Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
The Minneapolis black metal band False built their foundation on the glacial, unyielding soundscapes associated with ’90s Norwegians overlords like Ulver and Immortal. Picking up where Untitled, 2015’s excellent debut, left off, the group’s new album Portent offers a bold expansion on this infernal universe. Across the record, False leaven the autumnal, folk-metal grandeur of early Panopticon with the wintry trappings of their pre-existing sound; soaring guitar leads co-mingle with atonal, technical passages, contrast enabled through compromise. Riffs are just one aspect of the equation, though: the majestic synth arrangements, frenzied percussion, all vicious blasts and inventive fills, and the powerful vocals (or perhaps more accurately, ghoulish, grave-dirt-roughened rasps) all deepen the foreboding atmosphere with some of False’s best performances to date.
The three, gargantuan songs we’re left with—four if you count the outro, which clocks in at just over a minute, a far cry from the 10-minute-plus monsters lurking elsewhere—may very well be the strongest showing in the band’s decade-long career. Opener “A Victual to our Dead Selves” skews impossibly triumphant, boasting a blistering guitar solo at the close of the song. “Rime on The Song of Returning” utilizes almost angelic choral synths right before plunging into a harrowing gallop, showcasing False’s adeptness at both conjuring beauty and decay, sometimes in the same prolonged howl. The final and longest track, “The Serpent Sting, the Smell of Goat,” pulls heavily from funeral doom at the start, slowly and malevolently ramping up to the incendiary heights of the first two tracks. While False have been consistently excellent since their inception, Portent cements their status as one of the brightest stars in the current USBM scene.