Review Summary: The Mantle’s distant, not so different cousin.
Birds are chirping outside, perched on the nearly frozen trees. Beneath them are children embracing the bitter cold as they repeat an eerie chant. Despite the weather, they sound joyful, but they are soon surrounded by a thick fog. Of course, not everybody will get this same visual, and this is just the beginning of the The White
...but that’s the beauty of Agalloch’s music - it means something different to each individual. Using nothing but their knowledge of dark ambient music (with subtle hints of black metal), they are able to create a believable and captivating world in which we can escape from our daily lives.
Those who found solace in The Mantle
should have no problem digesting this slightly similar, yet shorter offering. Although it’s an EP, it travels beyond the 40-minute mark and often focuses on the band’s softer side. There are very few vocals throughout the album, but that doesn’t stop Agalloch from creating another highly engaging release. In fact, this EP contains some of the most gorgeous guitar-work of their career, and at times, it’s incredibly intoxicating. With influences ranging from neo-folk to ambient metal, the album is varied, but undeniably focused. It benefits greatly from its shorter length, and unlike some of their work, it keeps a firm grip on our attention until the final note is played.
Due to the vocals being used more sparingly this time around, they feel even more effective when they creep their way through the gloomy instrumentation. Take ‘Sowilo Rune’ for example --it contains almost nothing but light guitar strumming over some beautiful keyboard and piano melodies, but the occasional raspy whispers in the background give the song a sense of completion. It also ends unexpectedly, with a creepy clip from ‘The Wicker Man.’ These small touches are part of what makes The White
such a special addition to Agalloch’s discography. Everything just feels more balanced and the the band’s careful attention to detail is to thank for some of the most beautiful moments of their career.
Any fan of Agalloch or ambient metal in general can’t go wrong with The White.
Despite the fact that it’s an EP, it evokes many emotions in the listener, and is often on par with the band’s best work. At times it’s dreary, and others it’s completely alluring, but it’s always well constructed. From the intricate guitars that breathe life into ‘The Isle of Summer’ to the accordions that add energy to the folk-inspired ‘Birch White,’ the band doesn’t miss a beat on this varied, yet consistent release. If you haven’t heard this one, do yourself a favor...and don’t forget to close your eyes. After all, half the appeal of Agalloch’s music lies within your imagination.