Körkarlen, or The Phantom Carriage, was released in 1921 and directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström. According to its story, the last person to die on New Years Eve has to take the reigns of death and ford souls for a year. The film is considered massively influential, Ingmar Bergman was especially inspired by it, and featured groundbreaking special effects including revolutionary splicing to give the impression of ghosts and transparency. Key scenes have also been referenced in films such as the famous “Here's Johnny!” scene in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The film It's a Wonderful Life also lifted many aspects of the story.
Oh…wait… This isn't about the silent classic, is it?
No, it isn't.
France's Phantom Carriage actually have something in common with the film they're named after though. Both are difficult to define and encompass many genres without truly sticking to one or the other. The best sense one can really get for either is a broad idea. The Phantom Carriage encompasses a broad range of influences: black metal and hardcore ripe with melodies, technical sections, breakdowns, basic three-chord punk structures, drone, builds, shouts, growls, shrieks, and strained screams.
Hybrids are no surprise to anyone nowadays. With musical alchemy being the new black it becomes a question now of how can a band pull it off without sounding generic and strained? Phantom Carriage have turned out a far better record than most managing to hurdle both of these pratfalls. Falls is a piece that actually manages to feel natural without straining the listener's attention or ears.
Those that are familiar with The Phantom Carriage's 2011 debut New Thing will notice the band has taken a darker turn. Songs in New Thing felt choppy and felt like it fell short, but the album was not altogether bad. A little crowded but not bad. For a first record it held promise, which brings us to Falls.
Falls starts off with “Today We Stand”, a song with a slow building ambiance that breaks like quicksand once the album kicks into gear. “Today We Stand” delivers on just about every level that the band is capable of. From slow sections to sped up bits and excellent black metal inspired riffs, this song captures almost everything one can expect to hear throughout the rest of the album. This song alone shows that the band has dramatically improved its ability to riff and transition between sections without feeling awkward.
Later pieces like the very hardcore inspired “Since We Can't Forget Who We Are” showcase the band with more straight forward momentum and break up the album nicely. Other bits like the epic “Dreamers Will Never Stop Dreaming” will still only serve to impress more and more as the band dives deeper into whirlwinds of riffs. As far as flow is concerned, you can expect to be able to blow through this record without wanting to skip through songs. The final offering, “Devils, Gods, Us”, is a fantastic song that drives straight for the throat and takes us once more through a rich variety of sounds, slams, blasts, and melodies. It is an epic closer and ends on a perfect note.
Fans of bands like Deathspell Omega, Deafheaven, and Dillinger Escape Plan (fans of bands that start with the letter “D”, seemingly) will want to take note here. The Phantom Carriage have moved a little further into the realms of metal and strayed a little further from the influence of hardcore, though they still definitely draw from it. Much like the aforementioned film which blended drama, supernatural, holiday, hope, and depression elements, France's Phantom Carriage managed to bring together a ton of sounds and turn them into a great record. Fans of of black metal and hardcore should definitely check Falls out. They're only going to get better.