A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
From a quantitative standpoint, there is no heavy band in Portland that stands taller than Falls of Rauros. With more than 5,000 Facebook followers, international distribution and recent coverage in Brooklyn Vegan, Decibel magazine and Norweigian publication Black Forest, the four-piece band is poised for major successes while simultaneously raising the profile of its native city and peers.
More impressive, Falls of Rauros has accomplished this feat while maintaining a relatively low profile: the last names and biographic information of its members are largely the stuff of mystery; and it was more than a year ago when the folk/black metal combo played its most recent live show — a basement gig on Poland Street.
The silence ends tonight when FoR kicks off a brief East Coast tour with a show at Space Gallery. When the tour is all over, Falls will have played five cities, including Southern Darkness Fest in Tampa, Florida, alongside a little band called Pelican.
Tonight’s show begins at 8:30 with Portand’s Feral (which includes two members of FoR) and Butcher Boy, the latter of which is “folky and dark, beautiful and harrowing in a good way,” according to Aaron — Falls of Rauros’ guitarist, singer and principal lyricist. New Hampshire’s Ramlord also joins the bill, a band whose sound is “dejected and visceral.” (538 Congress St. 8 bucks.)
Just hours before the tour’s start, Aaron paused from the frenzy to talk about relative anonymity, side projects and the October release of the nine-year-old band’s latest full-length album “Believe in No Coming Shore” on Bindrune Recordings and Nordvis.
Post Mortem: For a band with international recognition and thousands of fans, you guys maintain a low profile here at home. You rarely play out and your last names are largely a secret. A Portland metalhead could almost be forgiven for not knowing you exist. Why so shy?
Aaron: Not playing out a lot is somewhat circumstantial. We all prefer writing and recording music to playing shows, as far as I know. I could be wrong. As individuals we have a lot going on that can slow down or halt our momentum. Ray [a founding member and drummer] has been living out of state for awhile so we’ve been lying low since finishing this record. As far as partial anonymity is concerned, that was originally part of the allure of black metal to me back when I was a kid. Not knowing much about the personal lives of musicians in a band can be reinforcing, at least for me. We’re not really that shy, we know a lot of people here and we don’t try to hide anything about ourselves. I just don’t think we’re very comfortable posturing as a band with lots of photos and biographies.
PM: And yet you’ve gathered a lot of attention from the outside world. How’d you do it?
A: I’m not really sure. All we really did was record some music — poorly, I might add — and send out CD-R demos to a few tiny underground black metal labels. A label out of Canada — Morbid Winter Records — offered to release a full-length album and that became “Hail Wind and Hewn Oak.” That label distributed the album to black metal distros around the world and it’s just slowly simmered. We started working with Bindrune Recordings for our 2011 album and he’s helped us out a lot in that regard as well. I guess a lot of patience is key but otherwise I have no idea.
PM: Recently you and Jordan [Falls’ other guitarist] joined up with G. Souza’s long-simmering project Feral. How does that band differ from FoR? Is it liberating to step out from an established musical identity?
A: Feral is Souza’s brainchild and really different from what we play in Falls. It’s quite a bit dirtier and, while it’s not traditional in any sense, it’s more recognizably metallic. It’s hard to describe, honestly. I’m playing bass in Feral which is fun for me as I never get to with Falls. We’re hoping to record sometime down the road after honing in on these songs and fully realizing them. I’m excited for that. And yeah, it’s liberating, for sure. Between Feral and another project some of us have been working on, it’s been nice to explore different avenues of music. [Click here for photos from Feral’s debut show in June.]
PM: What can you tell us about the new project?
A: The new project is still underway and we want to write and record before presenting it live. It’s not named yet, but Jordan, [Falls’ bassist] Evan and I are in it, plus others. It’s not metal or very heavy, but it’s gloomy and atmospheric at times. I’m not sure where it’ll end up when finished.
PM: Falls of Rauros’ previous material explores dark territory, particularly through your vocal delivery. At the same time, the music that buoys it often feels triumphant, like you’re hailing a hard-won victory or illustrating something simultaneously beautiful and tragic. Am I imagining these opposing forces? How would you characterize the sound?
A: You’re definitely onto something there. Neither the music nor lyrics are entirely sorrowful or desperate and there’s definitely something resembling hope sprinkled throughout. Kind of. I’m not overly comfortable describing that aspect of the band but the lyrics hopefully convey the “message” despite the fact that they’re not all written from my perspective or opinion necessarily.
PM: How does the new album fit alongside its predecessors?
A: I don’t really know at this point. I’ve heard it so many times. It’s definitely different from our last two records, but those were really different from each other already. I guess we retained a lot of the features and character of our previous music but presented it in a new way, for us. I’m sure a lot of that came from what we were all listening to and interested in at the time we wrote it.
PM: The upcoming tour finds you playing Southern Darkness Fest — a Tampa, Florida, show with some widely recognizable names: Mouth of an Architect, Bongripper and Pelican, among others. Is there a band you’re particularly happy to share a stage with?
A: Definitely Pelican for the stage we’re playing. One of the other venues at the festival will have Phobia and that’s really awesome. I hope I get to see their set.
PM: If you could hear any song again for the first time, what would it be? Why?
A: That’s a tough one. Maybe “Shores in Flames” by Bathory. First time I heard that it totally shattered my expectations from a production standpoint and the fact that I thought it would be black metal. Really a (great) shock to me. Yeah.
Aug. 19 — Space Gallery, Portland, with Butcher Boy, Ramlord and Feral
Aug. 20 — Millcreek Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Sadgiqacea, Haethen and Wolfcloak
Aug. 21 — Odditorium, Asheville, North Carolina, with Shadow of the Destroyer and Everything Went Black
Aug. 23 — Southern Darkness Fest, Tampa, Florida
Aug. 27 — Union Pool, Brooklyn, New York, with Obsidian Tongue and Oneirogen