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Agalloch - Pale Folklore CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.75 | 162 ratings

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3 stars My opinion of this album seems to change each time I listen to it. Possibly that is due to my general tastes in music; my reaction to this album depends on whether I am listening to it with my 'black metal fan' hat on, my 'progger' hat on, or my 'ambient' hat on. But maybe this isn't such a bad thing; maybe my reactions help to show a little of what different groups will think of this.

As a black metal fan, I must admit to being slightly unimpressed. Because this really is a sort of 'black metal lite'. If I wanted the raspy vocals of the undead and the burning icy coldness of winters of old, I would put old Mayhem or Darkthrone on. In a black metal direction, at least, this isn't attempting anything especially novel, and fails to excel at what it does attempt. On the other hand, it isn't terrible either. And it sounds Scandinavian; if such a sentence makes sense. Impressive, given that this particular group hails from the USA, a nation with as much relevance in the black metal world and as big a black metal tradition as sub-saharan Africa. So this might be the states' first credible, albeit not especially remarkable, foray into the corpsepainted world of black metal.

As a progger, this music is simply too simplistic, its minimalism preventing it from ever really nestling comfortably in the foreground of my auditory landscape, it never really holds my attention in the way that I expect of music. It is background music, and I'm not sure I could ever see listening to this as an activity in its own right. That said, there are some tremendously pretty moments within the album, where it really does shine, my favourite being the track 'the misshapen steed', a beautifully melodic instrumental piece.

As for the fan of more ambient music, I'm not sure the album is entirely satisfactory either. Whilst the black metaller in me criticised it for not being metal enough, the metal elements that it does contain I think make it too harsh to be an album to kick back and unwind with at the end of the evening, with a glass of whisky in a darkened room.

Despite all this criticism, I'm not sure I haven't enjoyed listening to this album. (sorry, double negative there, I must try harder to be more clear in my meaning!). It has an oddly more-ish quality to it that I can't quite account for. Maybe it is the simple fact that it leaves each side of me just satisfied enough. Whatever it is, it isn't a bad album, and does enough to leave me interested as to what the band did to follow it up. It is moody and dark and cold enough, I think, to merit a rating of 3/5.

stranded_starfish | 3/5 |


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