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Agalloch - Pale Folklore CD (album) cover

PALE FOLKLORE

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.69 | 125 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Agalloch: Pale Folklore [1998]

Rating: 7/10

Pale Folklore is the debut LP from Oregon-based progressive/experimental band Agalloch. This is a band that tends to attract a plethora of generic labels: black metal, doom metal, post metal, folk. While all these descriptions fit Agalloch's music to some extent, I find them to be insufficient tags. The band molds many different styles into their work, and they approach each of these styles in a refreshing and innovative manner. Pale Folklore has its roots most deeply planted in black metal and doom metal, but the whole album is full of progressive songwriting and dramatic bombast. There's a heavy baroque flair here, as well. This album is like a more focused version Opeth's Orchid; every track has its own identity, and the entire album evokes a strong atmosphere.

The three-part "She Painted Fire Across the Skyline" begins with an atmospheric guitar intro that transitions into waves of sweeping guitar lines. Haugm's creepy whispered vocals enter in, with gothic female operatic singing backing him up. The second part focuses particularly on the tortured vocals and guitar, while the third section provides a fitting climax. Although this trilogy isn't the best thing Agalloch offers on this album, it is an excellent piece of grandiose baroque-influenced metal. The gothic/baroque themes continue on "The Misshapen Steed", a gorgeous piano interlude that evokes images of a forlorn castle. The epic "Hallways of Enchanted Ebony" is the first point on the album where the band displays the full extent of their talent, however. The dual-guitar lines here are nothing short of powerful, and the groovy rhythm section prevents the guitar work from becoming overpowering. "Dead Winter Days" is a bit of a weak point; the riffs are stale and the whole track feels slightly flat. It isn't a bad piece, but it falls short of the other material here. The excellent "As Embers Dress the Sky" introduces the folk elements that would later come to dominate Agalloch's music. Beautifully somber acoustic guitar lines have a heavy presence here, and the bluesy guitar solo is a high point of the album. The lengthy closer "The Melancholy Spirit" opens with an extended instrumental section. The band continues to showcase diverse influences here, including jazzy drumming. There's another majestic folk section near the middle, making this track a sublime conclusion to an excellent album.

The melting-pot of musical ideas present on Pale Folklore is extraordinarily impressive, especially considering that this it is a debut album. However, the overwhelming creativity that Agalloch would unleash on future albums makes this debut seem rather straightforward in comparison. There are moments here that sound uninspired; there are points where bland metal riffing takes the music over. The best parts of the album occur when the band stretches their creative muscles: the folk sections, the dual-guitar lines, the melodic guitar solos. These sections are what make Pale Folklore an excellent album; diverse musical philosophies are pieced together to create atmospheric tapestries. Nevertheless, everything that's done well on this LP is done exponentially better on its successor The Mantle. Although Agalloch are not at their creative height here by any stretch of the imagination, Pale Folklore is an excellent work that most fans of progressive music would be able to appreciate.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |

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