Friday, November 18, 2011

Walk Through Fire - Furthest from Heaven (2011)

Furthest from Heaven is the sophomore outing of Walk Through Fire, a Swedish band that engage themselves in the minimal, melodic sludge and doom that put countrymen Cult of Luna on a similar path to American monsters Neurosis and Isis. I would actually consider the former of those, Neurosis to be the primary influence upon this record, because you'll hear the same jangling, dissonant tones threaded through the slow crush of the chords, and the similar, angst ridden but not quite black metal rasp of the vocalist. Sadly, as I find with so many newer bands of this sort, I just couldn't find myself all that interested in what the band had to play. I can only take so much of what seems like aimless meandering that seeks to exhibit 'heaviness' in the form of the most primal strumming of instruments.

Part of the problem is obviously the length of the compositions. In songs that range from 11 to 13 minutes, I expect quite a lot to happen, but in this case, it simply doesn't. Some bands are able to drone on endlessly with the same, simple rhythms and than escalate into something that proves worth the wait, whereas Walk Through Fire keep subtly shifting their note progressions over the whole of a track, but never evoke anything interesting. From a structural point of view, the riffs at least keep themselves occupied drifting about the band's gloomy, depressive vapors, and never quite settling upon the muddy ground, but this loses some importance when so few of them are the type I'll remember a short time after the album ends. "Furthest from Heaven" and "Through Me They Blood" sound like twin canoes slowly sinking into a mire of monotony and regret, and by the time the listener is excused from the sad sight, 23 minutes have passed...

Things become mildly more engaging on the latter half of the album, first with the ambient swell tones of "The Dying Sun" and then the harrowing melodic dirge "The Dead Sun". Note that the style of the latter is not all that different from the earlier pieces, but the stream of riffs is so much more full-bodied, poignant and powerful as it wells up all of the listener's tears and does a far better job of draining his/her emotions. It's also nice that the track had the 4 minute plateau of the ambient piece to set it up conceptually, and by the time it arrives it feels as if the cloudy sky has at last given way to a torrential downpour. That's not to say that "The Dead Sun" is by any means a really good or great track, but throughout the whole of Furthest from Heaven, it felt as if the band were working up towards something, and at least it finally arrived.

Otherwise, well, what to say? I've heard painfully few of these sorts of bands in the past half decade that I find compelling, and would much rather break out my copies of Times of Grace or Through Silver in Blood. Walk Through Fire proves no exception. It's not terrible. There's obviously some rhythmic skill here, and the production is pretty top notch for this niche, but the writing is too consistently flat, where it could really use some rise and fall.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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