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Agalloch - Pale Folklore CD (album) cover

PALE FOLKLORE

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.75 | 162 ratings

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Petrovsk Mizinski
Prog Reviewer
3 stars After hearing the surprisingly good demo, From Which Of this Oak that was released in 1996, I knew I would want to hear more from the band. The demo, while not a masterpiece, showed promising signs of greater things to come for the band, and definitely showed the band beginning to cultivate a unique style of their own. The artwork suggests an album of a bleak topical nature, and indeed that is the case here. The subject material covers nature, folklore, some supernatural themes, and depression.

The album kicks off with part one of the She Painted Fire Across The Skyline trilogy written by guitarist, vocalist and drummer John Haugm, with an ambient wind sound, quickly followed by a medium register guitar riff. It's a simultaneously very relaxing and slightly haunting opening, somehow painting contrasting light and dark colors, a theme shown throughout the album. Like From Which Of This Oak, the Gothenburg style is quite apparent, with an obvious doom and black metal inspired feel to it too, as well as more of a post rock influence compared to From Which Of This Oak. This song goes between faster more dramatic parts, to quieter, slower paced, more relaxing moments, certainly making for a good sense of dynamics It continues seamlessly into part two, which is much shorter in duration. It has a faster overall tempo, leading to a more upbeat feel. One thing I really disliked about part two was the guitar solo. It sounded, quite frankly, amateurish, with some not very well thought out phrasing, bad note choices here and there, and some out of tune bends. The badly out of tune bits, make me literally cringe, and if a part of a song is that bad to the extent where it makes me cringe, it really loses points for me. I hope it wasn't intentionally played that way, because it really does sound either rushed or amateurish or just both, and represents some fairly poor musicianship on the guitarists part. Part 3 kicks off with distorted guitars straight away, and goes through several tempo changes, which help to add variety to the sound. Gothenburg style riffs are again a common feature here, so no surprises there. There aren't any clean male vocals on these 3 tracks, which adds to the bleak feel, but of course raises the question of whether there could have been more variety in the vocal style. The end of Part 3 has some slow melodies (arpeggios) played on piano, which leads very well into the next song.

The Mishappen Steed is the best song on this album and is also an instrumental track. It's very atmospheric and effectively shows bright and dark shades together, and is also somewhat of a relaxing listen too. It's a well orchestrated piece of music, with a dramatic climax not long after the first minute. It dies down into some relaxed, soothing keyboard melodies and eventually dies down to almost nothing, almost as if preparing you for the next song.

Hallways of Enchanted Ebony continues with a similar feel to the She Painted Fire Across The Skyline trilogy. Once things kick into full swing, it has a very constant feel to it, again with the harsh black metal vocal style. Unfortunately, there is again a decidedly average guitar solo, poorly written (or improvised) and sounding almost like an afterthought than a solo that completely fit the vibe of the song. Not quite as cringe worthy as the solo from She Painted Fire Across the Skyline - Part 2 but not far off either. The big dynamic shift in this song occurs when the band stops playing and some ambient wind sounds kick in, with some arpeggiated chords on the guitar eventually kicking in. There is some weird 'background' noise, sounding like a pack of wild wolves or something similar. An unexpected element there, which is never a bad thing. Lyrically, quite a dark song, with lines like From which of this oak shall I hang myself? These ebon halls are always dark... From which frostbitten bough shall I die?, and the music fits perfectly for the most part (sans guitar solo perhaps).

Dead Winter Days is indeed about death, depression and suicide, but the music is not as dark as the lyrics, so it lends itself to a weird feel in way. The inclusion of clean vocals is a nice touch too, and provide an interesting contrast to the black metal screams.

As Embers Dressed the Sky was of particular interest to me, as it featured on the From Which Of this Oak demo. This version is played in a different key signature which lends itself to a different overall feel. Where the version from the From Which Of this Oak demo was a bit ragged and rough, this version sounds almost celestial and smooth in comparison. While very simple, I really love the acoustic guitar instrumental break, which also has some nice melodies played on an electric guitar over the topic. The way it slowly builds back up to the heavy part is pure bliss. Unlike the From Which Of this Oak demo version, where the heavy guitar kicking in sounded too aggressive and chainsaw-ish, this version feels just right. The guitar solo is actually well done here and says what it needs to say. Good effort here.

The Melancholy Spirit, while not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, doesn't serve up anything heaps different from what we have previously heard on the rest of the album. It's dynamic, has some good melodies, with some acoustic parts not vastly different to what you hear on As Embers Dress The Sky and the ending of the track itself is perhaps the best part and just feels like it the album ended perfect.

The album is not consistent, has some pretty rough and unrefined mixing, and as mentioned above, there were points that made me literally cringe. It's nonetheless a good album, not remarkable by any means, but very good for a debut. 3.5/5

Petrovsk Mizinski | 3/5 |

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