Review Summary: One of Agalloch's hidden gems, if you can get your hands on this, it will be worth the price you pay.
When it comes right down to it, Agalloch are one of the single most important bands playing metal today. I don’t care what you like, thrash, black, death, doom, power, any kind of metal. If you haven’t heard the haunting and captivating melodies and unforgettable songs which this band has recorded, you know nothing of beauty. Unique in the way they combine folk metal, progressive, ambient, and black metal not only in a single album, but most of the time in one song, Agalloch provides one of the most unique and, quite frankly, moving experiences in the metal world. They have evolved from the dark and heavier Pale Folklore
to the progressive The Mantle
to the calming Ashes Against The Grain
, covering emotions and atmosphere most musicians won’t even begin to translate into music.
The Wolves Of Timberline
became reality in 2004, with Agalloch and Finnish neo-folk band Nest contributing one track apiece to a small picture disk, one which contains seemingly hours worth of folk/ambient songs packed into a two track, 10 minute EP. Agalloch brings an unparalleled sense of sorrow and loneliness to the music with some really fantastic acoustic guitar leads, as well as mandolin and cello touches. Nest is a band which uses a traditional Finnish instrument called a Kantele, along with a bass guitar as their two main instruments. Nest uses these instruments with great precision and contributes a sense of rustic authenticity to the music which anything else simply cannot replicate.
So as the chilling title track “The Wolves Of Timberline” floats its way into your ears, with the sound of a howling wind setting the scene, you know Agalloch is ready to deliver something truly unique and special. This track is purely acoustic, with nothing but the calming sound of the acoustic guitar strumming away as the wind continues to gale behind it. The track reminds me of the effectiveness of the acoustic guitars used in Ulver’s Kveldssanger
, because they really drive the song along with a single main riff, branching off into other smaller, more emotional riffs. A second acoustic guitar is introduced in the second half, and it really adds another dimension to the entire song, playing a faster riff ominously behind the main riff, before a final sweeping pick ceases as the sharp winds brings back the darkness and desolation.
After “The Wolves Of Timberline” concludes, you can’t help but simply sit back in your chair and just take a really, really deep breath. Slowly exhaling, you realize that you had been holding your breath as the song came to a close. If you listen closely and digest everything that Agalloch says without even saying anything, it may bring you to realize the brilliance which was just recited before you. I’m going out on a limb when I say this, but I believe “The Wolves Of Timberline” to be one of Agalloch’s finest tracks to date.
The wind calms, and the gale ceases. A strange instrument sets a very folk-like tone to the beginning of the song. Then, an acoustic guitar slowly picks a somber line, before the distant spoken word vocals of Agalloch’s John Haughm make their way in. This song is one of the most calming tracks I have ever heard, the slower pace and the acoustic guitars and the soft vocals and the eerie kantele all collide in a slow serenade of extreme loneliness and despair. The isolation one feels when listening to this EP is simply unparalleled and unmatched by anything I have heard. The vocals on “Last Vestige Of Old Joy” are extremely calming and quiet, spoken and not screamed. The song soothes your brain for what seems like a few seconds before its 5:21 have concluded.
With the final notes of “Last Vestige of Old Joy”, this rare gem of a split is finished. The whole spectrum of emotions and the thick atmosphere looms over you long after this record is finished spinning. I know for a fact anyone who listens to this will crave more, because at just over a total of 10 minutes playing time, the amount of quality music here simply is not enough to satisfy any folk, metal, or ambient music fan. However, you can easily send this amazing record for another spin. I know when I first got it I listened to this 8 times back to back and never, ever had a shred of boredom in me. Just put this into your record player, sit back, and just absorb the sheer brilliance of this extremely rare EP.