October Falls

Kaarna

Written by: EW on 01/06/2014 16:44:37

In contrast to their peers Finland’s October Falls have always stood apart from the prevailing trend of interspersing atmospheric folk into black metal by taking the reverse direction, having slowly integrated black metal elements into a fabric of divine acoustic meanderings through which they arguably reached a peak with 2010’s "A Collapse of Faith". That excellent work showed the band - essentially the works of one M. Lehto - taking a direction somewhere in between Ulver and Wolves in the Throne Room, but what we have here with "Kaarna" is a unique concept so far as I know in metal. This is a collection of all original acoustic compositions recorded between 2002 and 2010, heard as the music of the band "exploring the sounds of the Earth during this sonic walk in the woods; a sacred moment of intense inspiration, a pure quiet time" (press release). The concept is grand, the execution is delicate, but the appreciation of it, from a listener point of view is difficult: songs 1-3 pass by in a digestible 12 minutes, before songs 4-6 alone take a gargantuan 81.

As such let's point out the obvious - "Kaarna" is for the diehard October Falls fan only. I feel a sense of dread in marking this by mulling on the value of artistic worth versus that of listenability. Does Lehto deserve to be marked down purely on the basis of the challenge involved in listening to 93 minutes of instrumental acoustic material comprised of very little variation? Surely it must be noted that I, a music fan of almost limitless patience in comparison to today’s ADD generation, am finding it such a severe test of my abilities to make it through to the end of track 4 ("Marras": 37 mins) that the prospect of numbers 5 and 6 ("Sarastus": 19 mins, and "Tuoni": 24 mins) is a dispiriting one. These lengthy tracks are actually entire acoustic renditions of 1 previous LP and 2 EPs, a point I would imagine only really serves to be of interest to those well-versed in these recordings as the somber notation and spirit which exists throughout really does little by way of introduction for newbies like myself. The variances in tempo and cadence I would expect from a full release are thus rather hard to come by in this context. I can sense the personal significance to Lehto that exists around these recordings for their beauty is readily apparent but the only occasional use of cello and flute and exceptionally rare moments of vocal chanting and percussion do little to spark intrigue and keep the fire burning.

As a tool for improving on the acoustic guitar I would also not cast doubt on the value of "Kaarna" but ultimately there is very little to be found save for a soundtrack for a rural retreat away from the gaze of humanity. This release cannot be viewed from a metal context so I don’t bemoan the lack of amplification or volume, but the absence of vocals renders much of "Kaarna" identity-less and too much an exercise in self-worth as to be of little potential for almost everyone else.

4

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Release date 20.06.2014
Debemur Morti Productions

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