Released: 2002, The End Records
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Where do bands like this come from? One look at this and I made all the (wrong) assumptions. I figured they were another weepy, gothic, Euro death-doom metal with chick vocals. I should have known better considering The End Records excellent track record at finding these bands.
Off the top, the packaging on this thing is gorgeous. All silver and black, but not all shiny and cheap looking like the last Slipknot, but very gray, dark and depressing. The CD itself actually has a black & white photo of a statue of a couple of beavers (or maybe otters) which I have NEVER seen before on a metal CD. The cover has a shot of a statue of an elk and there are many gray shots of architecture, gargoyles and so and so on. The song titles, “A Celebration for the Death of Man”, “In The Shadow of Our Pale Companion” and “You Were But A Ghost in My Arms” made me think, of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Anathema and so on. The band even looks European, an odd thing to say but that’s the visual impression I got. I was surprised to learn they are from Portland, Oregon. Agalloch are somber doom-death at it’s finest. They are really hard to categorize like many bands on the same label and maybe that’s why I like them so much. Innovative, dark depressing, innovative, original and familiar all at the same time. The mood of the CD is one of depression, not suicidal but just…emotionally drained. Especially after a full 70 minutes worth of music. With the rainy weather in that part of the world, I’m not surprised they came up with this atmosphere!
There are some just bizarre sonic elements on this CD, some I have never heard before. I would almost think they are a joke if not for the serious nature of the band. Musical snippets include accordion, mandolin, bells, wind-chimes, and deer antler percussion (!?) plus plenty of acoustic guitar, synths, a smattering of samples all driven along nicely by electric guitar. The vocals sway back and forth from a slower black metal growl/screech, spoken whispers and hisses and a somber baritone. This is definitely is very moody stuff not easy-listenin’ for a sunny day at the beach on the ghetto-blaster! It is also quite mellow in some senses…no pummeling, double bass drum attacks or frantic, fretboard soloing here! Lyrically it is gothic and doom based of course but much more in an earthy, primeval way, not so much vampires, wilted black roses and red wine, but more subtle with many references to earth, clay, oak, nectar, water and flicking fire almost…natural elemental doom! Hey I just made up a new sub-sub-sub-genre!
The End Records are coming close to cornering this little corner of the metal world. Add Agalloch to the list of bands including Winds, Virgin Black, and Scholomance that are mandatory listening for fans of dark, depressive yet thoughtful and flawlessly executed metal.