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Agalloch - Pale Folklore CD (album) cover

PALE FOLKLORE

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.76 | 150 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Pale Folklore' - Agalloch (7/10)

Drawing upon the style and aesthetic ideal of their demo and maturing them into something deserving of a full length effort, Pacific Northwestern dark metal group Agalloch's debut album 'Pale Folklore' shows the band's trademark folk-tinged style of metal while still in the major stages of developing it's sound. Although the band would hit it's greatest stride with their second studio release 'The Mantle,' this debut seems far too overlooked, considering it's quality. While there is certainly not the defining sound and power that the sophomore would supply, Agalloch seems to know exactly what they want to do with their music, even this early on. Despite lesser production value and execution than would be heard later on, 'Pale Folklore' shows Agalloch at some of their heaviest and darkest, and is a classic in it's own right, albeit a flawed one.

Much of the strength of 'Pale Folklore' depends on the strength of the opening epic. Put simply, the three part suite 'She Painted Fire Across The Skyline' is to Agalloch, as 'Black Rose Immortal' is to Opeth. In other words, it is their early crowning achievement, and showcases all of the best things about Agalloch in the course of it's nineteen minute duration. While the quiet, atmospheric introduction seems to overstay it's welcome a bit too long, the song erupts into a tour-de-force once things really get started. From the first part of the song onwards, Agalloch's trademark style can be heard; a melodic and atmospheric breed of black metal, topped off with strong post-rock and folk presence.

While the epic is very enjoyable to listen to and a very powerful piece, it sometimes feels like there are pieces of the composition that are unfitting. While it is typical of Agalloch to switch between heavy and mellow sections, some of the transitions seem a bit off. However, the music gives off a stunning feeling of melancholy, which is impossible to ward off should the listener pay enough attention.

A medieval-sounding symphonic piece ('The Misshapen Steed') seperates the two halves of the album, sparing the listener a few moments respite. From here on, the songs seem to take a rather formulaic approach. Each track (with the possible exception of the final track, which takes a couple of minutes to get going) open with riffs that emphasize atmosphere and pitch resolutions over traditional catchiness. The songs then each break into their verse formats; showcasing John Haughm's passionate black metal vocals and naturalistic lyrics. While each song is beautiful and strong, it's impossible not to notice that each of the songs sound very similar; a fault made worse by the fact that each of the tracks averages to being ten minutes long (more than enough time to develop a personal identity).

While the production is certainly above average for black metal standards, many listeners who do not engage the genre often may find that the lower fidelity sound impedes their enjoyment of the listen. Alas, the instrumentation can be heard relatively clearly, and it is a clear improvement from their demo. On possible issue however, is the noticably low mixing of the album. While it may make sense for a polished production to have a lower mixing (in order to preserve range), 'Pale Folklore' seems to be needlessly quiet throughout in comparison to other albums. This of course, can be remedied by the use of a volume knob however, but it's interesting to note.

Agalloch have become one of my preferred acts in the theatre of 'black metal,' and 'Pale Folklore' certainly does not dissapoint me. While it may not share the same level of grandeur that it's successors rest on, the album succeeds on a whole, despite it's apparent flaws. A very commendable full length debut.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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