I was very happy when Federico La Torre, bass player in La Fin, sent me a copy of their debut album for review, because the PR material doesn't seem to be able to define what they do. In an era of subgenres and sub-subgenres, it's great to see a band who don't fit into any of the buckets already out there. It's going to be fun trying to define what they do, with that in mind.
The first genre that came to mind, as Inertia kicked off the album, was post-rock. It's melodious guitar, set against a background texture, with other instruments gradually joining the fray. Even as it gets a lot more vehement, it still feels like a soundscape, just an angrier one, with the music a conversation with the shouted vocals of Marco Balzano. He sings cleanly too, at multiple points in this song, but in the angry moments these are hardcore shouts.
Once Inertia really got moving (ha!), it was clear that this is post-metal rather than post-rock and it's possible that it's the fairest place to end up. Wherever this album takes us, it always has hard edges, even when the band have moved into softer sections. I'm no expert on post-metal but I caught a little Isis or Cult of Luna here, but without as much sludge. The pace is often similar but feels more active. Perhaps that's because there are three guitarists in play, plus an audible bass, and they don't so much weave together as join a conversation separately, alternately agreeing with and then wildly disagreeing with the vocals.
Then there are points flavoured by extreme subgenres, most obviously black metal and avant jazz, but they're only points. There are no black metal songs here, but there are entire sections featuring a wall of sound approach and much faster drumming. There are no avant jazz songs here, but there are parts that feel acutely experimental. La Fin clearly have broad tastes in music and they're happy to borrow ideas from diverse sources to filter into the nine jagged soundscapes to which we're treated.
And jagged is a good word to use here. It's clear that, while the band is conjuring up soundscapes, it's doing so in unusual fashion. Riccardo Marino rarely just keeps the beat here and, even when he does, it isn't always in a traditional time signature. I certainly won't be tapping out Repetita's drum intro with my fingers any time soon. This takes us firmly into progressive metal, but not remotely like Queensrÿche or Dream Theater and their ilk. Maybe there's a little Tool but this is more like King Crimson as a post-metal band.
I think it's fair to say that this is not an easy to grasp album. It's as full of melody and elegance as it is anger and dissonance, but it's hardly going to make for easy radioplay, even on a station that leans to the alternative and happily embraces metalcore. I've listened through a few times now and I can't say that I've figured out the structure of any of these songs yet. I appreciate this part and that one and of course that one over there, but there's so much going on that I know I still have a heck of a lot of dots to connect. I'll take time.
For now, even though I'm rarely a fan of shouted vocals, I like this a lot. It feels vibrant and fresh and fascinating. There's anger but it's textured anger and, unlike every metalcore band on the planet, the voice isn't the only storyteller. The instruments aren't just providing a mood, they're each telling the story from another angle. The PR tells me that this is a concept album, with each of these nine tracks exploring a shared concept from a different perspective. I'll have to take that as read, but I could buy into those different perspectives not being limited to their own track but arguing for it throughout.
Even if I'm not following the concept, this is clearly intricate, dynamic and accomplished music and it counts as La Fin's debut album, following an EP in 2016. It was never going to get less than a 7/10 but I'm already comfortable going with a 8/10 for now. As I listen to it more, it's not outside the bounds of possibility that I up that to a 9/10. Fascinating stuff. Thanks, Federico.