May 4, 2012

Faal - The Clouds are Burning ...

In 2008, this Dutch band released an album called 'Abhorrence-Salvation' that has excellent songs but is marred by poor production. Everybody said (me included) that if this band can record this kind of record again but with great production, then they would really have something worth talking about. The good news is they have done just that. The band made the decision to get Greg Chandler of Esoteric to mix the album and the result is an atmospheric sound that really gets under your skin. This album of apocalyptic visions and crushing ambience is loaded with pure desolate, blackened soundscapes and it goes without saying this is not exactly a happy musical experience. There are only 4 tracks on 'The Clouds Are Burning' that range from 9 to almost 14 minutes long so it can be a bit of a challenge to sit through especially for those people looking for catchy hooks and headbanging tempos and riffs.

Being a funeral doom band, the tempos are mostly at a crawl but there are a couple of up-tempo breaks that mixes things up just when it is needed. The album starts its journey of pestilence with 'My Body Glows Red.' It starts off ominous and eerie and then changes to moody and depressive so don't expect any riff-rocking of joy here. The guttural vocals suit the mood perfectly and don't sound out-of-place or too high in the mix like they are in some funeral doom bands and they actually add to the overwhelming, suffering ambience. This piece of crushing brilliance doesn't add anything new to the already limited genre but it flows so beautifully that this is 11:36 of hypnotic doom. However the album only gets even better from here on. The next track 'The Insistance's Wish' is slightly more energetic and stylistically varied. There is some bending of the genres with a black-metal section about halfway through the piece where the tempo (shock, horror!) gets a major kick up the rear end. Seeing as the band plays with the energy of a sloth most of the time, these breaks are thrilling and largely unexpected but certainly don't sound out-of-place.

The best riff of the album comes at the opening of the next track 'Tempest' but it is still steadfast in its doominess and atmosphere of despair. The band even add another element to the album at this point which is melody, not that there isn't any melody before this track but this piece is the most melodic tune (?) of the release. As the track progresses, it becomes more satanic-sounding for the want of better words but there is this ever underlying psychedelic-doom flavor that is buried just under the surface. Then the album comes full circle with the epic title track which is again coated in nothing but shades of grey and an expansive, thunderous sound. This track is close to 14 minutes of some of the most captivating funeral doom recorded in recent years. What makes this track so good and the album in general is they don't bring anything new to the table but they are never trapped by any one style, tempo or direction.

Funeral doom albums are never usually big on variance but this album is rich in different sound textures and they are not afraid to push the boundaries just that little bit without losing the funeralized, black-doom vibe. They explore different approaches to leads, melodies, atmosphere and tempos and the instrumentation is nicely balanced. This album has keyboards but they are used in the most effective way possible, keeping them in the background as a atmosphere-creating backing instrument. The growl of the vocals are also nothing too intrusive, rather they compliment the guitar work and help with the ambience. It is true to say that funeral doom can be pretty dull if it has no variations but Faal don't fall into that trap on this album and the album is better off for it. Fans of Esoteric will want to hear this and not just because of who mixed the recording. This is the first real "classic" funeral doom album released this year so it goes without saying that this is a "must-have" for fans of the genre...9.5/10.

Faal @ Myspace
Van Records | Official Website

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