Since 2010, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s False has been quietly making some of the best USBM in the game. Their split with the equally excellent Barghest, as well as their untitled 2012 EP were both great slabs of atmospheric black metal that remain largely unnoticed, or at the very least woefully underrated by the metal community at large. With the release of their untitled debut full length on the ever-reliable Gilead Media however, False is poised to bid farewell to their under-the-the-radar status once and for all.
Reminding of fallen genre luminaries such as Weakling and Ludicra, False creates lengthy compositions that combine an epic sense of grandeur with a ragged, rubbed-raw grittiness that is distinctly American. But make no mistake, False are not a mere rehash of what came before; the band takes USBM’s many strengths and uses them as a jump-off point into blackened territories that are all their own, injecting the music with a passion and pathos that’s rarely heard from their peers. False manage to sound hungry and pissed and hopelessly depressed all at once, and it is a sound that is glorious to behold.
Much of False’s epic quality comes courtesy of keyboardist Kishel, who provides the band’s atmospheric bedrock without ever overpowering the rest of the instruments. While the keys are certainly integral to False’s sound, it is the guitars that are the album’s focal-point, not to mention where much of the grit and grime comes from to balance out that aforementioned grandeur; James Claypool and Skorpian Vanderbrook bring a wide range of riffs to the table, ranging from traditional blackened tremolo runs to highly dissonant passages that at times come off like a corpse-painted Voivod. Although many listeners will indeed focus on the guitars and keys, it’s important to keep in mind that the beast that is False is propelled by the rhythm section of bassist Niko and drummer Travis, with Travis especially displaying inhuman endurance, blast-beating like a complete maniac for much of untitled’s hour-long run-time.
As instrumentally varied and dexterous as the band is, their not-so-secret weapon is vocalist Rachel. Although my promo copy of untitled did not include the lyrics and it can be rather difficult to make out what she is saying without the benefit of printed lyrics, she still manages to imbue the album with an emotional intensity that’s off the charts. While many black metal vocalists are content to rasp away monotonously, Rachel twists and contorts her vocals to suit the music, always managing to keep things utterly hideous-sounding as she rasps, growls, howls and screams her way through the album. Her dynamic vocal performance is a large part of what makes untitled the tour-de-force that it surely is.
Those of us that have been following False since the first recordings knew that the band had a great album lurking within them; untitled is that album. That the band has blossomed into a USBM force to be reckoned with is no surprise, but the fact that they managed to craft such a stunning full length their very first time out certainly is.