Agalloch Pale Folklore Review
Album: Pale Folklore
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Length: 62 minutes
Label(s): The End Records
01. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline I
02. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline II
03. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline III
04. The Misshapen Steed
05. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony
06. Dead Winter Days
07. As Embers Dress the Sky
08. The Melancholy Spirit
Agalloch Pale Folklore Review
Pale Folklore is the debut album of American heavy metal band Agalloch. The band has lofty ambitions that are shown through their blending of different metal genres, namely black metal and progressive metal, with neofolk and some other non-genre specific sounds. On top of that, these genres are woven into lengthy songs with much of it being composed of instrumental passages.
The album is introduced with wind sound effects and a slow guitar melody which goes on for 2 minutes before the distortion is played up and the drums kick in on the first part of the She Painted Fire Across the Skyline trilogy. This quickly demonstrates some of the unevenness that permeates Pale Folklore because Agalloch intentionally use lo-fi production techniques on the black metal elements but not in other places (in the same song no less). The end result is clunky and muffled percussion that lifelessly patters around in the background while vocalist John Haughm rasp-speaks many of the lyrics, which gives way to the soft, cleanly produced moments with an opera singer wailing before jumping back to the lo-fi black metal sound.
She Painted Fire Across the Skyline I and II are bridged together with more wind sound effects before turning into a straight-forward black metal song that lies on the softer end of the spectrum and contains another jarring transition near the end that upsets the flow needlessly. The final part of the trilogy has some quirks about it although it manages to remain the most focused part and it is a better example of their progressive metal song-writing. The dramatic clean singing moment is out of place but the performance by John Haughm deserves praising for his compelling delivery. Tubular bells make a brief appearance later on and they offer an interesting and memorable dynamic that is unfortunately short lived.
Agalloch over-indulge on the wind sound effects as they make further appearances on The Melancholy Spirit and Hallways of Enchanted Ebony, which eventually descends into the ill-advised inclusion of animal noises and barking. These needless indulgences take on the form of sound effects more often than not but one exception is the out of place hammering of a piano right at the end of Dead Winter Days, which is an otherwise stand out song.
The soft side of Agalloch is fully embraced on The Misshapen Steed, a melancholic ballad-turned-dramatic incidental music piece that has a cinematic quality to it. This song strays outside of heavy metal territory entirely and instead focuses on tasteful piano and keyboard playing.
As Embers Dress the Sky is another well-rounded black metal excursion and is the second song to feature the unnamed opera singer. This time the raspy vocals and her own trade off each other in a well-executed beauty and the beast style before transitioning flawlessly into an acoustic passage. The heavy metal guitar work then jumps back in awkwardly and if it hasn’t become clear that Agalloch haven’t quite got the transitional elements of their song-writing down yet then this will convince you.
Agalloch are a forward-thinking band that has demonstrated a great deal of potential on their debut album and while their song-writing can be unfocused and unpolished at times, it is clear that they have plenty ambition that if refined will yield some exciting results for the heavy metal community.
Don Anderson: Guitar
John Haughm: Vocals, guitar, drums
Jason William Walton: Bass
Shane Breyer: Keyboards
Unnamed: Operatic vocals (tracks 1 and 7)