Falaise don’t get it just right, but there’s more than enough here of worth in creativity, songwriting ability, and emotional content to override the technical shortcomings and shine through with a bright, convincing, and exciting glow.
“Frozen Dawn” does what any good short intro track should; it sets the tone and mood of the album to great effect. All the rest of the tracks have a very similar feel, so you’ll know in the first two minutes what you’re getting into. The first third of the album showcases fluid rolling rhythms and airy guitar lines with plenty of blast beating, tremolo picking black metal madness on display. This is tempered with beautifully done soft passages that whimsically float and flutter in sharp but sensible contrast to the harsh assaults. It never gets too aggressive though, and never too flimsy. Lost Moments is the highlight of this section, providing a succinct summary of everything the band wants to get across with their fairly unique style. Vocals take a back seat here, and are noticeably lower in the mix. They’re quite well done, if very simple. There’s nothing particularly impressive about them, but they don’t need to stand out, instead serving to polish up the sharp, serrated edge of the emotionally charged and constantly varying musical passages.
The middle third is still very similar, but separates its two contrasting approaches more clearly. The nearly eleven minute title track proves the band has the songwriting chops to construct longer, more complicated pieces that work just as well as the shorter songs. They simply seem to prefer a more compacted approach. Withering has a fantastic, inspiring outro and the cold hard riffs and smacking drums of “Pointless” groan and grate. The final third builds on the strengths established so far. “The Lump in My Throat”, despite having a rather terrible title, proves to be the catchiest most energetic song here. It’s great to see a piece with a vibe like this so late in a long album with this many tracks; a reaffirming grip on your attention, it sets you up for the powerful finale. “Waiting Time” has a cascade of riffs and backing melodies that pushes out a wall of sound much more dense than anything so far, a sort of bold, all-caps underlining of the final word in a story. The closer is an ambient ellipsis, with no guitars in earshot, instead choosing to focus on the piano (keyboard) that has up to this point acted only in a supporting role. Here it proves that it’s just as important to Falaise’s sound as anything else in their arsenal and brings the album to a somber and satisfying conclusion.
In truth the whole affair is well, amateurish, to put it lightly. I see the term “production” get thrown around a lot. Everyone has their preferences but it seems the way an album sounds overall, how the myriad individual tracks of instruments are mixed and mastered, and how the various layers and effects are implemented sometimes takes precedence over everything else. The actual performance, and even the emotional content get looked at second. I understand that the production of an album can detract from these things, but it doesn’t always have to. And Falaise don’t let it. They worked with what they have and what they know to create an unassuming, slightly over-the-top spectacle that doesn’t feel forced, fluffed, or full of artificially concocted sonic fabrications. Instead what we get comes through as a candid and audacious attempt by Falaise to give us everything they’ve got and then some. I can only hope that they discover they have so much more to show us.
1.Frozen Dawn 02:41
3.Eternal Sleep 06:06
4.Lost Moments 04:40
5.No Destination 04:22
6.As Time Goes By 10:51
9.The Lump In My Throat 04:17
10.Waiting Time 04:56