Agalloch | ‘Of Stone Wind And Pillor’
The humble EP has a lot going for it, and this is a perfect example of how to use the format to its fullest potential. Short enough to allow for the full savouring of each track and yet they always seem to end just a hairs breadth too quickly, leaving one desperate for more. And so it is with Oregon’s Agalloch who offer us this delighful collection of previously unreleased material and a cover by way of filling time until their forthcoming sophomore full length.
As happens with most gems that I only come across after the horse has bolted, I was too embarrassed to be seen in public due to my woefully not having purchased their ’99 debut, “Pale Folklore”. Suffice to say it is now at the head of my shopping list. The band describe their sound as “Oaken” and I find myself happily obliged to concur wholeheartedly; from the earthy, solid tones through to the naturalistic artwork we are treated to an eminiently satisfying package of mournful laments and autumnal dirges. The warm acoustics placed atop heavy guitars, complemented by the organic and glowing production allow them to convey to us perfectly the magic inspired by the rich environment that surrounds them up there in foresty Portland.
I am frequently reminded of Opeth’s “Still Life” on account of the warm guitar tones, and Empyrium’s entire discography (ie buy this cd at once), which seems to have had a major influence on the band. Had I not known they were american I would surely have assumed they were of more germanic origin. Indeed Empyrium’s carreer best “Songs of Moors…” is the most solid point of reference for the metal and general vibe on display here. This however is only half of the band’s sonic spell; while the eponymous opener does indeed deliver the required rasped vocal and desolate harmonies, the next succession of tracks are more concerned with atmosphere and acoustics.
The prize piece of the cd however has got to be the simply divine “Kneel to the Cross” cover, originally by Sol Invictus. Opening with a stunning pagan chant, the track juxtaposes acoustic and electric in the most perfect fashion possible. The clean vocals employed are wonderful by virtue of their imperfection; the slight hesitance, the minute quiver – all goes to show that feeling is everything.
Plus the lyrics to this song are superb (though this isnt really Allagoch obviously); the phrase “Harsh words, softly spoken” comes to mind, and they speak to me in a way that is beyond compare. Its just one of those things I wish Id written. All of this is rounded out by the haunting “A Poem by Yeats”, (I am 90% sure it is “The Sorrow of Love” but dont quote me) which lays the best interpretation of a poem since Ulver or Solefald. Is this the perfect cd?
5 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 2/12/01