Plumbiferous Media

The Fallen Host - Blueneck

Dec 13th 2009
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The Fallen Host - BlueneckBlueneck
The Fallen Host
Score: 65

There is no real way to avoid say­ing it: Unless you’re very fond of Christ­mas car­ols, Decem­ber is just not a good month for music. This does, how­ev­er, give us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to review an album we missed when it first came out. Blue­neck, a band hail­ing from North Som­er­set, Eng­land, released its newest full-length, The Fall­en Host, exact­ly a month ago. The band employs a unique sound, best described as post-rock with a heavy, almost (but not quite) ambi­ent influ­ence. Yet while the sound itself is incred­i­bly inter­est­ing, the album itself is not near­ly as inter­est­ing, main­ly due to the often over­ly drawn out tracks, tran­si­tions, sec­tions, and music in general.

The Fall­en Host begins quite promis­ing­ly. “Depart from Me, You Who Are Cursed” is an excel­lent intro­duc­tion both to the album and the band’s sound. The expert­ly intro­duced melodies soar above a del­i­cate drum line, and the entire track moves flu­id­ly through light sec­tions into more pow­er­ful areas. Addi­tion­al­ly, the sec­ond track fol­lows incred­i­bly well. The pre­vi­ous­ly sub­dued per­cus­sion takes cen­ter stage, in the process becom­ing all but too loud, and the already heavy track fur­ther devel­ops into a grow­ing not-quite-cacoph­o­ny of voic­es. Less notice­able but still quite appre­ci­at­ed is the fact that the per­cus­sion, which sim­ply would have no way of get­ting even loud­er, instead grows along with the track by incor­po­rat­ing increas­ing com­plex­i­ty into its lines.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the remain­der of the album does not mea­sure up to the first pair of tracks. While the fact that the music nev­er ceas­es to grow and con­tract, thus nev­er ful­ly devolv­ing into bla­tant, undi­lut­ed rep­e­ti­tion, is quite pleas­ing, sin­gle-mind­ed crescen­dos that occur over the space of, say, five entire min­utes are not as wel­come. And yet this seems to be the case for much of The Fall­en Host. Equal­ly unfor­tu­nate, giv­en how entranc­ing the loud­er sec­tions of The Fall­en Host can be, is Blue­neck­’s insis­tence on dwelling for near-indef­i­nite peri­ods of time on soft sec­tions. And while soft can the­o­ret­i­cal­ly be just as nice as loud, espe­cial­ly as it often gives the vocals a chance to shine, the soft sec­tions on The Fall­en Tree are the sec­tions most like­ly to devolve into shame­less, stale repetition.

As with many oth­er vocal post-rock albums, the vocal ele­ment of The Fall­en Host takes on an airy, vague­ly inhu­man cast, singing the sort of mon­u­men­tal song best suit­ed to the epic crescen­does so famil­iar to the genre. Fol­low­ing the first two instru­men­tal tracks, the addi­tion of vocals on “Low” is an inter­est­ing and well-planned addi­tion to already com­plex music. In gen­er­al, the vocals com­ple­ment rather than clash - extreme­ly impor­tant for music which, like Blue­neck­’s, relies heav­i­ly on care­ful­ly craft­ed harmony.

Though the vocals of The Fall­en Host are gen­er­al­ly quite strong, they stum­ble in the same places as does the album as a whole, most notably in the mis­match between length and vari­a­tion. As the instru­men­tal sec­tions repeat and occa­sion­al­ly near the point of being tire­some, so do the vocals - with­out a con­stant back­ing capa­ble of span­ning the near­ly ten min­utes of The Fall­en Host’s longest tracks, the vocals become equal­ly repet­i­tive, set­tling into a sleep-induc­ing near-drone. Dur­ing the active sec­tions of the album, how­ev­er, the vocals shine, an excel­lent accom­pa­ni­ment to the instru­men­tal main act.

The Fall­en Host is an inter­est­ing album - well-craft­ed instru­men­tals com­bine with a vocal accom­pa­ni­ment and an intrigu­ing­ly intense sound to cre­ate inspired post-rock. It’s a dis­ap­point­ment, then, that Blue­neck saw the need to extend many of the tracks past the point of engage­ment, to the point where the most nov­el ideas become over­played. Sev­er­al of The Fall­en Host’s tracks would have been stronger at, say, half the length, not least the final track, “Rev­e­la­tions,” which, at over nine min­utes, runs out of steam quite quick­ly. But issues with length notwith­stand­ing, Blue­neck has cer­tain­ly shown a great deal of cre­ativ­i­ty on The Fall­en Host. It would be even bet­ter if it did­n’t run out so quickly.

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