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Agalloch - Faustian Echoes CD (album) cover

FAUSTIAN ECHOES

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.98 | 38 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars AGALLOCH hit the metal scene in 1999 just in time for the turn of the millennium and soon became one of the 21st century's most revered bands as they found the perfect formula to meld their black metal sensibilities with dark neofolk a la Death In June with a post-rock compositional prowess in the vein of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The band bedazzled the world with masterpieces such as 'The Mantle' and 'Ashes Against The Grain' and even managed to keep their musical mojo flowing when they decided to up their metal creds on 2010's 'Marrow Of The Spirit' which deemphasized but didn't destroy the dark neofolk properties that made this Portland, Oregon band stand out amongst the contemporary crowded metal universe.

Sticking to their guns and releasing an EP (or two) between their full-length studio albums, AGALLOCH followed up their fourth album 'Marrow Of The Spirit' with yet another EP, this time taking inspiration form Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play 'Faust.' While this is a mere EP with a running time of only 21 and a half minutes, it is actually a single track titled FAUSTIAN ECHOES that borrows the lyrics directly from the English translation of the original German text. Lyrics exist in the form of the familiar emphatically shrieked black metal style to actual film samples from Jan Svankmajer's 1994 film adaptation. Originally only available as digital downloads, the vinyl and CDs were sold at live shows. The cover art displays the Salvador Dal' etching of 'Faust Lisant (Faust Reading).'

AGALLOCH have always had crossover appeal by implanting roughly equal doses of dark neofolk, post-rock and atmospheric black / doom metal but beginning with 2010's 'Marrow Of The Spirit,' the band got the itch to create a more ramped up version of their visionary style which adrenalized the tempos, distorted the guitar riffage and vocally shrieked like there was no tomorrow. The metal bug had hit the band big time no doubt due to the addition of ex-Ludicra Aesop Dekker joining the cast to bring some black metal life to the scene with extreme guitar riffing aplenty and more drum abuse graced by lengthy ever-changing workouts.

FAUSTIAN ECHOES is their 5th EP and continues the love affair with the heavier side of their music but much like the album that it follows keeps the folk and post-rock vibes bubbling beneath the surface. In fact, 'Marrow Of The Spirit,' despite ramping up the extreme metal effects still eschewed it for much of the album. FAUSTIAN ECHOES sounds like AGALLOCH were trying to correct that and in the process created the most extremely metal release of their career.

While dark neofolk hasn't been booted out of the overall compositional scene, it sure has been forced to take a backseat and merely supply brief intermissions and a backdrop for moments of spoken poetic prose that provide brief interludes of spoken word storytelling between the moments of extreme metal bombast.

Lyrically, a tribute to one of Germany's most celebrated and well-known writers whose 'Faust' play is perhaps one of the nation's most revered contributions to the literary world, musically FAUSTIAN ECHOES shows a band losing their grip on the grandeur of its tight and diverse four album run that launched AGALLOCH into the top dog realms of the folk metal universe. For the first time, this band of seemingly endless ambition sounds a bit stagnate. At least for this band.

True that a 21 minute track dedicated to one of the non-English world's closest competitor to Shakespeare is a bona fide tour de force to tackle, however the problem is that the music doesn't quite measure up to the expectations laid forth. While the EP isn't bad per se, it does echo a bit of been there done that and has a hard time delivering the expected (by now) multitude of diversity that AGALLOCH had mustered up quite successfully in its noughty heyday.

AGALLOCH's selling shtick has always been a carefully crafted and calculated mixing it up between their folk and metal elements that were all laid out in post-rock fashion, however on FAUSTIAN ECHOES, it seems they try to hard to stick to the metal aspects of their sound and practically suffocate the dark ambient neofolk that has always been a key element to their overall vibe. Vocal tradeoffs of clean and shrieked are shattered in favor of the latter and while black metal remains a favorite pastime of mine, AGALLOCH don't have the black metal chops to pull off a kvlter-than-thou purity party that they are attempting to achieve.

While FAUSTIAN ECHOES is by no means a throwaway release, it does seem to demonstrate that the band hat peaked and can no longer sustain its essence which seems to be rooted in the dark neofolk as evidenced on the brilliant 'The White EP.' Sorry guys, try as you may, you are a folk band which dons a metal cape but a bona fide metal band you are not. I've given this EP more than enough spins to let it grow on me and it always comes out the same. OK but not outstanding. The reign of AGALLOCH ended with 'Marrow Of The Spirit' and on FAUSTIAN ECHOES, the band seems to have found itself on a downward spiral that it would never recover from.

3.5 rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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