There has always been a pull in the black metal genre towards a folk interpretation. It is not that far of a leap, and since the first releases in the genre, bands have been crossing borders left and right, be it the early experiments of Ulver, or the big turn of Bathory with Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods. Agalloch's complete embrace and assimilation came as a natural continuation of that perspective, and Panopticon took it even further with their bluegrass twist on the folk quality.
Falls of Rauros has been studying all the above, and when they started off it was quite distinct that their sound had a lot of Agalloch's DNA in the mix. The acoustic passages, coupled with aggressive black metal parts where spot on. The earthy quality of their work, providing a mythological scenery, not far removed from the namesake's of the band itself, found in Tolkien's literary vision. Through the years they kept improving, and especially 2014's Believe in No Coming Shore show them ambitiously exploring further.
Vigilance Perennial carries on with this tradition. The band doubles down in the melodic quality of their music, unleashing a plethora of guitar parts that slightly moved the record from the folk-induced black metal side into the melodic and majestic edge of the genre. The epic quality as a result has further increased, the imagery becomes more graphic, rather than atmospheric, bridging the hooks of Emperor, circa Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, and Bathory's harsh and grainy approach.
The main improvement comes in the production itself, making strides over past efforts. Even though the raw sound of previous works had an endearing effect on the band's vision, it was also slightly confining them. The drums is the biggest beneficiary of this change, and as a result everything else is better defined, the acoustic and clean parts cut through the mix directly, and the endeavor is controlled production-wise, without elements overspilling into the soundscapes.
It is important for such a work to provide outbreaks, especially in tracks that are structured in a long form, which is how the record is so effective in its black metal parts. The dissonance and ugliness still makes an appearance, through breaks of the melodic bits, with the band digging deep to uncover all the ugliness and bring it rushing to the surface. It is the mastery of combining this ability with the swift and precise changes to clean parts, initiating mysterious journeys through mystical realms, deconstructing the genre to its basic form and carrying on with all its glorious offerings. It is essentially an exercise in distilling. Finding and piecing together all these elements, creating a strong narrative, transferring the listener to a different dimension, causing them to escape their reality. That is what Vigilance Perennial is able to do.
7.8 / 10
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