Review Summary: A surprisingly fresh EP, despite essentially being an Agalloch clone.
Before we start, we'll get one thing out of the way; Gallowbraid is essentially an Agalloch clone. It's pretty cut and clean, they use the same kind of aesthetic and feel in their music as well as instrumentation. The lyrics are about nature, the atmosphere is nature-influenced thanks to the use of piano and acoustic guitar, the melodies reek of a hybrid of pagan/viking metal and the Agalloch style, the vocals are a combination of atmospheric clean vocals and a high raspy scream... It's the kind of thing we've heard from the most established of bands to the most underground of bedroom projects.
But despite this, this is quite a fresh and enjoyable EP from Gallowbraid. Their addition to the Der Wanderer über Dem Nebelmeer
compilation CD was one of my favorite moments of the record, but the thing that held it back for me was the fact that it was a bit too
generic. But Ashen Eidolon
really does see the project get somewhat of a voice of its own with a bit more of a distinctive sound. Yes, it's essentially just like every other band in the genre as previously mentioned, but there seems to be a quality of it that wasn't there in the compilation. This EP is a band finding its own voice, if perhaps a bit of a stagnant one.
In saying that, Ashen Eidolon
couldn't have come at a better time. Being released very closely to the new Agalloch album, some were very disappointed in the new Agalloch album. This EP will serve as somewhat of a substitute for those who were disappointed, because there aren't many bands that really pull off the whole Agalloch-clone thing as well as Gallowbraid have done in this EP. Though it's a smaller offering than the new Agalloch, being an EP and all, it does clock in at a very respectable 31 minutes - the title track nearing 15 minutes in length. What's better than the length is the fact that it's very well used. The songs on the EP flow very well with some really memorable melodies throughout its length.
This EP essentially has 2 full songs, and 2 small folk interludes/outros. The small folk songs do their job and have a beauty of their own, but the quality of the two full songs completely overshadows the small folk songs. Gallowbraid really did a good job of captivating the Agalloch spirit in this EP. The different touches here give it a new type of spice, however - such as the piano being used in the lead in places, the great female vocals, and the very swing-like drum beats that are scattered throughout the tracks. The highlight of this EP, the title track, marries all the aspects that make this genre so appealing in the first place. The track flows between each section admirably, not feeling even near its length. The second full song, Oak and Aspen, essentially does the same thing, and where it's not quite as good as the title track, it's certainly close and displays the same flavour as the first. The way Gallowbraid essentially takes the Agalloch formula and still gets it to sound distinctive is pretty impressive. The melodies here are much more pagan/viking orientated and are generally more upbeat than Agalloch, too - so if that sounds good to you, you really can't afford to pass this up. It's very well put together, very well composed and very well performed. My one issue is the re-using of the same sections over and over, particularly in the title track - which don't feel like re-visits to the previous parts of the song, and instead just feel like a copy and paste job to make the song longer. But at least the sections they copied are good ones.
The quality of this EP really took me by surprise considering that Gallowbraid just struck me as another band with no real distinct personality in terms of songwriting. This EP shows that they really have something to offer. Chances are if you like Agalloch, you'll really enjoy this - especially if you weren't so keen on Marrow Of The Spirit
and are looking for your Agalloch-fix that Marrow
didn't provide (for whatever reason I cannot fathom). Who knows, Ashen Eidolon
may just surprise you.