FAAL – ‘The Clouds Are Burning’ (Ván Records)
Formed in 2005 by guitarists Alex Koorengevel and Pascal Vervest and drummer Ward, Faal definitely like taking a stroll down Doom Street. ‘The Clouds Are Burning’, the follow-up to 2008’s ‘Abhorrence – Salvation’ sees the melancholic sextet – the line-up now being completed by Yara Jumelet (synths), Geert van Mook Harrie (bass), William Nijhof (vocals) and Sarban Grimminick (drums) – slowly unveil four brooding and almost unfathomable songs in just over forty minutes, presenting each composition like a huge canvas on which they paint evocative and ethereal soundscapes with ever-darkening shades of despair. There’s little light in Faal’s world, and if the band’s approach to the genre is not exactly unique, the songs are executed with a real drama and passion which seemingly belie their doom-laden encumbrance.
Opener ‘My Body Glows Red’ is the sonic equivalent of looming stormclouds, shadowy and oppressive with just the odd hint of sunlight through the darkness. ‘The Incistance Wish’, the only song to clock in at under ten minutes, is a painfully slow stumble along an ill-light path, with a manic middle section which pushes the rhythm section to the max. ‘Tempest’ starts as a more upbeat, synth-driven number, and has more of a Paradise Lost feel to it, at least for the opening few minutes, until it drops the speed – in relative terms – to grind its way to its conclusion: to my mind this is the most powerful cut on the album, its diversity its core strength. The title cut rounds things off, and at nearly fourteen minutes ‘The Clouds Are Burning’ is an epic offering, more controlled, more disciplined that its predecessors, which winds itself ever onwards to a frenetic climax.
The word that keeps coming to mind – other than ‘anguish’ – is passion. It runs through every song like an artery and is the lifeblood of the album. Bizarrely, for the architect of such a great album, according to their biography the band's name can be translated “as ‘failure’ – as in 'failing in this life', feeling powerless and not being able to succeed or do anything about it.” If an album as great as ‘The Clouds Are Burning’ comes from a failure, God knows what a ‘successful Faal’ could achieve. The (burning) sky’s indeed the limit...
© John Tucker May 2012