October Falls – The Plague of a Coming Age

octoberfallsOne of the more interesting developments in the early to mid 90s metal underground was the fermentation of the newly flourishing death-doom sound and 2nd wave black metal with melancholy, romantic classical (somewhat erroneously defined as “folk”) acoustic instrumentation and atmosphere. Given the rather unfortunate title of dark metal, this style has expanded quite widely since first brought into existence by pioneer bands such as Ulver, The 3rd and the Mortal, and Empyrium. October Falls is one of the more notable bands to have adopted the garb of this elusive genre after the originators split up or moved onto other approaches to music. The Plague of a Coming Age is their 4th album to date.

Though they are deeply rooted in the same watershed as those that defined the genre, these dolorous Finns are no slavish imitators. While a clear Katatonia influence permeates the proceedings, there is still a great deal to differentiate October Falls and define their own sound. The riffing style leans toward simple and catchy melodies, accented with lightly picked acoustic layers and subtly “folky” leads and flourishes that add much needed depth to what otherwise might have been otherwise forgettable moments. Some extra attention ought to be payed to the tasteful and spirited bass lines of Sami Hinkka from Ensiferum, sitting comfortably at the perfect level in the clear (perhaps too much so) production gracing The Plague of a Coming Age. A moderated use of clean vocals, solemn piano, and acoustic interludes adds a decent, but not entirely adequate sense of variety to the course of the album.

Moderation is the word that continued to come up for me as I ruminated over this album. That moderation, while a commendable trait some ways, ends up feeling too safe. For the most part, The Plague of a Coming Age flows on so unobtrusively that you may forget it’s even there (and in the album). The effortlessly smooth riffs and melodies, while satisfying in their simplicity, begin to feel somewhat flat in the context of the whole album. Some more complex and challenging moments would have gone a long way towards giving the album more distinctive and memorable moments. The interplay between the bombastic metal moments and the more thoughtful Kveldssanger-esque ones certainly do much to relieve these feelings, but even they often feel a little too predictable in themselves.

Don’t let that drive you away from giving The Plague of a Coming Age a listen though; despite often longing for something unexpected and truly gripping to burn through the changeless fog of melancholy that defines this album, I continue to find myself coming back to it, welcoming its cold, enveloping mists and wondering at the careful subtleties hidden beneath it. It’s hard to fault October Falls for creating an album that is somewhat monotonous in texture and mood when they are this adept at it, but I can’t help but hope for a more adventurous sonic journey from these Finn’s when they next offer up an album. -Jake

Debemur Morti Productions

~ by jakemoran on May 1, 2013.

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