AGALLOCH — The White EP (review)

AGALLOCH — The White EP album cover EP · 2008 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
After three full-length studio albums and two EPs, it was clear that dark neofolk was a key aspect in the music of AGALLOCH which when combined with black / doom metal and post-rock, created their signature sound that won the world over beginning with the outstanding sophomore album “The Mantle.” After ratcheting up the metal aspects a bit on “Ashes Against The Grain,” AGALLOCH may have amped up the distortion and aggressive bombast a bit but it was still quite apparent that dark neofolk acoustic guitar was the underpinning of the compositional flare that the music was built around. While the first few EPs were basically a collection of leftover tracks that showed a little behind the scenes action of John Haughm and Don Anderson’s innermost musical leanings, THE WHITE EP, displays a completely stripped down journey into AGALLOCH’s most primal musical aspirations and in the process creates their first consistent EP, stylistically speaking.

Technically this is the second and final installment of a pair of EPs that began with “The Grey EP,” but really, screw that. The previous EP was fairly weak and uninspiring. It was nothing more than leftovers from “The Mantle” bin, but THE WHITE EP is something completely different. This collection of seven tracks that meander over the 32 minute mark has a complete life of its own and single-handedly showcases ALLOGACH as first and foremost a dark ambient neofolk band that just happened to dabble in metal on their studio albums. Oh, and these are completely original and have not appeared elsewhere. Unlike the previous offerings, this EP is majestic and sublime. It takes the listener on a journey and one that is a pleasant ride on every stop on the way. The passion is afire and quite apparent simply by reading the cast of characters involved. While the full-length albums were limited to four or five musicians at the most, this one hosts a whopping nine.

THE WHITE EP’s mission becomes obvious from the getgo with the voices of children on the opening “The Isle Of Summer” which were borrowed from the 1973 film “The Wicker Man.” Likewise, the album ends with these same vocal samplings and in the middle develops a rather ritualistic Pagan musical meandering that captures the merging of acoustic folk guitar, electronic ambience, tribal percussion and sounds of nature all intertwined to create an alternative soundtrack to the 1973 film that without a doubt was one of the primary impetuses in the creation of the overall AGALLOCH sound. Listening to this EP is like digging into the soulful essence of a musical act at its primary inspirational level and the fact that AGALLOCH pulls it off so well only showcases the evidence that these guys’ heart and soul was in this every step of the way.

This is primarily an instrumental EP with vocals, albeit whispered, spoken and chanted provide mere supplemental instrumental roles rather than lyrically based. While the acoustic guitar is the primary instrument that drives the parade of chords that coalesce into the melancholic melodies that emerge, there is ample additional instrumentation in the form of timpani based percussion, accordion, synthesizers, jew’s harp and even a Peruvian ceremonial horn. Oh yeah, there’s a goat horn too! While acoustically divine, the electric guitars emerge as an ambient backdrop to great effect and interesting piano runs emerge to create a rather classically inspired connection as well. Despite all these accouterments of timbres and tones, everything really connects seamlessly along with birds chirping alongside dark ambient installations. It seems that everything just flows perfectly from beginning to end.

By the end of this listening experience, it almost seems as if i went on a random hike through the woods in an undisclosed Oregon forest and just happened upon a Pagan ritual underway. Awed by the spectacle, i stopped to observe the entirety as i happened to catch it from its initial opening as i became caught up in the spectacle of it all. The music inspires reflection and inner contemplation upon the physical reality upon which i stand and allows the spirits of the Earth to evolve my consciousness. While neither technically demanding nor commercially distracting, THE WHITE EP nevertheless implements extremely addictive melodic hooks that are augmented by subtle electronic and production techniques yet makes me feel as if this is purely acoustic.

THE WHITE EP is all about atmosphere and emotional upwelling. This is Pagan ritual music at its finest. Perhaps their stint with Nest on they 2004 split inspired a more stripped down approach that eschews the adrenaline inducing emotional responses of metal, but all i have to say is that this is by far the best of the AGALLOCH EPs and despite dropping one of the most characteristic elements of the overall AGALLOCH sound, proves to be quite compelling in its introspective simplicity and soul stirring emotional tugs that inspire a true connection to the natural world much in the way the film “The Wicker Man” was supposed to. I’ve never warmed up to the soundtrack of that film despite its overall popularity and THE WHITE EP has emerged in my world as the perfect alternative soundtrack for what that movie was supposed to make me feel. No metal here at all. Headbangers beware. This is soul stirring dark ambient laced neofolk all the way with some extra layers of electronic sophistication. Brilliant.
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