Review Summary: A brilliant folk/black/doom/progressive metal album which keeps the listener interested.
Metal can seem a dead genre at times. Over-populated by roaring vocals and “chugga-chugga” guitar patterns, it started becoming just the same thing over and over again. But listening to bands like Opeth and Agalloch, it is clear that metal could be a lot more than this. These bands have a sort of similar style, both seem very progressive and have songs running up to about ten minutes. They incorporate acoustics and other influences into the mix while still based on a simple metal sound. Agalloch can manage to squeeze in acoustic folk elements, doom metal riffs, black metal atmosphere and a bit of good ol’ post-rock thrown in as well.
This is what makes Pale Folklore an interesting compact disc, the album is not based off technicality but rather atmosphere and large soundscapes. Most of the album brings an epic quality to the table and have some pretty finger-licking good riffs but the most intriguing thing about the album is the way is feels like one big track. It’s difficult to tell the difference between each song as they seem to just continue onto each other with no track varying much in tempo. Sounds like a bad thing? You’re wrong, this is still sweet stuff even without much speed differences. The only major flaw of the album is that the songs may seem a tiny bit dragged out which sticks out the most in the first part of the almighty opening trilogy, “She Painted Fire Across The Skyline”. The album can seem a bit outlandish at first, the idea of putting a 17 minute trilogy right at the start of the album can seem off putting but none the less it is something that’s really pleasurable. The lyrics reflect on nature and other topics that you’d find from a band like this, they usually seem very deep sounding and are quite enjoyable when paying attention.
Agalloch are not totally remarkable when it comes to their instruments. The guitars can seem very basic at times and the lead lines are quite unproblematic, the bass is just… there while the drums are simple and the vocals are an acquired taste. The last line may have been very negative towards the band but who cares when they are such accomplished song writers. This album can sound like other bands’ prime when the fact is this is their debut and it’s quite experimental for a band that sounds like they’ve already found their own sound. Like I said, the vocals are an acquired taste. While I cringe at the clean vocals, the growling is very well done and again, add more to the mix. The keyboards can add a lot to the songs. When the rest of the band are working away on their thing, the keyboard will be in the background lifting the atmosphere up and making songs very eerie. But while the other guys are taking a break, then comes in a piano/keyboard break (listen to “The Misshapen Steed” which is filled to the brim with beautiful piano parts and the creepy up-lifting keyboard effects.
This album is a single unit, it can’t be listened to through individual songs but rather as an album. Approach this with an open-mind because this album runs through a lot of different styles while still having a main sort of signature sound. If it doesn’t grab you or at least peak some interest on first listen then please don’t give up on it. Give the album some time and just let everything sink in as it sure is rewarding (which is also the case with a lot of Opeth albums). If long songs and a bit of repetition is a major turn-off then it’s better suited to leave this alone but anyone in for a new musical experience, then this album could fill a holes. If you aren’t a fan of the post-rock influences then this is probably the album of their discography to listen to first (The Mantle expands on the post-rock sound a lot more). A metal fan would probably like this the most while alternative fans may enjoy this somewhat but oh my friend, ain’t it worth it….