For over 20 years Agalloch has created an incredibly consistent discography, each album was unique and evoked different feelings and mindsets. One thing Agalloch strived for was to remain consistent when other bands started falling into tropedom. This is why they stand the test of time, because they always believed in their art and always believed in making every album progressively better. Below are going to be quick, one-paragraph reviews about each major album. I will also be focusing on the EPs “The White” and “Faustian Echoes” even though they have many wonderful EPs these are two that standout the most.
Pale Folklore, 10/10
One of Agalloch’s first forays into the metal world was writing this stellar, memorable album. “Pale Folklore” has always been one of my favorites, the album is incredibly consistent with haunting imagery abound. There is a real sense of foreboding and sadness in the lyrics and the music. Whenever winter hits New Hampshire this album gets repeated listens. There is so many nuances in this album that even to this day new things pop up when I listen. Not only did the music draw me in but the band photos too, to this day I have never seen a band make a deer skull look so evocative. This album shows that Agalloch were pioneers and were destined to make their mark on the metal world. Top three songs: She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, As Embers Dress the Sky and The Melancholy Spirit.
The Mantle, 10/10
“The Mantle” was my first Agalloch purchase, I remember reading an old metal forum that recommended this album. As I got immersed in the incredible sound of “The Mantle” there were so many different elements to each song that it was at first difficult to follow. The more I listened the more I started to love what I was hearing. There were so many different styles used in each of the tracks. But what really impressed me was the amount of unique instruments Agalloch used to give “The Mantle” a special kind of sound/imagery. This was the first time I heard an instrument called a “grim cymbal bell” and the first time I heard a deer skull as a percussion instrument. The innovation/creativity was incredible in this album and to this day there has never been an album like it since. Top three songs: In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, Odal, and You Were But a Ghost in My Arms.
Ashes Against the Grain, 9/10
I remember when I first heard rumblings about Agalloch working on their new album that I was incredibly eager to hear how it sounds. After four long years “Ashes Against the Grain” was complete. When I finally heard the preview song “Falling Snow” I knew this was going to be yet another strong output by the Oregonians. When the album finally came out I was just blown away about how good it was. The only knock I can give about this album is the last track “Our Fortress is Burning III…the Grain” it was a droning, disturbing soundscape that kind of felt like a weaker closing to such an epic album. I was hoping to hear something along the lines of “The Melancholy Spirit” but when thinking more about it, it ended up being a fitting closing to the album, it just was a bit underwhelming to me. Aside from that the album is completely consistent and the way Agalloch decided to produce it was also unique since the earlier albums were a bit more murky sounding to me. Everything was clear as a bell and even a bit over-produced but it still gave “Ashes Against the Grain” a unique identity that Agalloch continually strived for. Top three songs: Not Unlike the Waves, Limbs, and Our Fortress is Burning II…Bloodbirds.
The White EP, 10/10
I am a huge neo-folk fan and when Agalloch decided to do an EP going the neo-folk route I was just ecstatic. “The White” is easily one of Agalloch’s best albums in their discography. It was the perfect length and evoked so many different moods in my mind. To top it off to have sound clips from the classic movie “The Wicker Man” sprinkled throughout the album was amazing. I find most of Agalloch’s work to be very introspective and “The White” really gives images of silent introspection within in Nature. I have spun this album numerous times and it never gets old and once again I always feel a new emotion spring up when I hear it. When Agalloch re-released this album including Nest’s cover of “Haunting Birds” it immediately catapulted “The White” to a must buy and an immediate classic. Top three songs: Sowilo Rune, Pantheist, and Summerisle-Reprise