Posted on February 19th, 2013 (2:00 pm) by Ben Welton

It’s great to be a metalhead these days. Not only are the big three of extreme metal (thrash, death, and black) doing well, but the less known genres of doom and progressive metal are in the midst of their own golden epochs. To make matters even sweeter, right now there are a whole host of bands experimenting with and attaching disparate sounds and ideas to the black-sailed ship that is metal. For instance, Norway’s Kvelertak have carved out a one band niche for themselves as the kings of “Black and roll,” a black metal version of Death and roll, which, first being pioneered by Swedish death metal godfathers Entombed on their 1993 album Wolverine Blues, combines death metal crunch and vocals with traditional rock and roll riffs and pacing. Therefore, Black and roll combines the chromatic guitar scaling and blast beat drumming of black metal with the bluesy harmonies and groove-oriented riffing of rock and roll.

The Phantom Carriage, a band from the Romanesque French city of Poitiers, are an example of extreme music’s march towards collaboration. The Phantom Carriage’s latest release, Falls, is a blistering opus with eight overtures that combines black metal with metallic hardcore. Usually, as far as these things go, combining different genres or styles means an intentional contrast between light and dark. Danzig III: How the Gods Kill infused ballads and symphony arrangements into Danzig’s usual blues metal compositions about demons, lust, and ever-present danger. Falls eschews the light/darkness paradigm in favor of one that merely transitions between differing shades of darkness. On the one hand, “Today We Stand” is a black metal assault that blasts its way towards a feeling of nihilistic darkness, while “Dreamers Will Never Stop Dreaming” exposes intimate darkness via the mechanism of Norwegian-influenced Rorschach or Converge. This oscillating sense of bleakness and violence seems apropos for a band named after Victor Sjöström’s silent meditation on death, as well as being from the city which oversaw Charles Martel’s bloody victory over the Umayyad Caliphate in 732.

The Phantom Carriage seem to have internalized this sense fury, and the one word that defines Falls is relentless. Black metal is known for its ever-charging attack against the listener, and Falls is no different then, say, Panzer Division Marduk in that regard. While Marduk never deviate from their blast beast onslaught, The Phantom Carriage manage to pull off a few tempo changes on Falls, a record that carries with it more emotional depth than any one of Marduk’s unholy releases. “About Being a Father” orchestrates a punk-tinged offensive that contains the same type of dissonant blitzing as Starkweather’s noise rock-influenced Crossbearer. “About Being a Father” also resonates with a certain type of hopeless energy, and by the three minute mark, Tieu’s vocals sound like the last protests from someone incarcerated in a psych ward.

Although Falls is guilty of having one song bleed into another (and the transition between “Mistakes & Fixes” and “Dreamers Will Never Stop Dreaming” is so abrupt that the former ends in the latter after a seconds-long pause), the overall quality of the record is one of unforgiving cruelty. The Phantom Carriage want you to feel their anger and their dejection on Falls, and no song embodies this better than “Devils, Gods, Us,” the record’s closer. “Devils, Gods, Us” is an unremitting bass kick that gives musical space to one of the album’s few breakdowns. “Devils, Gods, Us” amalgamates chromatic scaling with down-tuned drops abusing the low E string (which is probably either set to C# or D). “Devils, Gods, Us” almost closes with a reverb-heavy and maudlin instrumental part, the perfect complement to the album’s understated Gothicism, but the heaviness is conjured back up in order to end the track and the record on a vermilion note.

Falls is a record for those wolves who encircle the heavy metal woods after midnight. It is also a record for those art house weirdos always searching for the next strange thing. Falls is not a record for casual listeners, nor is it meant for those listeners who can’t suss out the anger we all have trapped in our hearts. Falls occupies the distorted and disheveled mental space that its cover visually represents, so, unless you “get” the noisome anarchy of black metal and metallic hardcore, Falls is just another stream you aren’t supposed to cross.

Track List:
1. Today We Stand
2. Mistakes & Fixes
3. Dreamers Will Never Stop Dreaming
4. Since We Can't Forget Who We Are
5. About Being A Father
6. Rejuvenation
7. The Time
8. Devils, Gods, Us

"Falls" by The Phantom Carriage
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

79 / 100
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