Fell To Low- Low In the Dust

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fell To Low’s debut full length Low In the Dust is one of those albums that will likely take most of you a few times through to completely get a feel for. Released earlier this year on Revelation Records, the Southern California band has released material that changes rather significantly from one half to the next. The first three songs are punchier arrangements that fall somewhere between post hardcore and angular noise rock, while the last three up the track lengths and go for sprawling melodic soundscapes with bursts of intensity. Rather than taking the usual punk or hardcore approach of stripping things down to their basics Fell to Low has instead branched outward and it has worked in their favor, and if you give this one the time it needs to sink in you’ll find that these guys are distinguishable from so many of the others out there.

Low In the Dust starts off in a familiar fashion, with punchier riffing that falls somewhere between the punk and post hardcore spectrums driving things forward. But even from the start it’s clear that the instrumentals have some different elements present in their writing, as beyond the jagged edges and emotionally charged melodic leads there are bursts of experimentation. Whether it’s the spaced out guitar work that kicks off opener “Galore” and makes you wonder if the record has started skipping, or the angular riffs on “Mapmaker” that takes on more of a 90s noise/indie rock aesthetic Fell To Low remains unpredictable and is constantly jumping between mellow and aggressive. This only gets amplified with the fourth track “Boundary”, which spreads things out to the nine minute mark and allows the melodies to expand and hover over the rest of the instrumentation for a significant period of time. The two pieces that follow stretch out the material even further, coming in at thirteen minutes each and comprising a little over half of the overall record. This is where Fell To Low showcases their full potential, as the instrumentals let the melodies fully absorb you in a warm and inviting atmosphere while still adding in the occasional jagged edges to remind you that they haven’t left their hardcore elements completely behind. What stood out to me the most during the longer tracks was the perfect use of space, as there are plenty of sections where the guitars and bass will suddenly fade out, giving the instrumentation the chance to really sink in as you listen. With that being said, this multifaceted approach does make it take a bit longer for Low In the Dust to fully click and it took me a few times through before I really felt like I was grasping the sheer amount of emotion and intricacies pouring out of these songs.

The instrumentals may skew more towards the melodic side as the album progresses, but Fell To Low’s vocals tend to stick towards the abrasive end of the spectrum. It’s an approach that adds extra intensity and abrasive edges to the material, even as the guitars start to push off towards warmer, mellower leads. There’s plenty of space on the recording for the screams to stand right at the front and grab your attention every time they appear, which makes a big difference considering that they are used fairly sparingly on the latter half of the album in favor of extended instrumental sections. On “Truman” the vocalist does kick it down a notch, heading into some softer territory that sometimes sounds like a whisper that just barely hovers over the guitars, but for the most part the focus is on an emotional and raw performance that’s sure to entice anyone who likes this style of music.

Though they may have plenty of the familiar post hardcore and punk elements, Fell To Low has pushed beyond the traditional boundaries of both of these genres towards and incorporated sprawling melodies and moments of sparser instrumentation that pulls in a lot of additional styles. It did take me a few times through before I started to get a feel for all the different nuances of Low In the Dust, but the effort is worth it as this group has put together music that captures raw emotion in both warmer and abrasive variants. Plenty of bands have started with a rougher punk/hardcore base and incorporated some experimental and melodic elements but have often cut their ideas short, and this is where Fell To Low really manages to stand out as they’re not afraid to use as much time as they need for their expansive writing style to fall into place. I’ll be waiting to see where they go from here, as they’ve left themselves with an excellent starting point and plenty of ground to still explore.


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