|Falling Leaves' second album is a bit expected, but it isn't by any means a bad effort, and the individual songs are creditable in their own right.|
|To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I've encountered a Jordanian band of any sort, let alone a Melodically-inclined Death/Doom one. In truth, there's not all that much of a direct Death influence apparent in the compositions or techniques: it's more that they are influenced by, and have some passing resemblances to, bands which have been labelled Death/Doom. Still, it's a broad category these days, and if that's what they prefer to identify as, I'm not going to argue too strenuously against it - merely to point out that this is definitely at the refined and tuneful end of the spectrum.
It's fairly easy to see why Russian label Endless Winter have picked up this debut release: its closest kinship, in many ways, is to the slower, atmospheric Gothic-Romantic-influenced branches of Scandinavian/Slavic Doom. Pretty much all of them at once, that is: 'Mournful Cry Of A Dying Sun' covers a lot of ground as it shifts from different variants of melancholy acoustics to orchestral strings and synths to guitar-driven, harsh-vocal passages within the course of almost every track.
That's maybe to be expected. It isn't clear which band members contribute to the compositions, with credits simply to Falling Leaves, but one would guess at all seven of them. That's two guitars, two vocalists, bass, drums and keyboards. In addition, they have featured a surprising number of guest vocalists and violinists, some of whom should need no introduction (Paul Kuhr, Pim Blankenstein and Pete Johansen), although Josep Brunet (vocals, Helevorn) and Olof Gothlin (Swedish session violinist, has recorded with Draconian) may be less familiar names. That's a serious pool of influences, opinions and specialities to be catering for, especially for a relatively short album where all but one (much shorter) track clocks in at around 5 - 7 minutes.
In fact, this contributes to the one real criticism of the album: taken as a whole, it lacks a certain sense of identity and risks being identified more by the guest performances than the band's own vision. For all that, it isn't by any means a bad effort, and the individual songs are creditable in their own right: they just don't combine into a completely coherent entity. This is particularly noticeable - perhaps ironically, on a track without any outside assistance - in the mercifully brief 'Dying Sun (Outro)'. It's a pleasant enough acoustic instrumental, overdubbed with an incredibly obtrusive scratched-record effect that seems completely pointless in an album that makes no other attempt at implied or actual old-style vinyl 'authenticity'.
Apart from that, though, all the necessary ingredients are in place. There's a good balance of vocals, covering harsh, a slightly-flat sounding but nonetheless appropriate clean voice and spoken words, with some harmonic backing; while the guest contributors offer performances appropriate to their pedigree (the highlight of those being Paul Kuhr, on the slightly Anathema-esque 'Vanished Serenity'). The guitars, whether acoustic or largely-clean electric tend towards either melancholy or soaring melodic lines, alternating with keyboards that follow a similar format, using piano for the former and sweeping synths for the latter. The percussion section do an adequate, rather than outstanding job, with bass providing depth rather than distinctness and drums that largely keep time and avoid much in the way of flourishes. Adding the guest violins brings an additional melodic feel to proceedings: not overused in a gimmicky way, but enhancing the particular tracks on which they do appear - the demented, recognisably The Sins Of Thy Beloved part concluding 'Memories Will Never Fade' being the best of them.
Only 'Celestial' (bar the aforementioned 'Dying Sun') is entirely Falling Leaves' own, and hence may be deserving of some additional interest: as a pointer to what the band can do without any outside influence, it's a promising one. The gentler introduction merges well into an urgently-riffed, almost desperate climax before dying away: not spectacularly original, but well-executed enough to pique curiosity over what would have happened if they'd focussed more on developing this into something more personal.
Overall, it's a solid debut, well-presented and clearly-produced: it may not have quite a clear enough direction to stand out hugely in a crowd, but that's something which could easily come in time. For comparison purposes, there are quite a lot of bands one could draw upon: personally, I'd go for a mix between the Gothic (such as later Draconian, minus the female vocals) and Melodic of, say, Autumn, and file the result under the category 'worth a couple of listens, at least'.
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1. Reaching My Last Haven
3. Trapped Within
4. Silence Again (Silence Pt II)
5. Vanished Serenity
6. Memories Will Never Fade
8. Dying Sun (Outro)
Duration : Approx. 47 minutes
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