Falls of Rauros
On July 19, Portland black-metal powerhouse Falls of Rauros will drop its fifth LP, Patterns In Mythology. It delivers all the touchstones that have brought the band national renown since its formation in 2005: long, slowly unfolding epics; roiling squalls of guitar; moments of quiet, ponderous beauty; vocals that scream heavenward, expecting no answer. Singer/guitarist Aaron Charles chatted with me last month via e-mail, breaking down what makes the new record special, delineating the difference between atheism and nihilism, and letting me nerd out over his band’s J.R.R. Tolkien-derived name.
— Joe Sweeney
Mainer: You guys are able to achieve these pseudo-religious moments where chaos and brutality blur together into something greater. How hard is it to pull this off? Do you ever feel like just cranking out a 90-second punk song?
Aaron Charles: As tempting as it is to give up the grandiosity and “epic” qualities that undergird our songs in favor of something else, it’s those greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts moments that drive us to make music in the first place. Sometimes we toy with the idea of writing shorter, more streamlined songs, but for us, that means 6-8 minute songs as opposed to the 9-11 minute range we often find ourselves working in.
This one feels a little rawer than the last record. Were you consciously aiming for more of an edge this time?
We were absolutely shooting for something more “metal” than our last record [2017’s Vigilance Perennial], in the traditional sense. Something still melodic and epic, but a touch more aggressive and riffy. I’d hesitate to use the word “raw” to describe it, however, as it’s undeniably our most high-fidelity recording. But in terms of aggression and attitude, this album has more of an edge to it than the last.
There’s an edge to the titles, too. Getting an almost nihilistic sense of humans doing things over and over with the same shitty results.
While I’m certainly not a nihilist in any way, I am a staunch atheist and I’m friendly with iconoclasm, transgression and cultural subversion as concepts. A lot of the lyrics on this record are a critique of mythology and tradition. Outdated ideologies that hold humanity back from progress and self-realization. In that way it is not nihilistic at all, because the underlying message is that humankind deserves better and should work harder towards true progress, eschewing empty traditions and the chains of nostalgia that keep us in place, treading water.
What’s the Portland metal scene like these days?
Perhaps I’m wrong about this, as I don’t know the inner workings of other people’s bands, but there aren’t many metal bands from Portland that seem to make serious moves towards establishing themselves outside of the local scene. Most of the bands around here seem to prioritize their live performances, which is something that’s always come second for us. Bands like Shabti, Feral, Hessian, and Obsidian Tongue are heavyweights around here and they all approach their art with the sort of energy and meticulousness that lets everybody know they’re not fucking around. I really respect artists that play music solely because they love music.
What do you listen to other than heavy music?
All of our old influences remain intact, such as Bathory, Primordial, Emperor, Enslaved, Ulver. We also all listen to a lot of music that isn’t heavy. Tons of jazz. Jordan [Guerette, guitarist] is really into classical music. There are hip-hop fans in the band. We also like a lot of folk music.
I love your Lord of the Rings-inspired band name because of its connection to Boromir, whose actions by that waterfall represented both the weakness of humankind and our capacity for heroism — a dichotomy I see in the shifts between darkness and light of your music. How insane is this? Should I get a life?
While we don’t have a single lyric in any of our songs that references Tolkien or any other fantasy author, the name was chosen for essentially the exact reasons you suggested. Primarily the name is supposed to conjure up the image of nature as something powerful, intractable, and untamed. But on the other hand, the events that transpire near this location in Tolkien’s novel brilliantly depict both the virtue and vice that humankind is capable of. Many of our songs deal with the weakness and greed of human beings, but they are almost always accompanied by faint glimmers of hope and a willingness to explore more positive perspectives.
The Scandinavian climate; jagged, unforgiving coast; miles of unnamed wilderness; giant sea bugs boiled so we can suck out their innards … Maine is pretty metal.
Yeah! I suppose Maine is a pretty “metal” place. It doesn’t have a large population, and nothing that qualifies as a truly big city. Relative isolation. A lamentably high prevalence of alcoholism and substance abuse. As you said, a harsh yet beautiful coast with the frigid and hostile Atlantic lining our eastern border. It checks off a lot of boxes, that’s for sure; some good and some bad. But overall there’s a lot to love here.
Falls of Rauros plays Geno’s, in Portland, on July 24. For more, visit fallsofrauros.blogspot.com.