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Pale Folklore" features eight tracks at a total running time of over sixty-two minutes. Elaborate and diverse, and surrounded by the majesty of nature and the burden of human existence, the album bursts with melodies with a basis of dark yet very emotional concepts. Creating auras of dark, symphonic melancholia, "Pale Folklore" turns out to be a tragic, mournful and expressive listening experience.
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** The Digi-Pak Re-Issue is very nice since I no longer have the original BUT I HATE "DIGI-PAKS"..!!.. They are cheap. They dont last. Cant be replaced like a Plastic Jewel Case AND They don't fit evenly with other CD's and are a pain to get to without damaging the corners.. Oh'.!!. And Booklets/Inserts Fall Out.!!..
These guys definitely show some similarities to Opeth's first two or three albums, but they also have their own sound. They, like Opeth, have long, progressive songs, a variety of instrumentation, and a mix of soft and heavy sections. But, Agalloch clearly has more influences from black metal on the heavy side, and post-rock on the soft side. They shift between a light and melodic style of black metal, mid-paced melancholic post-rock, and enthralling folk passages. The vocals alternate from a searing black metal screech to echoey, surreal clean singing that sounds to me like a cross between Cynic and Rush. Out of the six songs on Pale Folklore, five are in the 8-12 minute range, with one clocking in at over 18 minutes when you combine all three tracks it consists of. I don't think any idea is repeated for more than a verse or two in any of them; they go in many directions, but it all fits together seamlessly and always sounds interesting. I'm really happy to have gotten into Agalloch, and I know that their next album, The Mantle, is also incredible. Now I can't wait to check out their two newest. Great band!
AGALLOCH is probably best described as 'forest metal', a combination of the most surreal aspects of black metal - the strangely entrancing ritualistic drumming and harsh, raspy vocals. But missing here is a theme of visciousness so prevalent in other black metal bands like MAYHEM and EMPEROR; what is here is strangely beautiful, haunting, and surreal.
_Pale Folklore_ uses recorded ambient sounds - like chilly, icy wind - to great effect here, merged with acoustic guitars that have a very nice, thick sound to them, and the drumming which takes a center stage in establishing a deep moodyness with it's hollow sound that reflects the nature of the disc without becoming loud and hostile.
The vocalist of AGALLOCH, J. Haughm, has a uniquely raspy voice even within the black metal genre, so effective in it's bizarre nature that it immediately makes most everyone sit up and notice. While his raspy and sometimes angry sounding vocals can be overbearing to some, I found them a welcome addition to this disc, something that added a surreal nature to an already strangely spiritual journey that listening to this disc sometimes is. Haughm never shrieks, screams, or sounds viscious to my ears; his is the voice of a darkly dispassionate narrator. His raspy voice is so detached from the events he describes one doesn't even notice that the subject matter of the disc is, indeed, dark - the strangely spellbinding nature of the overall sound eclipses any intention for anything very emotional.
Some of the best moments of the band come not from the raspy vocals, but in minimalistic playing and near silent ambience. One of the highlights of this disc, "The Misshapen Steed," is an example of the band's ability to use minimalism to create more listenable and pronounced passages of music that might be lost to the ear if tracks were more densely played.
The CD is composed of only eight tracks, all of them being at least four minutes long, with a total running time of over an hour. No song on this disc sounds like filler, despite reaching over eight minutes long, in some cases, as AGALLOCH never rushes or underuses a good idea.
The only real smidgen is perhaps the production; like a lot of early black metal bands, the sound is raw, though this might be unintentional. Still, this is not by any means unlistenable, and the production might even give the disc a more earthly and 'natural' sound.
_Pale Folklore_ is something that can be shown to anyone who does not think that metal can be high art, and should be immediately bought by any serious metal lover looking for their genre's version of strange and beautiful music.