Ur Falc'h reviews
PigfaceChristus on June 12th, 2010
Keyboards, Flutes, and All That Jazz
The whole affair of Ur Falc’h’s self-titled full-length debut is “big,” perhaps bigger than the musicians themselves as they attempt to capture the majesty of nature and the sublimity of glory. However, unlike the Norwegians of the early 1990’s, Ur Falc’h don’t have novelty on their side. Because what they’re doing has already been done before, the best they can do is get their feet wet, legitimate themselves within a larger community, and showcase their talent for the genre—which is exactly what the debut accomplishes.
What Ur Falc’h deliver is the more grandiose side of black metal, as first brought down from on high by Burzum’s “Filosofem” and Bathory’s “Blood Fire Death.” It’s vaguely pagan, and it’s all about the atmosphere. With all four main tracks going past the eight-minute mark, the band has quite the job to do, if they want to keep the listener’s attention. In addition, Ur Falc’h has an even tougher job of being original. But Ur Falc’h were prepared for their first full-length and brought their own set of tricks to the recording studio, although these tricks sometimes degenerate to gimmicks.
For a band that’s really trying to be sublime, really trying to get at the whole “frostbitten” sound, the production lacks bite. It’s all so incredible passive. The drums are buried beneath the guitars, which proceed like soft static. There’s no crunch to the tremolo; it just wisps along like a storm. In some ways, that’s appropriate for what Ur Falc’h are going for, but it’s more like a storm that is far away, rather than one in which the listener is immersed. It doesn’t help that the vocals are distant and unvaried shrieks that sink into the background without abrasiveness. “Sombre Bourreau” does showcase some clean bellows toward the end, but they come across as silly and off-key. Nevertheless, the production is not a low-budget mess. On the contrary, it’s very polished, in the sense that the sound is very clean, but it fails at confronting the listener and at encouraging immersion.
As far as the band’s compositional skills go, there are both good and bad qualities. It’s clear that Ur Falc’h know what they are doing because each track is very much in the same spirit as the others. Each track is a mid-paced giant of wintry tremolo, keyboard sections, and sporadic pipe melodies. Given the slow tempo and the extension of the vocals, there is a slight depressive quality to the mood, but it’s more contemplative than weepy. If these descriptions sound too general, that’s because all four main tracks really do follow the same general formula and cover the same general atmosphere. The songs are vaguely cold, grandiose, and pagan, but does each have its own personality? No, not really.
This lack of personality comes from the fact that the tracks cover the same musical ground. They all contain keyboard and ambient passages that are meant to milk the atmosphere for all its worth. They all contain woodwind frills, whether they seem out of place or not. With their cheap and lifeless sound, the keyboard sections kill any motion that the tracks have, as they just seem to appear way too abruptly. They don’t offer anything atmospheric because they’re just dull interjections that pad out the songs beyond a supportable length. I suppose their purpose is to let Ur Falc’h “go acoustic” for a little bit, but the band does just fine subordinating acoustic chords to the electric guitars when they’re playing metal, even though the acoustic instrumentation is either so simple or so masked by the production that it’s nearly unnecessary.
The problem is that, because of the patched-together compositional approach, I can’t tell what is necessary and what is unnecessary. For instance, in the first ambient section of “Pureté D'Une Existence Oubliée,” a mouth harp boing-boings to its own beat, while a flute add its short-lived voice to the mix. Since their relevance is questionable, the use of these folk instruments just comes across as gimmicky and distracting. No matter how often they chirp obtrusively like birds in a blizzard, the flute and other woodwinds offer nothing beyond themselves. They’re supposed to remind the listener that this is “nature music,” but the dull passages they have to contribute aren’t all that convincing.
Ur Falc’h know the elements that make black metal atmospheric, but the folk instruments and the keyboards are only implemented in a superficial manner. You hear a keyboard or a flute, and you’re supposed to think, “This is atmospheric.” But how vague a connection is that? What does it mean to be atmospheric? Ur Falc’h can’t answer that question, but they can produce music that is familiar to anyone who already likes this sort of style. The debut isn’t groundbreaking, but it is an approachable output from a young band that has a focused vision of the sort of music they like and of the sort of music they want to produce.
paranj on June 30th, 2009
Ur Falc'h is a Canadian black metal band. They are scarcely known but they have immense talent in them and this album is the evidence to the previous statement. This album mixes together elements of black metal, doom metal and also some folk music.
This album is quite complex. There are a lot of changes in time signatures, numerous break-downs and some up tempo parts too. The guitars in general are muddy sounding like most of the black metal album. The slower riffs are atmospheric, heavy and crushing. They really set a grim ambience for the album. The faster riffs are good too. Some folk instruments are incorporated too but I can't tell which. Much of it sounded as a keyboard to me but that might be because I have never moved ahead of a guitar or a drum set or a keyboard.
The drumming on this album is complex. The drummer uses less blast beats as compared to numerous other black metal bands but that's because the album is inclined more towards the atmospheric factor rather than blasphemous pace. Most of the time, the drummer blends well with the rest of the instruments and overall, is quite nice. The bass guitar is completely absent. The production makes it impossible for me to listen to it.
There is less vocal work on this album. Most of it contains depressed sounding growls. The lyrics are decent too. The production of this album is raw. I like raw production but not when it renders an instrument non-audible (the bass guitar in this case) and is the chief reason I deducted some score. The other flaw is the song length. They are a little bit more longer than they should be. Mind you, I am not against long songs, in fact, some of favourite songs are over 8 minutes long. The songs should have either incorporated a riff or two more or should have been shortened.
Well, the flaws aside, this album creates a magnificant ambience which just sucks you in. It's depressive as well as haunting. I love this album for it.
Well, there you have it. I think everyone who loves black metal or ambient music or even atmospheric doom should check this album out.
Runespawn on April 20th, 2008
More of the same, and that's why it's different.
After the absolutely excellent split with Heretic Blood, Ur Falc'h deliver to us their debut album. Licking my lips as I put it into the CD player (after an almost endless fortnight-long wait for it to come in the post), I was expecting to be greeted with the same round of epic pagan metal. There was no need to press the Play button to answer that question....
Mind you, although musically sticking to its guns, not perhaps in the exact same way. The production is better (something the album cover certainly doesn't tell you), and the songs sound a bit more, dare I say it, polished than the crude, coarse sounding 'Sur le Chemin....'. Not that any of that is bad, though. Quite the opposite indeed: this new doomier approach suits the band just as well as the frozen Nordic blast from before, and all the songs are equally as long and as mesmerising - even the intro's a long one(four minutes!). 'Prisonniers de la Tourmente' provides a mix of speed, aggression, breakdown and mid-tempo, not forgetting those folk subtleties across its ten-plus minute lifespan. We get much of the same for the rest of the album, aswell as a little more clean vocals and some howling-wolf samples in 'Le Rapace et sa Faux', but it's all more than enough to sustain interest and awe throughout. No complaints here, that's for sure.
I'm undecided as to whether or not they've truly topped their first release proper, but if not, almost certainly next time and also if not, this debut is no less savourous for it. How many bands have dreamed of a debut like this? Many. How many have made those dreams a reality? Ur Falc'h, seemingly, are one of the very few, and it's their consistency that makes them stand out. A triumphant world apart.
Ur Falc'h track list
|2||Prisonniers de la tourmente||10:33|
|4||Le rapace et sa faux||08:48|
|5||Pureté d'une existence oubliée||12:33|