Review Summary: Dead winter days: the new soundtrack.
Within these cold forests, no man dwells. The first flakes of winter snow cover the treetops in a thick white layer. Ashen grey clouds soar overhead, bringing more precipitation every hour. Moose scatter in the frosty air, seeking shelter and the last uncovered patches of grass to graze on before the snow excommunicates them from their source of energy. Bears have hidden in their caves, and begun their annual hibernation. The birds have all gone south. And the one that dared make the trek into this forest, to seek eternal solitude in the freezing mountainous highlands, is absurdly and bitterly alone.
Those that make it through, would have endured such hardships they would probably have put it into song, if they could. There is nothing better than the cold, grim atmosphere of this bleak scenery that can be depicted emotionally by the sound of instruments. Their fiery resolve to survive would paint the skyline with their inner embers. If one of these survivors of the cold winter darkness would pick up an guitar, with strings made together of the coats of furry animals, and plug it into an amp, it would sound like Agalloch guitars. If they stripped the bark off the rotting logs, and strung the skins of deer over these hollow objects, and slammed on them with sticks, they would be comparable to an Agalloch drumkit. If they sang in howling tones that emulated the piercing screams of the winter gales that permeate the empty glades of these woods, they would be reminiscent of Agalloch vocals.
The sheer scales of emptiness and the sheer overwhelming size of these vast natural expanses compare to the immense song lengths and time Agalloch uses to create their epic songs. A lay of bitterness and desolation almost as long as the unending bleak circle of life in these regions, so immeasurably frigid and terrifying that it would take only the bravest to dare defy its nigh-on boundless power. It would take forever until the summer came, and they might not make it through; but it feels like you could listen to Pale Folklore forever, and there is such a sense of exhilaration and satisfaction when the last notes fade away.
And as a cold winter shall ebb and flow, and never stay the same, so does this; grinding metal riffs translate to the darkest, coldest, grimmest days of the year, when the sun never rises above the last pine trees. The journey of a bleak January sun represents the "Misshapen Steed", a sphere that takes far too long and is far too small for us to actually appreciate at this time of day. Occasionally folk guitars and acoustics prune through the dense webs of crushing distortion, like a moose paving its way through the snowcapped undergrowth, or the melting of the first glacier water. Even epic symphonics and female vocals pop up, as if they scored the passing of a day in this landscape: a soundtrack to its pale folklore, indeed.
Even the words a lonely traveller would scratch in the bark almost compares to the lyrics of Agalloch. They speak not of Satan, but merely of the emotions and bleakness that is omnipresent; the feelings of seasonal depression that must occur in the minds of the inhabitants. This primordial carnation of their verbal skills reflects in equal measure their melancholy spirit and the great cold death of the world surrounding them. It must be read, nay, studied to be appreciated; it seems so simple, but it feels more meaningful than many and nary a poem that were written for lesser ends.
When the sun starts to shine, and the moon falls out of the sky, maybe Agalloch will realise their time has come and depart from these barren lands. They will make their way out along the flowing rivers, now brimming with the meltwater of the receding mountain glaciers. And as the band members would draw closer to inhabited land, the hallways of enchanted ebony would recede, and they would breathe a final sigh of relief; only to return in the following autumn of the coming year to soak up inspiration for another record of this epic scale. Their mastery of this atmosphere is unparallelled. Bask in its sorrow. Revel in its dreary nature. You will not be disappointed.