Falls of Rauros - The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood, and Obsequiae - Suspended in the Brume of Eos

It's getting difficult to keep up with all of the amazing music being released. But it is a great pleasure of mine to be able to review so much of it for our readers. This double review is one of the greatest pleasures I have had this year.

Maine's Falls of Rauros has been a good band since they formed back in 2006. With each release, they have improved, hitting their stride in 2008 with the full-length album Hail Wind and Hewn Oak. Their first album of new material since then sees Falls of Rauros becoming a great band, and in fact, joining the elite of American black metal. It may be easy for some to dismiss this band as just another nature-loving folk-ish black metal act with a Tolkien-inspired name, but that's nonsense. There is no pretension, no trend-hopping, here. Falls of Rauros have succeeded where many other bands have failed, bringing a genuine, heartfelt strain of folk into their black metal. The production on this album is more polished than Hail Wind, but that doesn't leave this album feeling any less organic. The emotions remain raw and close to the surface, allowing this album to, in many ways, feel like home - to me at least.

I've been thinking quite a bit about how geography effects music since I wrote the review for the Forest of the Soul album; that album is distinctly Appalachian. There's a piece of that here, too, but this album feels more... northern, if that makes any sense. It feels like New England, like the Atlantic Ocean, like the great mountains and lakes that decorate the vistas of the Northeast. It even feels a bit like the Adirondacks- the place my spirit calls home. But I digress... What you should take from all of this is that Falls of Rauros have become amazing songwriters, with the ability to expertly communicate a wide variety of feelings and ideas with beautiful acoustic guitars, gentle atmospherics, and heavy and soulful guitar playing. Austin Lunn's drums don't hurt, either - as one of the best drummers metal has to offer these days, he helps bring the raw emotion of the songs pouring down with fury and precision.

An atmosphere of melancholy is prominent on this album, but there is more to it than that. What I've heard each and every time I've listened to this album, is a feeling of respect - respect for everything that surrounds us, even if we don't understand or appreciate it. There are malign, destructive forces at work, but there's also something positive to be taken from that. A lesson to be learned, perhaps. From darkness, light... and in that light, a will to celebrate.

This all adds up to what may end up being the best black metal record of the year.

You may be familiar with Tanner Anderson from his work with the amazing Celestiial, which we've covered here before. With the debut full-length from Obsequiae soon to hit shelves, Anderson will be showing that he's clearly not a one-trick pony (something that should have been obvious already).

Obsequiae (which also features Neidhart Von Reuental on drums, bass, and guitars) released one demo in 2009, a cassette on Bindrune, but functioned prior to that as Autumnal Winds, which released a number of demos dating back to 1998, when the band formed. The 2009 demo featured 3 songs that made myself and many others anxious for a full-length album to be released, and now that it is here, we see it was very well worth the wait.

I'd heard this band referred to as Medieval Dark Metal, and that never really rang true to me until I heard this album. One need only listen to the first couple of songs to understand why; it's quite easy to imagine the riffs and lead work (both of which are out of this world) being played on flutes and violins in the middle of the ancient forests of Europe. The songs are well-written, melodic, and played with a boundless precision.

Since I started listening to this, I felt like I probably should have heard something like before - the triumphant melodies, near-technicality of the guitar work, and commanding vocal performance seems like such an obvious formula for a great record. We may have heard bits and pieces of this in other bands (Agalloch comes to mind for some reason, though this sounds nothing like Agalloch), but the pieces have never, to my knowledge, been put together like this, composing such a powerful and poignant package. What we have here is a thoroughly and immensely enjoyable record, one that we'll be able to enjoy for years to come. I've only just received this one, and I already can't wait to hear more from this band.

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Both of these albums are now available for preorder from Bindrune Recordings.  If you're one of the first 50 to order, you'll receive an 11" x 17" poster to go with your CDs. Order them individually for $11 ppd each, or get both for only $22 ppd. These both receive the highest recommendation that HSS can give, so you are stongly urged to order them now.

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