What sort of music would you supposed you’d hear if you combined haunting, chant-like vocals with strong acoustic instruments and a melancholic country western atmosphere? Until I listened to En La Vanguardia by Falgar I wasn’t sure either. It might not be a new form of music or a new subgenre but it’s still a rarity. Such rarities we ought to treasure. We ought to cherish the nuances and the minimalism that creates such haunting beauties. I’ve lived nearly my entire life in the American Southwest region. It’s full of deserts, mesquite trees, ghost towns, and bloody memories. It’s a place I both love and hate. If you talked to anyone else from the Southwest I imagine you would get a similar response. It’s a place that exists like no other place on Earth. In New Mexico alone you have deserts that stretch as far as the eye can see, then you have mountains the rise up out of nowhere and dominate the sky line. You have forests that grow out of thin air from the desert and cover the land in green. It’s a strange place, the Southwest. So much of its history is soaked in blood, so much of its history is full of pain and heart break and yet, somehow there is beauty. In the ugliness of its human history, in the desolation that spans as far as the eye can see there is a beauty here. Outsiders can’t really see it, and if they do they don’t understand the same way we do. We love the desolation and yet we curse it each day as the sun and the temperatures rise. En La Vanguardia is an album that seems to understand that feel more than more, it’s beautiful but harsh and ugly at the same time. It’s not a perfectly produced album meant to glorify and paint over the rough spots. At least that’s not what I felt. Falgar encapsulates the harshness of reality.
I think I listened to En La Vanguardia a dozen times before I really understood what the album was about. It’s beautiful in its minimalist sound and dusty atmosphere but what is it really saying? What does the being in the vanguard mean? It both is and isn’t a cultural thing. With track tiles like “Sangre Occidental” and “Hermano” it’s hard to deny that there is some nationalistic presence in the album but thankfully the music steers away from being too preachy and bombastic with the message. Instead, Falgar chooses to highlight the transient attractiveness of the western world. He romanticizes it but at the same time he doesn’t shy away from the harshness and brutality. I would liken this album, in some ways, to the novel Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. It’s quite possibly the most violent book I’ve read and yet it’s also one of the most poetic and lyrical books I’ve read as well. Blood Meridian takes places in the American Southwest, long before it was domesticated and sterilized. It serves to awaken that wild spirit that still dwells here. So too, En La Vanguardia seeks to awaken the ancient ancestral spirits. The music isn’t violent, isn’t angry, isn’t bombastic, and yet the message of the clear acoustic tones is very straightforward and poignant: the beast that lives in such desolate beauty is sleeping, wake him now before he is dead forever.
This is an album coming from a project that has predominately been a black metal project in the past. Keeping that in mind, I’m very impressed with the detail and attention to the atmosphere. Black metal bands, especially those of the raw or depressive variety, are not well known for caring about details and production. While I can’t say the black metal produced by Falgar in the past is any different, I am happy to say that the atmosphere on this neo-folk acoustic work is great. The vocals are haunting though they could be a little better. In a few tracks, notably “Hermano,” the vocals feel a little forced. The octave for them felt a little odd here as well but for the most part they do a good job connecting the music to the atmosphere. I love the acoustic sounds on En La Vanguardia. They have the wonderful tiny echo with each strum of the guitar or bang of the snare that reminds me of home. They are sad and melancholic but have a sort of ritualistic edge to them. I’m not sure it will appeal to everyone, but it sure appeals to me!
Overall, I thought En La Vanguardia was a good album. Not a great album, but it does have moments of greatness. Would I suggest it to you? I think so. As I said it’s good, but not great. What it lacks in vocal cohesion at times it makes up for with harsh and desolate atmospheres. It paints a pretty good picture of the Southwest, the place where only the desperate and the angry seem to thrive. It’s minimalistic, allows the listener to fill in the gaps through suggestion and inference rather than coming right out and declaring its purpose. Falgar, should he continue on this desolate track through the wilderness of the west, has made a very good starting effort. I want to see him improve and I want the journey to continue. There’s still so much more to see in the deserts and the mountains.
Highlights: Nuevo Sol, Santos, Recuerda
For Fans Of: Keith Richie, Nebula Forestia, Un Festín Sagital
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- Nuevo Sol
- Sangre Occidental
- Nuestra Fuerza
- Fuego en la Noche
- Tu Oscuridad
- La Luz en Ti
En La Vanguardia was relesed independently through Bandcamp on July 6th, 2016 and on limited edition cassette through Lighten Up Sound on June 21st, 2017.