AGALLOCH – Pale Folklore
It seldom in modern metal that a band’s debut is this cohesive… Everything on this Album is so well written and carefully calculated. From the opener, `She Painted Fire Across the Skyline’ (Which is broken into 3 tracks.) any doubts one might have are easily washed away by Lush soundscapes of Folk, Prog, and Black Metal. Within Part I of the song you hear haunting female operatic vocals, (mixed with the vocalist black-metal whispers) Timpani drums, the blowing of the wind, and a variety of other unique sounds. Agalloch seem to be able to create an `aura’ which seems almost unrivalled in today’s Metal Scene. – Now, I’ve read some Opeth comparisons… I don’t really think they sound a lot alike (maybe some hints of the Orchid or Morningrise days) but I can agree with the fact they are both Artists in their crafts… Each band has clearly outlined an artistic vision and carved their own niche in Metal, not just rehashed another bands sound.
Truth is I’ve only listened to this album 3 times since I got it yesterday… and I know I’ve only just heard begun to scratch the surface. Even after only 3 spins I’m confident enough to give this album 5 Stars. This is best listened from start to finish… I love when a band makes an `Album’ not just a bunch `songs’ thrown randomly together. Honestly I’m dumbfounded that I’m just hearing about these guys now… I also have `The Mantle’ but I figure I’ll give this one a few mores spins before I take on that Journey.
Honestly this band could appeal to anyone who likes Opeth, Amorphis, or any other band that has incorporated Folk and Progression into Metal. Or just about anyone who appreciates true Artistic talent. In fact, I thinks fans of bands like Pelican, Isis or Neurosis would probably enjoy them for their atmospheric elements alone. (though sounding completely different) Shockingly these guys are also American (Portland OR.) Which just goes to show not everyone there is humping the mainstream MTV band wagon.
Forget listening to the samples… Just buy this album, press play and sit back and transcend into an musical journey.
Favorite Tracks: She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, (Parts 1, 2 and 3.) and As Embers Dress the Sky.
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
AGALLOCH – Pale Folklore
Dark melancholic metal music with melody and a good production. The lyrics are very poetic and dark, and deals with lonliness, suicide and love. Very well written. The vocals are kind of harsh black metal like, but are whispered at the same time and sometimes you can hear a beautiful female voice which fits in perfectly with the atmosphere…It starts off with “She Painted Fire Across The Skyline”, an almost 19 minute long song which is just brilliant, the best song on the album. The following track “The Misshapen Steed” is a beutiful piece of music which just gives me shivers up my back everytime I listen to it..All the remaining songs are amazing also (especially “As Embers Dress The Sky” and “The Melancholy Spirit”). Not one bad song on this album. So if you like this kind of dark depressive metal you should try this out. Even if you do not like this kind of music I think you should give this album a shot. These guys deserve all fame they can get and besides that: What more can you ask from an album that this album does not offer?
Agalloch’s _Pale Folklore_ is a masterpiece. It is a rare debut that shows a band with stylistic cohesion, passionate songwriting, and full control over its considerable imagination. Some have compared Agalloch to Opeth, which is fair to a limited degree (particularly if they are referencing early Opeth, i.e. _Orchid_ and _Morningrise_). In my own opinion, this band is closer in spirit to Ulver’s early black metal trilogie (_Bergtatt_, _Kveldssanger_, and _Nattens Madrigal_) and the dark folk music of bands like Sol Invictus. Agalloch’s music embraces a pastoral aesthetic of lachrymose sadness, with long epic songs blending crunchy metal riffs that have a Katatonia-like melodic elegance (think _Brave Murder Day_) and the adoption of folk music features. Haughm’s vocals range from harsh screaming or rasping whispers. Lyrics are paramythical and romantic and melancholy, for example: “As a bird I watched her from my cold tower in the heavens, and when she fell from the northplace, I flew down and embraced her.”Taken by itself, a description of the band’s sound and style might cause one to dismiss them. After all, the whole “metal/acoustic” thing has been done plenty of times at this point (often by rotten bands imitative of Opeth). The ultimate reason for _Pale Folklore_’s accomplishment here is the evocative sound and flow. Most metal bands write albums of songs that are unrelated or at best the inter-song relationship is tangential. Agalloch instead follows a beautifully effect dramatic curve, where the emotional course of the music supersedes conceptual relationships and creates an utterly absorbing album from beginning to end. The three-part opener, “She Painted Fire Across the Skyline”, is beautifully illustrative of why Agalloch is successful. I’ve listened to this epic seemingly hundreds of times and never gets boring. The sounds of biting, frosty winds open the piece, with a few sparse guitar notes eventually spiraling into the crashing electric riffs that sunder this cold serenity. A powerful guitar theme soars above the churning metallic flurry, until the metal cuts out, replaced by slow, echoic guitar arpeggios and a softly treading drums. Then the vocals enter, with a snarling whisper setting the emotional undertones with “Oh, dismal mourning, I opened my weary eyes again.” Female soprano vocals float about the central instruments, as if the wind carries them, hinting at the loss suggested by the lyrics. Part II begins with a pretty motif on acoustic guitar, which is then embraced by a forceful, melodic metal drive. By now the music has gone from brooding and lonely to aggressive and melodic, and it changes again. Twangy bass chords fall against a simple, burnished guitar figure before cutting into the melodic, urgent theme of part III. The heavy riff cuts out for a moment, replaced by Haughm taking the role of an evil madrigal with angry acoustic guitar, and stuttering drum fills. He venomously spits the words, “I saw the nightfall…It called to me like a river of shadows, it sang to me with the cries of a thousand ravens that blackened the sky as they took flight.” Now the song approaches its incensed, alienated resolution, interlocking melodic tremolo riffing and plucked acoustic guitar, colored with glistening cymbal splashes and chimes on a propulsive 4/4 beat and timpani. The song climaxes with the electric guitar theme, then the lonely chords that first accompany Haughm’s vocals from part I. It ends at last with a sorrowful coda for solo piano with an underlying ominousness that suggests the story has not concluded.With such impressive piece kicking things off, the rest of the album has high standards to follow. Agalloch keeps the quality high throughout the disc. Next is the pseudo-chamber piece “The Misshapen Steed”, a beautiful instrumental of ghostly string synths & harp and electric pianos. Even with its somewhat clichéd cadences and chord selections, the sound fits delightfully into an album that has nothing to do with chamber music. Anywhere else, it would have seemed out of place. “Hallways of Enchanted Ebony” is an epic riff-driven song with Haughm’s searing vocals and crunchy, modal melodies that evoke In Flames’ NWoSDM masterpiece _The Jester Race_. The song proper ends several minutes before going onto the next track, leaving gritty electric arpeggios and the barking and growling of bloodthirsty hounds to segue into the next track, “Dead Winter Days”, another forceful track with an unforgettable, soaring main riff. It has ominous dark messiah lyrics like “I am the unmaker, I bring death to the beautiful dawn with pillor, cold, and a legion of dying angels.” It’s a great example of metal that is energizing and beautiful at once, so it can be forgiven for lasting a bit too long. “As Embers Dress the Sky”’s metal opening gradually passes into an extended acoustic guitar interlude as delicate piano notes fall upon the brittle riffs, and a starry electric guitar solo builds it back into a galloping final metal vigor. The 12-minute closer, “The Melancholy Spirit”, brings the album to a close with a slow, majestic cascade of icy riffs and the consolation of sentimental, lightly chiming acoustic guitars. When the closing piano solo plays its final, lugubrious notes, you’re left with a feeling of loneliness like the music passed it on to you.
With Pale Folklore Agalloch have done what Ulver did with Bergtatt. That is create an absolutely brilliant debut album which they may never top. I think, unlike Ulver, Agalloch have it in them to go even better than Pale Folklore, if that’s even possible! Anyway on to the music. John Chedsey from Satan Stole My Teddybear calls this “Grey Metal”. I think this is a perfect description. The music has elements of pure heavy metal, but is more extreme than that. They also have some black metal elements, but they are not that extreme. There are some absolutely amazing folky lead guitar melodies on here. If the beginning of She Painted Fire Across The Skyline (up to about the 4 min mark) doesn’t send shivers up your spine, then nothing will! There are also a lot of quiet, accoustic interludes, sometimes accompanied by flute and sound effects. Any fans of early Ulver, Vintersorg or Opeth who don’t have this must get it NOW! Agalloch have raised the bar. If you found this review helpful, please say, I might post more…
No band has done what Agalloch has done with this album. It will provide everything you could want in an album. Long, Progressive ever-changing, atmospheric songs, Dark Poetic Lyrics, absolutely brilliant guitar melodies, a variety of vocals (mostly shrilling harsh vocals, but also some dark, beautiful clean vocals, and some female vocals), and the best part is it grows on you and you’ll always come crawling back for more. It’s very folk inspired, a lot of great guitar playing… and the instrumentals are truly breathtaking. Individually, the songs are very balanced. One minute will be distorted guitars, the next will be a beautiful acoustic interlude. It’s also very balanced as a whole, some long parts of songs have a very relaxed feel, some go back and forth a lot, and some fall sort of in between. Not to mention, it’s amazing how they accomplished all this on their first album…
Now for a walkthrough of each song. It starts out with “She Painted Fire Across the Skyline,” which, as a whole song might seem sort of …unorganized. That’s why it’s 3 different parts that flow together. A Great song, to say the least, the female vocals are excellent especially when combined with the pretty much whispering vocals, and part 3 is quite agressive. The guitar work is excellent, utalizing the acoustic/metal combining and forms a unique desolate and bleak atmosphere. Maybe that’s because of the sounds of chilling winds in between each part, which also has great effect. After that monster of a song, you might want to relax into absolute musical bliss and thats just what “The Misshapen Steed” does. The majestic, yet eerie keyboard melodies of this instrumental song will totally imparadise you. The worst part of this song is when it ends, trust me you will not want this song to end. When it does end, the powerful intro to the infamous “Hallways of Enchanted Ebony” begins. This is the song that really made me want the album. Some people say it’s too repetitive, and I see where they’re coming from, but the parts being repeated are so good, you want it to keep going. The riffs in this song are just unforgettable. After that is Dead Winter Days. The riff you hear first is amazing… but probably the least impressive song overall. Then, “As Embers Dress the Sky” starts and youll hear some clean vocals for a change. This song contains what I like to call my favorite moment in music ever, and that is the acoustic interlude that lasts 2 minutes. Its the most blissfully captivating moment they’ve created. Then for the conclusion we have “The Melancholy Spirit,” more blend of distorted and acoustical goodness for your ears. A very epic song with many directions, and ends with a peaceful piano tune. I would point out standout songs, but that would be impossible.
This album should really be heard as a whole, hearing one song from this is like hearing 1/8 of a song, so remember that if you’re sampling one. Also, this CD must be listened to in a time and place where you can concentrate on it without any distractions, for full enjoyability. I’ve listened to it in my car, and it really doesn’t sound as good because of the outside noise and the fact that I have to concentrate on the road… Also, be sure to check out Agalloch’s other full length, and the EP “Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor,” which are both very essential.