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Agalloch - Pale Folklore CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.75 | 162 ratings

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Prog Metal Team
4 stars I have the impression that the Agalloch ratings on PA suffer because of the difficulty to put them in a box with a clear and neat genre tag. Agalloch started out as mild black metal and evolved into more atmospheric and drawn out soundscapes, featuring both beautiful vocal harmonies and harsh black metal rasps and whispers. Experimental/Post Metal is an appropriate sub to put them in but as it goes with all great bands, they defy categorization and people are bound to approach them with entirely wrong expectations and preconceptions.

The opening track She Painted Fire is a fine example of their versatility. Starting quite symphonic with a great classical theme on fuzzed out guitars, it develops dramatically till the songs takes up speed around minute 2.30 and goes through a number of melodic riffs till minute 4. Then it shifts to moody chords and rough whispers, making up a chilling atmosphere. Agalloch also add some female vocals, not overstated as in most female-fronted metal, but quite subtle and functional. The song continues with another up-tempo part that sounds slightly muffled, it's a small mixing flaw on this otherwise satisfactory production. Part 2 of the track picks up the faster pace again, reminiscent of Katatonia's Brave Murder Day stylings. A clean electric guitar plucking similar to early Anathema serves as a bridge into the 3rd part, which features the first verses with some clean singing. They also bring in galloping riffs known from Iron Maiden. Agalloch's music can of course not be compared to the arena anthems from Maiden, but the influence of Maiden on their black metal should not be understated either, many bands from the extreme scene (Immortal, Dissection, In Flames) openly quote Maiden as an influence. So does Agalloch here in my ears.

The Misshapen Steed is a gentle moody classical interlude featuring harp, flutes and strings. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony is another big composition with an enchanting up-tempo pace and great guitar harmonies. As usually in modern metal, the vocals could be an acquired taste. The husky shrieks of Agalloch are not obtrusive or really extreme but the artistic choice for evocative ambience over melody might put off some of some sensitive souls. It's my experience that it takes a while to make the 'click' to appreciate this vocal style but, unless you have blocking principles against non-melodious elements in music, they will eventually make sense. Simply because they do.

Dead Winter Days continues the same vibe as Hallways of Enchanted Ebony. Fast and slightly dissonant riffs spin an entrancing groove, I can not overstress how huge the influence of Katatonia's Brave Murder Day must have been. As Embers Dress The Sky already featured on the debut demo, it's Agalloch's trademark sound and has predominant clean vocals that create an interesting effect that is both harmonious and sinister. The Melancholy Spirit is a more drawn out type of composition, laid-back with gently brooding sections, it's the kind of music they would perfect on Ashes Against The Grain.

The only criticism for this very mature and accomplished debut is the muffled sound and the sometimes abrupt transitions between song sections. Both issues would be dealt with on the ensuing releases. In the meantime, 4 solid stars.

Bonnek | 4/5 |


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