Review Summary: We are fucked.
Someone told me a while ago that the most valuable resource we, as individuals, possess in this modern, digitalized, and global world is our attention and where we, consciously or un-, directs it. He went on about the usual suspects: Flashy commercials, breaking news, Facebook, and how all this affects multitudes of aspects of our lives. "Yeah," I said.
One way to get my attention: bring three-fourths of Agalloch and Aaron Gregory together to make a band, Khôrada, and an album, Salt.
So, the music. Don't expect full-on Agalloch-ish folk-ish black metal with marine vocals. Instead, put an abnormally large squid into a blender, go to your local water-recycling facility and get your hands on some sludge of which you add just about a teaspoon, and carefully add a few bits of a deer's crushed mantle.
Finally, add salt.
Except that's nothing but a cheap attempt that doesn't really, truly capture what this behemoth of an album sounds like. Listen to it instead, I've got other points to make. Actually, listen to it several times. There's lots of intricate details to pick out in subsequent listens. I think the kids would call it a "grower".
So, the vocals. In short, Gregory is being Gregory. But what really captures me here is how the music and vocals consistently seem to, almost hand-in-hand, follow each other. They ebb and flow together, climb peaks together, and crashes into valleys together. It's not like that concept is a game-changer in the world of music, it’s probably the default for most bands. However, the degree to which the music and vocals follow each other is impressive. Rarely does Gregory roar without distortion and drums roaring back, rarely does Gregory whimper without a clean guitar or trumpet whimpering with him. Whether he barks with a hungry-dog-at-dinner-time-like urgency or whispers with subdued surrender, the music follows in tone and intensity.
Or its the other way around and the vocals follow the music, who knows.
Further adding to this feeling of strong interplay between the vocals and music, is the low mixing of Gregory’s voice. This unites the two parts even further and amplifies, instead of detracting, the emotional weight. This united force seldom re-visit the same musical places. Instead, they go on exploring and only rarely is something resembling a chorus or riff repeated. The music is almost free-flowing, like the home of Gregory's fascinations and muses. However, the crescendos, the tsunamis of sound are not quite as Earth-destroying as one might expect from this band line-up. There's, or at least I'm hypothesizing that there is, some resigned undertone to all this - even during the supposed the climaxes. This might be seen as a negative by those who are looking for auditory, cathartic destruction. To me, this apparent weariness in should-be grand moments only adds to the overall musical and lyrical themes of the album. Themes which previously, for Gregory, has been stories of the wonders below. Not so anymore. Seemingly fueled be the ongoing demise of lives and environment at both sea and land, the message has changed.
We are ***ed.
And I can't even begin to think about how to approach the complex topic of the almost infinite ways in which we are ***ed. And I can't even bother to include Gregory's version. I guess these days it’s kind of self-explanatory. But I think the root of our current situation boils down to this: Our attention has not been where it should. We have been blinded by comfortable living and consuming, flashy commercials, breaking new, Facebook, and somehow lost sight of the ball while it was in mid-air. And now, were ***ed. But, I would like to believe that during brief moments of the last track, "Ossify", we're offered a shimmer of hope. Like some young and innocent major chord went to the beach with its parents, went swimming alone and got dragged away by the current and somehow ended up in final minutes of all this doom and gloom.
Or I may be imagining this brief presence of hope. It may a false hope, but what else have we got to cling on to in this soon-to-be flooded world?