Lots of underground black-metal bands shun media attention: they refuse to grant interviews, maintain no online presence, conceal their members’ names, and hide their faces in photos (or simply make no photos available). I’ve long assumed that these bands just don’t want press—that they’d rather not deal with an influx of gawkers and rubberneckers eager to slum it among musicians with titillating reputations for occultism, misanthropy, or worse.
I’m confident my theory is at least sometimes correct, but a few bands—among them Minneapolis six-piece False—seem to keep their own counsel largely out of a kind of auteurist perfectionism. It’s not so much that they don’t want to share their vision with the world; they just want to do it exactly right. And because that’s so difficult to do, the result is often silence.
Of course, for most bands silence is the default. When nobody gives a shit about what you’re doing, it doesn’t make much difference if you’re unwilling to give an interview. But False’s first proper album (which follows an EP and a split, both a few years old by now) has been the object of keen anticipation. The untitled LP came out in June on Oshkosh label Gilead Media, and the response has been breathless. No Clean Singing apologized for a delayed advance review, explaining, “The album is so unremittingly intense, so overwhelmingly powerful, so emotionally draining, that it has taken time to absorb it.” Isolation Grind gushed: “That the band has blossomed into a USBM force to be reckoned with is no surprise, but the fact that they managed to craft such a stunning full-length their very first time out certainly is.” Decibel gave the album a 9/10, and even Pitchfork weighed in, awarding it an 8.0.
False have done a tiny handful of interviews this time out, including one for occasional Reader contributor Kim Kelly in her capacity as an editor at Noisey. “False is an important part of our lives, and we are extremely protective of it,” they explained. “For us it still is most important that the music speak for itself, and having seen so many trivial and uninspired interviews for metal bands in the past we decided that it wasn’t necessary and wanted to bypass them altogether. It was a decision we made, but not a rule. We purposefully chose to speak with the particular outlets we did knowing that their motivations were legitimate, and that the writers involved were quality, thoughtful people.”
Thoughtfulness characterizes everything about the face that False present to the public. Even when they discuss the ugliness and suffering behind their frenzied, cathartic music, their rhetoric is measured: “Though our love and respect for each other is very real and pertinent to our output, the source of what we write definitely very much comes from dark and ‘negative’ places,” they told Kelly. “Together we’re able to take those negative energies and make the experience an enormously positive one for all of us. . . . We certainly don’t play this form of music because we find the world and our surroundings satisfactory.”
False are currently on their first extensive tour in nearly three years. Because they’re six busy people (none of them relies on the band for any meaningful income), it’s a pain in the ass for them to schedule much of anything. On Friday night they play in Chicago at a south-side DIY venue that shall remain nameless.
I won’t ask you to listen to me describe music you can hear for yourself by clicking on a button a few inches away, but I do want to say a little about the lyrics—mostly because they’re so much better than most other examples in the genre that I’ve taken the trouble to decipher.
I suspect that False’s front woman, Rachel (I can’t find her full name), frequently vocalizes wordlessly, because while the album’s Bandcamp page purports to include her lyrics, I could follow along only in fits and starts. “Saturnalia” closes with a bleak and beautiful incantation: “For from death, comes life. And with life comes sacrifice. And with sacrifice comes our sorrow. And ever turns the wheel, over and over.” Early in “The Deluge,” Rachel sings, “The death knell will ring all the while, giving you a pace with which to walk.” And at the end, she’s joined by what sounds like a mass of angelic voices to deliver the lines, “This is the rebirth through pain. To cleanse the self with the deluge of blood from flesh.”
I’m 80 percent sure that’s what she says, anyway. Give the album a spin, and if you want to know where the show is, e-mail me and try to persuade me you’re not a cop.