With so much new music coming out every week, it’s very difficult to keep track of all the “must listen” albums. I’ve even resorted to clipping Bandcamp pages or reviews of bands that interest me to an Evernote scrapbook so that I can always come back and listen later. Luckily with Audrey Fall’s debut album I didn’t have to as their music made such an impact that I just had to binge-listen immediately!
RELEASE DATE: 14 January 2014 LABEL: Independent
Audrey Fall is a four-piece instrumental post-rock/metal band from Jelgava, Latvia and has been going strong since 2010. Since I have absolutely no clue about anything that goes on in Latvia, “Mitau” definitely flew under my radar for most of the year until two weeks ago when I came across a short write-up on the band; thank goodness I did because “Mitau” is a real gem! Audrey Fall definitely wears their influences on their sleeves (not that it’s a bad thing) with “Mitau” being very reminiscent of efforts by bands such as Russian Circles or If These Trees Could Talk. Where they start to come into their own is the way they are able to build-up and build-down their songs with such deft skill that it boggles the mind that this is a debut effort!
Their opening track “1944” highlights this perfectly; starting with an amazing clean guitar build up that leads into something distorted and menacing, the track then kicks you in the face around the 2 minute mark with some thrashy power chords played over crashing drums which takes you on a wild trip for the remainder of the track. What Audrey Fall also does so well is that they are able to surprise the listener constantly; just when you think a song is about to reach its climax it instead goes into a softer melodic part, or when you think the song is about to end you instead get knocked over the head with a riff or two just to make sure you’re still listening!
“Petrina” is Audrey Fall’s attempt at a big arena type ballad, and it definitely works. Instead of coming out sounding soppy and insincere, it sounds huge, emotional and frankly just damn beautiful. Somehow I get the feeling that this track represents the journey this band has taken over the last four years to get to where they are now (it just has that feel-good vibe about it that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside). Audrey Fall shows on “Wolmar” how to tastefully use an ambient soundscape to build up a track instead of over-bloating it; the song starts with a windswept sounhdscape that adds a wonderful background for the acoustic intro to play over. There is a lot of ‘stuff’ going on in this track with tons of reverb-infused guitar licks, distorted chord progressions and groovy bass lines that are a joy to listen to on a pair of good headphones or sound system. The build up at around the 3 minute 40 second mark is a real treat and highlights the bands talent for crafting softer pieces of music that still hit hard.
I like to think of “Driksa” and “Bermondt” as one epic long track as the one flows well into the other. They are both heavy tracks, but for different reasons. “Driksa” starts off with a drone-style guitar melody which is very trance inducing, especially with the airy guitar flourishes playing on top of it. It all sounds very menacing as well and gives the song its ‘heaviness’. The second half of “Driksa” has some heavy, but stunning riffing which is almost dissonant at times and adds to the overall intensity of the song. “Bermondt” is one hell of a rocking track and it must definitely get the crowds going at their live shows! The time changes that happen between the 1:35 and 2:35 minute marks are highly impressive and surprising, and the song simply explodes after that to a grand conclusion. If there is one low point of this album, it would be “Valdeka”. The production on this song is of a lower quality when compared to the rest of the album and sounds out of place; it’s very strange that this song was included.
Coming towards the end of the album, “Eliass” is a stunning ambient piece which showcases another dynamic in Audrey Fall’s musical repertoire. “Courland Aa” is another rocker of a track and is highly reminiscent of the material released by Cloudkicker. Tons of technical syncopated guitar riffing can be heard on this track and the drummer gives his best performance on the album drumming away like a man possessed. “Priboi” hits hard and sounds absolutely huge, apocalyptic even! It probably best fits the album cover that Audrey Fall chose for “Mitau”, a huge rocky valley surrounded by massive pine trees and menacing looking cloud cover. All is peaceful within the valley at first but then a storm hits, flooding occurs, thunder echoes throughout the valley, but soon peace returns to the valley. “Medem” would be the sunlight shining through the dissipating cloud cover; it’s a really uplifting, wonderful way to end off “Mitau”.
In a year that has been lacklustre in terms of quality instrumental releases when compared to previous years (at least in my opinion), Audrey Fall’s debut shines brightly and proudly. “Valdeka” was a bit of a miss for me, but every other track is truly stunning and I look forward to further releases from this highly talented band, and hopefully it won’t take me another 10 months to hear an album of theirs again.