July 12, 2019

False - Portent

By Matt Hinch. Before we even get into the nuts and bolts of the new False album one must note that this one actually has a name. Previously the Minnesota black metal 5-piece released an “untitled” EP and LP. Sure the Hunger EP had a name but this seems more significant.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski.

Before we even get into the nuts and bolts of the new False album one must note that this one actually has a name. Previously the Minnesota black metal 6-piece released an “untitled” EP and LP. Sure the Hunger EP had a name but this seems more significant. Threateningly or disquietingly significant in fact. A marvelous omen indicating a momentous happening. You see, the name of the album is Portent and all meanings of the word are applicable.

My first listen to False's sophomore full-length came under almost ideal conditions, with the main point against being the fact that it was 30°C and not cold and icy at all. Otherwise, the racing percussion (Travis), atmospheric keys (Kishel) and relentless guitars (Niko – bass, Skorpian – lead, James – rhythm) cascaded through the speakers as trees, bushes, sparsely lit houses and the watchful eyes of nocturnal creatures flew by driven by the aural assault, as a crescent moon hung high in the sky casting shadows upon the already darkened landscape.

The serenity is broken by Rachel's possessed vocals. Bewitching and vile, they strike with all the subtlety of teeth scraping on bone. The passion and desperation, conviction and heart of her delivery leaves nothing to be desired. The somewhat abrupt, barking style won't be for everyone but anything more melodic or less eviscerating would throw off the whole balance.

The three main sources of healing pain on Portent take the long road. Opener “A Victual to Our Dead Selves” is the shortest of the three at almost 11 minutes. As one would expect a lot happens in that amount of time. There is repetition obviously but not for the sake of filler and while the track takes the listener to many different places the path makes sense. The focus shifts at times with more emphasis on the keys, or the vocals, or the epic/power metal moves the guitars make around the 4:00 mark. Definitely not a “set it and forget it” album.

“Rime on the Song of Returning” also packs a lot in. The icy black metal seems unstoppable lest a lack of movement freezes the band in place. Yet, the pace goes glacial for a while. A doomy dread brings a lethargy into play that spills over into a more measured pace. A moodier time. A time without vocals where the listener can immerse themselves even more into the windswept melodies and soothing atmosphere. It's hard to think of anything as soothing when most of the elements hit so, so hard but it happens anyway. Especially the percussion; nuanced, complex, and dominant.

The pacing carries into “The Serpent Sting, the Smell of Goat”. Kishel's keys show off a new facet for the album careening with a more industrial/air raid quality, like a fall from a great height, or the heartbreak of apocalypse. There's more than enough speed to be had though. False get downright fevered at times channeling every fibre of their being into a cathartic rage.

With the exception of low-key piano outro “Postlude” - a welcome cool down from Portent's unfailing intensity – False go for the throat. A lot happened in the band member's personal lives in the years since their last LP and it has brought the band together in ways us outsiders can never really know. But we can hear it. We can feel it. We can feel a band firing on all cylinders, with purpose, locked in, pouring all their pain, loss, and suffering into their art, their escape, their way forward over 41 minutes of flowing, active and adventurous black metal.

Portent, for all its shifting moods and pacing, feels incredibly fluid. Complex too. On the surface, it's fierce black metal, all flailing riffs and blasting drums ruled by demonic vocals and can be enjoyed for just that. But a more concentrated listen allows the listener to become one with the cold darkness. In this state, the whole can separate into its composite pieces. The path the leads take become more defined, the percussion fully blossoms, sometimes the bass can be heard more prominently (my only gripe about the album is turn up the bass!), and various other production flavours (string noise, thumps, etc) increase the sense of realness enhancing the overall experience.

False make a statement with Portent other than titles, member names, and a willingness to talk about their work. A statement that American Black Metal can go toe-to-toe with its Scandinavian counterparts and come out the other side no worse for wear. Depending on the listener, victoriously triumphant in fact. I mean, isn't Minnesota the most “Scandinavian” state anyway?

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