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Like all great instrumental post-rock records, Collapse Under The Empire’s newest LP crushes your heart and soul with tidal wave after tidal wave of sounds and emotions. From the dense and the layered to the minimal and the simple; from these angelic, victorious heights to these brooding low-key moments of anxiety, loss and failure, to all manner of in-between musical and emotional dynamics – ‘The Fallen Ones‘ is a touching, heart-warming, yet also gut-wrenching release. But it is also one that’s consistently beautifully bleak throughout, something that instrumental music like this can be so adept in creating.
On their latest full-length, from its magnificent start to its bone-chilling finish, Germany’s Collapse Under The Empire wonderfully recapture what made their 2011 magnum opus ‘Shoulders & Giants‘ – one of my all-time favourite records – so goddamn special in the first place. This album brightly rekindles what 2014’s ‘Sacrifice & Isolation‘ sadly let grow cold and die out and it invigorates not just the band’s sound but also their wider genre. Not by being overly original or different, mind you, but just by simply being really fuckin’ good at the job at hand! The band’s confluence of driving fuzzy bass lines, vast and spacious guitar melodies, pumping drum beats that are more tribalistic than anything, well-done moments of electronica, both subtle and screaming synths, mass crescendo’s, and widescreen atmospherics all help to make the terrific, immensely layered compositions found on LP #6.
The main duo behind Collapse Under The Empire – Martin Grimm and Chris Burda – are clearly on top of their musical game. If anything, their music isn’t about technical prowess nor that of instrumental wizardry. For it’s more about creating sweeping scores to deep fictional art pieces and these surreal other-worldly events of a dystopian world. Simply put, what this band may lack (or, at least, not really care to show) in terms of jaw-dropping skill and instrumental chops, they more than make up for that tenfold with great composing abilities, pure imagination and stunning vision.
Bolstering this record’s intelligent design and to what also helps makes ‘The Fallen Ones‘ such an endearing experience are the differing moods that it summons throughout. For instance, the opening ‘Prelude‘ is nothing but the soft, serene calm before a violently raging storm with its fluttery ambient elements rising and falling as it’s beautiful piano melodies move the piece forward. Whereas the title track that follows right after is a mixture of warm familiarity as those classic Collapse Under The Empire keys, melodies and songwriting cues stack up and is also one of excitement, as the track develops through its various movements, leaving you wondering just where exactly this German outfit will take your ears over the following forty minutes.
Elsewhere, a sense of fear and foreboding mystery is boldly created by the dark keys and synths, sluggish drums, swelling low-end and tremolo guitars (you can never have too much trem) that predicate ‘Flowers From Exile‘. ‘Dark Water‘ is ominous and fathoms deep, much like the images of vast bodies of water its music weaves in your mind. For just as an expansive sea rises and falls and sucks back and forth on itself, so too does this very track. Like bursting rays of sunshine, ‘The Forbidden Spark‘ breaks through this record’s gloomy tone to create this uplifting, magical piece that burrows deep to the hopeful core of this record’s story; before it descends into a shimmering yet still undeniably eerie back half. ‘Blissful‘ is an urgent, faster-paced song from the get-go and ends in a suitably chaotic manner. It’s also possibly one of the heavily electronic and synth-driven pieces’ that this band have ever written, alongside the dissonant ‘A Place Beyond‘ too. Yet those cold, almost-8-bit electronic moments, minor strings and automated synth pads only add to the melancholic grandeur that this track rains down upon you, ironically enough. ‘The Holy Mountain‘ starts out small and eager, yet as the figurative steep incline grows and the struggles mount, the band persists and scales this mammoth track/mountain by expanding upon the instrumentation and patterns that first began it; culminating in a massive climax as finally reach an imposing summit of grandiose post-rock. And that anxious, doubt-laden feeling of everything crumbling away around you, like your standing upon the very edge of the world, that sense that it has all finally come to an end, is detailed so well in the lasting drum crashes and repeating chords of the final sections in ‘The End Falls‘.
Through all of the highs and lows this album takes, no two people will have the exact same emotional experience with this record, but that’s part of the beauty of ‘The Fallen Ones‘.
I personally don’t feel that this record is quite the benchmark release that ‘Shoulders & Giants’ was six years ago, but even looking at the rose-tinted glasses that I am no doubt wearing, ‘The Fallen Ones’ is still a wonderful, epic release. It’s this theatrical, apocalyptic soundtrack to one’s lonely travels through a long desolate civilization void of all human life; one that the very Earth itself would have reclaimed years prior. This record really is a grand musical odyssey conjured up by one of post-rock’s best yet one of the genres sadly most underrated bands: Collapse Under The Empire. However, this German post-rock ac are no longer the mere dwarfs standing atop the shoulders of towering giants that they once may have been; here they are the giant themselves, forever moving forward and upward. ‘The Fallen Ones’ is living, breathing proof of that.
2. The Fallen Ones
3. Dark Water
4. A Place Beyond
6. The Forbidden Spark
7. The Holy Mountain
8. Flowers From Exile
9. The End Falls
‘The Fallen Ones’ is out Friday, October 20th. Be the envy of all your pretentious, neck-beard looking, post-rock-loving friends and buy it here.