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OF STONE, WIND, AND PILLOR

Agalloch

Experimental/Post Metal


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4 stars With this five-song EP, Agalloch deliver previously unreleased material which dates from Jan. 1997 to May 2001. The title track is obviously the most recognizable in terms of the band's traditional sound. Composed during the Pale Folklore era, the song follows the musical theme and vibe of that material, though not containing quite the same manner of conviction in its delivery and execution. Though it is clear to hear why this piece was not chosen for inclusion on the debut, it nevertheless holds it's own as a quality composition. Early Ulver and Katatonia inspirations are here to be heard, yet Agalloch dress these influences in their own unique expressions. Two instrumental pieces follow. The first, "Foliorum Viridium", was composed by Shane Breyer in January 1997 (the earliest piece here), and is actually one of two Breyer pieces on offer. The first is an ambient keyboard piece similar in idea to the phenomenal "The Misshapen Steed" from Pale Folklore. It dwells in the same realm, and has it's moments of beautiful movement, but cannot compare with "The Misshapen Steed" in terms of sheer breathtaking beauty and emotional penetration. Coming closer to reaching this pinnacle is Breyer's "A Poem By Yeats" (Sept. 2000), in which Shawn recites a Yeates text in a ponderous, mournful tone over darksome keyboard orchestrations that seem to flow with the text and tone of the voice. Perhaps the most moving piece on this recording. "Haunting Birds" is an acoustic instrumental composed by John Haughm (Nov. 99) featuring some tasteful percussive accents, working together to create an ancient darkness thick with the smell of burning oak. It's what this band does best. Take you somewhere. It's nearly intoxicating. Most likely destined to be the most memorable and popular track featured on this EP is "Kneel To The Cross", a cover of dark folk troupe Sol Invictus recorded in May 2001. What is interesting is how the band take this piece and turn into their own creation. All good cover songs maintain the essence of the original while being expressed in the covering band's own (hopefully unique) vision. With "Kneel To The Cross", Agalloch succeed and then some. I am one who finds Haughm's cold singing voice attractive, and I am pleased that the band was smart enough to not use the harsh voice as the primary vocal delivery in this adaptation. The harsh voice is used in a very effective manner here, just under the surface of certain sections to provide the bitterness ingrained in this particular sentiment. This EP is an essential item for followers of this highly creative and unique act.
Report this review (#85962)
Posted Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
umutgokbayrak
5 stars Agalloch is band with a unique and original style, blending mostly harsh semi-black vocals, acoustic passages, thoughtful lyrics, and a general feeling of darkness and melancholy. I really love their style and this album is not an exception. If you are open to some new ideas in music, folk influences, and don't hate "some" black metal vocal style this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. This band and this album especially is essential to people who love bands like Opeth and Katatonia.
Report this review (#113050)
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars A stopgap between studio releases, Of Stone Wind and Pillor is a compilation of previously unreleased and rare material.

Of Stone Wind and Pillor is a rather disappointing demo that evidently wasn't selected for inclusion on the debut album, it's a very average composition with dull vocals and uninspired riffs. The performance is slack and unfocussed. If this was Agalloch's usual fare we wouldn't have heard of them. Fliorum Viridum is taken from the debut demo. It's a classical instrumental piece on keyboards, very symphonic and atmospheric but nothing unusual for dark metal bands around 1996. Haunting Birds is a clumsy bit of guitar strumming accompanied by big reverbed kettledrums.

The last two tracks are a real catch though, Kneel To the Cross starts with an entrancing pagan chant and turns into a great folk tune. It's a well performed cover from Sol Invictus that shows Haugm's grown confidence in the clean vocal department. A Poem By Yeats is another interesting piece that could have been a Dead Can Dance cover, featuring orchestral keyboards, spoken word and grave chants reminiscent of Brendan Perry's voice. It lasts 4 minutes though, not 8 and a half.

The last 10 minutes show a more reflective side of Agalloch and make this into an interesting release for fans. Not necessary for anybody else though.

Report this review (#259015)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Another interesting EP by Black Metal/ Folk Metal band Agalloch.

Back in 2001, Agalloch were just starting to rise, after their solid debut "Pale Folklore". For their ultimate masterpiece, we just have to wait for the following year, when "The Mantle" was released, and for their near perfect one in 2006, "Ashes Against The Grain". "Of Stone, Wind And Pillor" is the EP that stands in the middle of the band's glorious career;a mix between the old, Black Metal style with some interesting Avant Garde bends, and the new, folkish and bleak style that characterizes the following effort of the band, "The Mantle".

All the songs here are respectfully good, particularly concerning the new revisitation of the atmospheric song "Foliorum Viridium", in my opinion better than the first version."Haunting Birds" is an interesting atmospheric piece, with very good experimentation. Also, "Kneel To the Cross" has some really haunting and surprising moments. But there are some lowers; "A Poem By Yeats" is a little boring, and the title track is really nothing special. But still, generally speaking, the album has the good moments, and it definitely is an excellent addiction to whoever likes Avant Garde/Black Metal, or to any Agalloch fan. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#303875)
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A crossroads in Agalloch's career, "Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor" sees the band add more folk to their pallet, and an overall more subdued feel. In a way this is a condensed, and not fully developed, blueprint for their upcoming masterpiece, "The Mantle".

While looking back on it, this may sound a bit uninspired and not fully there, this a good EP. It kicks off with the title track which opens with folk guitar, then moves into what would become an Agalloch staple, the folk riff with a wall of distorted guitar. This song features a "real" riff something not to be seen with Agalloch for sometime... It continues on in a heavy atmospheric fashion. Good song, but feels a bit aimless at times.

Foliorum Viridum is the song off their debut EP, but its been cut off before the heavy part. Leaving this as a purely ambient segue.

Haunting Birds is a cool acoustic folk song.

Kneel to the Cross. This is one of my all time favorite songs by Agalloch. Begins with a pagan chant repeating over and over. The whole time a drone progressively builds, with instruments being added in. It grows to a dramatic climax before the classic heavy chord/folk riff kicks in and the song moves along with a moderate pace while John's wonderful vocals sing some powerful lyrics. Proof that Agalloch are the masters of atmosphere. Awesome and powerful song, a cover of the original done by Sol Invictus.

The EP ends with "A Poem by Yeats" a very mellow orchestral piece, reciting the poem "The Sorrow of Love" by William Butler Yeats. The delivery is very haunting. Song ends with 4 and half minutes of silence.

Good EP, the title track is decent but a little weak, while the middle is superb and has great flow, peaking with one of the most powerful songs and ending with a very subdued one. Though one that many metalheads will probably wind up snoozing too. I really like "Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor" and personally give it a 3.5 but this is an EP that is a release not all will find enjoyable and while good, is not too spectacular.

Three Stars

Report this review (#426945)
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars To the casual listener of AGALLOCH's albums, it may be unclear as to whether the band is a black metal band dressed in dark neofolk clothing or a folk band that happens to delve in the metal universe, however it becomes clearer if one is to explore beyond the full-length albums and into the equal number of EPs. While on the albums, the mix is pretty even, on the EPs, most are totally dedicated to dark neofolk with no metal at all. AGALLOCH's first album "Pale Folklore" came out in 1999 and starting with their next release they began a trend that would continue throughout their career. They would release an EP between each album. While most would be completely folk based, this first EP titled OF STONE, WIND AND PILLOR is the exception in that it is an eclectic mix of five tracks that differ quite substantially.

This was intended to be AGALLOCH's debut to be released as a vinyl 7" that would include only the first three tracks: the title track, "Foliorum Viridium" (from the demo) and "Haunting Birds." The title track displays the unique mix of black metal, post-rock and dark neofolk that would catapult AGALLOCH onto the world's stage and become their signature sound. The track is more upbeat than anything else on this EP and would've fit well onto "Pale Folklore" as it emphasizes the shrieked black metal vocals, heavily distorted guitar riffing and atmospheric doom and gloom. The following two tracks "Foliorum Viridium" and "Haunting Birds" are completely different as they are instrumental and non-metal. The former, a haunting orchestrated symphonic affair with choral effects and the latter a recognizable early prototype of the introductory acoustic guitar folk layout that would begin "The Mantle" and would become its signature defining characteristic.

Since the project was put on hold until 2001 and released after the full-length "Pale Folklore," the band decided to add two additional tracks. The first was the Sol Invictus cover "Kneel To The Cross" which offers an orchestrated atmospheric folk tinged melody that is enhanced by the repetitive vocal chants that break into a more recognizable dark neofolk style similar to "The Mantle" but deftly incorporates an interesting clean / shrieked vocal dynamic over the acoustic guitar melodic drive. The last tune is a musical score titled "A Poem By Yeats" which incorporates poetic prose of W.B. Yeats poem "The Sorrow Of Love." This track is another heavily symphonic neofolk offering that displays AGALLOCH's mastery of the darkened acoustic world with layered atmospheric elements. It also includes a beautiful piano run that ushers in a shoegazy mix of keyboards, vocals and echo effects. The melodies are beautiful and soaring as the poetry is reciting in spoken prose.

Although OF STONE, WIND, AND PILLOR was intended to be the debut preceding "Pale Folklore," i find that it works as the perfect bridge that leads up to "The Mantle" as it displays the logical extension from the black metal dominated debut to the more post-rock / dark neofolk laced sophomore album. While the EPs in AGALLOCH's canon have been ignored in favor of their more lengthy full- length albums, this one is quite majestic in its short 28 minute time run. The melodics are melancholic and haunting and while eschewing the metal almost completely displays in perfect form how well AGALLOCH were at concocting sophisticated compositions based on heart-tugging melodies. The only complaint i have is that it has an annoying silent stretch at the end with some pig squeals that finish it off. I wouldn't complain if it were longer either but it is an EP, but a really, really good one nonetheless.

Report this review (#2043541)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
2 stars Once you start listening to this EP, you realise why these songs could not make it to more conceptual albums.

The song quality is lower than usual standard for Agalloch; they are simpler. If the first song is still not bad, the other three tracks didn't raise my interest as they sound like background tracks to set atmosphere only. The clean voice in the fourth track sounds a bit like the Placebo vocal and is out of place here.

The last long track is, unfortunately, completely disposable and musically, it finished long before the official album end.

I recommend this EP only to collectors, instead, look at later EPs, especially at the highly regarded Faustian Echoes.

Report this review (#2056037)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2018 | Review Permalink

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