Interview with Kishel, Rachel, and Jimmy | By Mike Gaworecki
A “portent” is a sign that something huge, possibly life-changing, perhaps calamitous, is about to happen. When Minneapolis’ False wrote their new album, Portent, released July 12 on Gilead Media, the calamities were already occurring—but, in its own way, the album is still about the future. “During the process of completing the album, three of us lost our fathers and one was disowned,” keyboardist Kishel, vocalist Rachel, and guitarist Jimmy explain. “One lost a grandmother, and many of us went through separations akin to divorces.”
As one of the more singular and harrowing bands in the American black metal movement, False have always centered suffering, pain, and loss in their music. However, Portent was not written as a means of dwelling on the past, instead serving as a vehicle for the band to carry each other—and their fans—forward. “This record is about empowerment just as much as it is about suffering and grief,” they say. “We have been fortunate enough to come to terms with our collective and respective pain with the support of one another, and if any of our fans are able to find any sort of inner strength, resilience, or peace with the help of our music, then that is all we could hope for.”
Elaborating on the intra-band machinations that defined Portent, they note, “This album has been different, because in our relationships to each other as bandmates, we deepened the way that we stand by each other, support each other. Many of the life changes each of us experienced during the composition period began with loss and involved suffering and misery along the path to finding each other and making sense of everything in a new frame. The album, therefore, is about suffering, but it is also about solidarity, transformation, adaptation, interconnection.”
Despite all the changes False went through, they had no intention of compromising the intensity of their sound. As lead single “A Victual for Our Dead Selves” amply demonstrates, they are unsurpassed at creating fierce yet atmospheric black metal with indelible melodic lines running through each song.
“We sought to maintain the catharsis that has always been in this music for us,” they say, but the band did enhance a number of stylistic elements on Portent. “With the guitars, we sought a more precise articulation, more nuanced arpeggiation, and more discernible tone. The synth palette is broader, with less focus on strings and incorporating both a wide range of choirs and analog synth. Recording vocals in our basement in one fell swoop was a liberating way to capture an emulation of the energy created in our live performances.”
False will always remain vague when answering questions about their lyrics. “You don’t tell someone what you wished for when you blew out your birthday candles, right?” they quip, but they are willing to offer this much: “Lyrically, this album is a declaration of strength in ourselves, our shared history, through an honest and unyielding reflection of some of the more dark parts of our recent years. It is a culmination of all of the massive shifts that we have experienced. We all began forging separate paths, but we paced each other and stood together.”
No surprise, then, that False serve as much more than just a band for their members. “False, for me, is a ballast from which all else radiates; it is grounding,” they say, unified. “This is the theme of ‘A Victual for Our Dead Selves.’ This is a very vulnerable piece of work that diverges from traditional black metal tropes. I have no qualms with that. Black metal is about assuming your power, assuming your truth.”