Last Leaf Down – Fake Lights (Lifeforce Records)Sunday, 12th October 2014
Shoegaze hasn’t quite yet become the next frontier for yet another full-on metallic permutation, but give it some time – it will happen. This year alone has flaunted at least three bands totally willing embrace the style: France’s Alcest, who have left the metal flock altogether; Philadelphia’s Nothing, who are good and promising; and Switzerland’s Last Leaf Down, who aren’t metal, but are on a metal label in Lifeforce. Remember, that’s how things usually work for crossover effect: Take a band that isn’t metal, sign them to your metal label, and hope the relative open-mindedness of the scene works its magic.
Having formed in 2003, doting a proper (and always-warranted) Katatonia influence, Last Leaf Down gradually shed their metallic skin for the ethereal, sleepy-time sounds of ‘gaze innovators Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine, and Slowdive, a band who is usually the most common reference among metal bands past and present. Nevertheless, Fake Lights (the band’s second platter overall) bears a lot of the style’s trademarks: Relaxed time signatures and/or drums, clean, in-key, but hardly dominant vocals, and mounds of guitars hooked up to probably an innumerable amount of guitar effects and pedals.
Because of the obvious lack of hooks and dynamics, one needs to rummage through all of the delay to find some nuggets, but they’re around, like on opening cut “In Dreams” or the caressing “The Theme,” a song that ends up crashing to a throttling conclusion. The poppy, new wave-influenced “An Endless Standoff” is only tough going if you’re not in touch with your feelings or have a soft spot for delicate melodies, while closing jam “Fake Lights in the Sky” is the album’s obvious highlight, an utterly dreary and forlorn foray that the band and label have been parading around leading up to the album’s release.
DR can’t imagine a scenario where shoegaze is the next “it” thing in metal. It’s too soft, too “alternative” and doesn’t have enough of an image for the youngsters to work with. But, slot in a band like Last Leaf Down next to metal’s tried-and-true practitioners of grief and you have something to work with.