When I think of think of black metal, I think of the woods. I think of endless landscapes of trees reaching out beyond the horizon. I think of snow tipped pines in the twilight with the distant sounds of owls and coyotes. To me, black metal is is an elemental genre. Cues taken from the natural world are just as important as any musical reference point. It’s no coincidence that most of my favorite black metal practitioners hail from northern, wooded regions. Minnesota’s False are no exception. Their sweeping chaotic grandeur is a fitting companion to frost bitten landscapes and full moon nights that make you realize how small you are.
The band’s 2014 debut album, Untitled, featured five tracks, most of which clocked in at over ten minutes. On Hunger the approach is drastically shortened. What we have here are two tracks each under five minutes. I know working in a much smaller scale doesn’t seem all that progressive, but pulling back such a sprawling vision is a risk. Yet, somehow, the band hasn’t lost anything in this new compact version of themselves. They still manage to make room for their tracks to writhe and twist in unexpected directions that lead to rapturous catharsis. These songs don’t even feel shorter because apparently time doesn’t exist to False. If anything, they sound more focused.
EP opener “Anhedonia” makes its introduction with a quick head pounding bass throb before deep-diving into the black metal hell-scape False does so well. Vocalist, Rachel, sounds just as unhinged as ever injecting her Ihsahn influence with more feral violence. Obviously affected vocals are a cornerstone of black metal, but it’s hard to pick many vocalists who sell it like Rachel. She inserts herself so deep into her performance that she’s able to match the musical hysteria happening around her and surpassing it at a moment’s notice.
The most apparent stylistic shift on Hunger is the more pronounced synth presence. The use of the synths on the EP feels far more integral to the compositions as opposed to the more atmospheric bands out there. Instead of floating in the background, they move with the music while creating a sense of gothic foreboding. “Anhedonia” gracefully pulls to close as the EP’s title track hits like a blunt object. Both in urgency and structure, “Hunger” is black metal by way of hardcore. The track is propelled with a floor bounding rhythm filtered through tremolo picking and blast beats with a d-beat flare. Once again, Rachel makes her case as one of our most talented extreme vocalists. On “Hunger” she’s able to carry a discernible (and quite frankly, catchy) melody further than the vast majority of her peers.
Taking into consideration Untitled and now Hunger, False are a band that’s beginning to realize their full capabilities. I don’t mean that in a “they’re good, but they could be better” kind of way. I mean that in a “they’re fucking great and they’re about to bust our heads wide open” kind of way. Everything about their past and current material sounds like the kind of music artists put out just before conquering the black metal world. What False is currently doing reminds me of early Wolves In the Throne Room or Panopticon. Two acts that were exceptional from the jump while laying the groundwork for the scene-defining classics that would later follow. I can’t definitively say that False is going to continue in the same trajectory. But I feel something coming.