March 3, 2013

October Falls - The Plague Of A Coming Age

Review by Andy Osborn.

First, a primer: October Falls is the project of lone wolf M. Lehto, who’s been creating majestic metal for over a decade. He splits the band between two genres; melancholy Finnish folk that’s wholly instrumental, and a folk-inspired black/doom hybrid not unlike Agalloch. While both styles share aesthetic similarities, they are separated by release with folk albums denoted by a square logo and the metallic records with a circular design. But the pure folk years are long bygone and the last few releases have disposed of a logo altogether, showing that the project is concentrating one, whole sound.

Anyone familiar with folk/black hybrids won’t be surprised to find out that October Falls’ material draws inspiration from Finland’s natural beauty – this is the first album not using a wilderness photo on the cover. As stereotypically Cascadian as a one-man project influenced by nature sounds, October Falls is the real deal. The music is beyond emotional, you can feel the cathartic release in every note, every word. M. takes his music very seriously, which is why this is only the fourth October Falls full-length in the project’s twelve year existence. Lehto’s music is criminally underrated; the most prominently his work has ever been displayed was in a half-page Decibel feature in 2010. But with The Plague of a Coming Age, that is all set to change.

While sonically somewhat similar to 2010’s A Collapse of Faith, the new record moves the band in a direction that can only be described as melodic dark metal. Acoustic guitars are almost completely eschewed and the focus looks towards heart-wrenching melodies and woeful cascades of sound. Also gone are songs of double-digit length as M. Lehto and company spread their creativity across more tracks, resulting in the most dynamic and varied October Falls release to date. But the folk aesthetics remain in each carefully crafted riff and field recording; neither is overdone or lightly written, giving an unparalleled emotional weight to the album.

Undoubtedly, the cast of guests that appear on the album helped fuel the growth in sound the project has taken. This is the third record featuring Moonsorrow’s Marko Tarvonen on drums and first with Ensiferum’s Sami Hinkka on bass; Tomi Joutsen’s signature clean vocals completes the trifecta of borrowed Finnish talent. While the rhythm section is undeniable hefty, it’s the croonings of the latter that really stand out. Tomi first appears on the album’s title track, interspersing his angelic voice with Lehto’s rasps. But a few tracks later Lehto fully relinquishes control. On ballad-esque “Boiling Heart of the North”, the melody and melancholy grow so strong that that you think Mr. Joutsen had graciously given an unaltered Amorphis track to the release.

I’ve always loosely associated October Falls albums with different seasons, and the newest release sets itself firmly in the Spring. The sorrow and hardships of winter are still present, although fading, as a seed of hope is planted. Change is in the air like rain, damping spirits yet promising new life. On The Plague of a Coming Age, M. Lehto’s roots remain deep and strong but it’s clear his branches are reaching out to new heights.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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