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3.78 | 39 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1999

Filed under Folk Metal


1. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, Part 1 (8:35)
2. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, Part 2 (3:09)
3. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, Part 3 (7:09)
4. The Misshapen Steed (4:54)
5. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony (9:59)
6. Dead Winter Days (7:51)
7. As Embers Dress the Sky (8:04)
8. The Melancholy Spirit (12:24)

Total Time: 62:07


- Don Anderson / Guitars
- John Haughm / Vocals, Guitars, Drums
- Jason William Walton / Bass
- Shane Breyer / Keyboards

Release Staff:

- Aaron Sholes / Photography (band)
- Ronn Chick / Engineering, Producer
- John Haughm / Producer, Photography (nature), Photo manipulation, Layout

About this release

Released by The End Records, June 6th, 1999.

Recorded between January-February 1999 at Soundtracks.
Mixed in March 1999 at Soundtracks.

Thanks to waiting, triceratopsoil, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
American rock history has rarely been in the forefront of the European scenes as it seems the US has always been playing catch up rather than being innovators but every once in a while, a band or two happens to catch the rest of the world off guard with something completely bold, daring and original. This applies to the heavy metal universe as well. One example is when the Texas based Watchtower exemplified the bombast and fury of 80s metal and applied it to an adventurous progressive rock paradigm. The world would never be the same. One could also argue that the Portland, Oregon based AGALLOCH has had much of the same effect on the post-second wave black metal that has become a staple of the 21st century extreme metal world and has allowed a relentless explorative pursuit within the black metal world ever since.

This band dates back to 1995 when guitarist / vocalist John Haughm (formerly of Sculptured) and keyboardist Shane Breyer (formerly of Susurrus Inanis) began to take early explorative measures in the black metal universe that would amalgamate the disparate worlds of black metal, post-rock and progressive rock with the neofolk of bands like Death In June. As soon as guitarist Don Anderson (also formerly of Sculptured) joined, the band set out to record their first demo tape “From Which Of This Oak” which was released in 1997. While still deeply rooted in black metal, the band had hit upon their own style and with the addition of Jason Walton on drums, the band would forge their unique style that would be unleashed onto an unsuspecting world with their full-length debut PALE FOLKLORE in 1999 just in time for a new millennium.

AGALLOCH immediately scored a unique eclectic mix of musical elements that hitherto had only been attempted by Scandinavian bands such as Ulver, Opeth and Amorphis. PALE FOLKLORE features a mature homegrown integration of doom and black metal along with acoustic folk arpeggios and post-rock compositional structures that sprawled into lengthy melancholic tracks that exhibited a wide range of growled, clean, whispered and shrieked vocals. The pagan based themes in the lyrics focused on depression, nature, folklore and the supernatural all splayed in a post-rock nonchalance that set up mood altering passages that found closure with heavy black metal crescendocore. Unique to this debut was also the female operatic vocals that occasional pop in performed by Anderson’s girlfriend of the time. While the album took three years to write and record, only one track from the demo, “As Embers Dress The Sky” make it on PALE FOLKLORE.

The album begins with an epic grace of the “She Painted Fire Across The Skyline” suite which in three movements perfectly prognosticated the evolution of black metal into the new millennium. The juxtaposition of the disparate metal, folk, post-rock and doom elements took the compositional flow of post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the neofolk of Death In June and layered in doom metal marches, black metal tremolo picking and distortion with the occasional flare of neoclassical elements bleeding through. Likewise the atmospheric properties of the keyboards added a frosty veneer over the aggressive metal passages assuaged by acoustic folk melodies. Add the disparate vocal styles and the extraordinarily diverse drumming patterns and the result was one of the most unique metal albums of 1999. The band has cited that in addition to Ulver and Godspeed You!, influences include Katatonia, The 3rd And The Mortal, Swans as well as music from movie soundtracks.

All in all PALE FOLKLORE may not be as focused as “The Mantle” or other subsequent albums but in effect lays the groundwork for all that would come and proved to be an influential release in its own right. Entrenched with soaring atmospheric orchestrations, keyboard tinklings, metal bombast in contrast to acoustic folk melodies, PALE FOLKLORE found a unique niche in between the orthodoxy of 90s black metal and even the Neurosis styled post-metal of the same era. AGALLOCH simply took the cross-pollinating effects of all these elements to a new level and managed to put the US on the map within the black metal world. If you ask me, AGALLOCH probably has the most in common with Sweden’s Opeth. They both exhibited a unique trading off between sensual acoustic guitar passages and bombastic metal explosiveness that were cleverly woven together. Out of all the AGALLOCH albums, PALE FOLKLORE is the most diverse in tempos, timbres, time signatures, vocal styles etc. A more than competent debut.
Agalloch's debut album sets out the stall for what the band would offer for much of their subsequent career: an intricate mixture of influences from atmospheric black metal, post-rock, folk metal, and just plain traditional folk, combined into an intriguing mixture. One of the things which keep Agalloch interesting as a group is that whilst most of those ingredients are present to one extent or another on most of their albums, at the same time the centre of gravity shifts about, making each album a distinct and different proposition. Pale Folklore, for its part, seems to me to be centred in a deliciously accessible brand of folky metal which gives way to darker currents as the album progresses, and is a worthy part of the group's musical progression.
The Angry Scotsman
Agalloch's debut album, they have progressed in leaps and bounds from their original, and strong, EP. In "Pale Folklore" Agalloch took their folky black metal style and mingled it with post rock.

The result is an intriguing album, with the atmosphere of black metal (thanks to some buzzy guitars and Haughm's gravely rasps) laid out in post rock fashion, and some folky guitar playing thrown into the mix. The songs are a bit on the lengthy side, atmospheric, and filled with melodic and often beautiful songwriting. Unlike their debut EP which was composed of specific songs, this album is more about overall flow. Of course there are individual songs, each distinct, but it is not so much about song, pause, song, pause, song etc... but listening to the album in one sitting, letting it all flow. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The first song, (really divided into three pieces) is a summary of the whole album really. What Pale Folklore, and really Agalloch, are all about can be seen in this epic, atmospheric, rambling piece.

The album segues, then moves into Hallways of Enchanted Ebony which is a good song, if not a bit rambly.

Dead Winter Days is my favorite on the album, superb song. As Embers Dress the Sky is a redone version of the song found on their EP, much better quality. Another very good song. It moves seamlessly into the finale, The Melancholy Spirit which follows the same general flow of the songs before it, but hey still a damn good song. Nice and lengthy for lots of build and atmosphere, oh and epic guitar riffs and solos! Real post metal style song, with lots of light/dark contrast...just done Agalloch style!

A very good album. A bit rambling, and can be a bit difficult due to its second half being a bit samey. Funny since I like the second half better. Granted I like the opening suite, but the latter half of Pale Folklore really takes off. While this a good album, Agalloch are still searching and building a bit. A must for fans and highly recommended for any prog-metal/regular metal head looking for a unique adventure!

Three and Half Stars
Conor Fynes
'Pale Folklore' - Agalloch (7/10)

Drawing upon the style and aesthetic ideal of their demo and maturing them into something deserving of a full length effort, Pacific Northwestern dark metal group Agalloch's debut album 'Pale Folklore' shows the band's trademark folk-tinged style of metal while still in the major stages of developing it's sound. Although the band would hit it's greatest stride with their second studio release 'The Mantle,' this debut seems far too overlooked, considering it's quality. While there is certainly not the defining sound and power that the sophomore would supply, Agalloch seems to know exactly what they want to do with their music, even this early on. Despite lesser production value and execution than would be heard later on, 'Pale Folklore' shows Agalloch at some of their heaviest and darkest, and is a classic in it's own right, albeit a flawed one.

Much of the strength of 'Pale Folklore' depends on the strength of the opening epic. Put simply, the three part suite 'She Painted Fire Across The Skyline' is to Agalloch, as 'Black Rose Immortal' is to Opeth. In other words, it is their early crowning achievement, and showcases all of the best things about Agalloch in the course of it's nineteen minute duration. While the quiet, atmospheric introduction seems to overstay it's welcome a bit too long, the song erupts into a tour-de-force once things really get started. From the first part of the song onwards, Agalloch's trademark style can be heard; a melodic and atmospheric breed of black metal, topped off with strong post-rock and folk presence.

While the epic is very enjoyable to listen to and a very powerful piece, it sometimes feels like there are pieces of the composition that are unfitting. While it is typical of Agalloch to switch between heavy and mellow sections, some of the transitions seem a bit off. However, the music gives off a stunning feeling of melancholy, which is impossible to ward off should the listener pay enough attention.

A medieval-sounding symphonic piece ('The Misshapen Steed') seperates the two halves of the album, sparing the listener a few moments respite. From here on, the songs seem to take a rather formulaic approach. Each track (with the possible exception of the final track, which takes a couple of minutes to get going) open with riffs that emphasize atmosphere and pitch resolutions over traditional catchiness. The songs then each break into their verse formats; showcasing John Haughm's passionate black metal vocals and naturalistic lyrics. While each song is beautiful and strong, it's impossible not to notice that each of the songs sound very similar; a fault made worse by the fact that each of the tracks averages to being ten minutes long (more than enough time to develop a personal identity).

While the production is certainly above average for black metal standards, many listeners who do not engage the genre often may find that the lower fidelity sound impedes their enjoyment of the listen. Alas, the instrumentation can be heard relatively clearly, and it is a clear improvement from their demo. On possible issue however, is the noticably low mixing of the album. While it may make sense for a polished production to have a lower mixing (in order to preserve range), 'Pale Folklore' seems to be needlessly quiet throughout in comparison to other albums. This of course, can be remedied by the use of a volume knob however, but it's interesting to note.

Agalloch have become one of my preferred acts in the theatre of 'black metal,' and 'Pale Folklore' certainly does not dissapoint me. While it may not share the same level of grandeur that it's successors rest on, the album succeeds on a whole, despite it's apparent flaws. A very commendable full length debut.
Phonebook Eater
Agalloch's debut album, after their promising EP "From Which Of This Oak", isn't as good as I thought. It is though at the same level as the first EP, and there are some moments here where the band shines.

It is more a Doom Metal album, rather than Folk, Progressive, or whatever the band has been previously labeled. An alarmed, bleak atmosphere reigns supreme, a mysterious chill covers all eight songs, some of them are amazing, some not as good: "As Embers Dress The Sky" is one of the band's best songs, which was also included in the previous EP of the band, "From Which Of This Oak". "She Painted Fire Across The Skyline" is another highlight: composed by three songs, some moments are unforgettable, some are a little weak, but still the magic is never gone. "Dead Winter Days" has a haunting, chilling melody, great performance by singer John Haughm.

However, the album has it's defects: "The Melancholy Spirit" is a little too long, with some quite avoidable moments, just like the other epic song, "Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony".

But, I ,must admit, it's quite an interesting and courageous debut, that has some brilliant and promising songs. 3.5 stars.

Agalloch started out as a mild black metal and evolved into more atmospheric and drawn out soundscapes, featuring both beautiful vocal harmonies and harsh black metal rasps and whispers. Doom Metal is not really saying everything, as it goes with all great bands, they defy categorization and people are bound to approach them with entirely wrong expectations and preconceptions.

The opening track She Painted Fire is a fine example of their versatility. Starting quite symphonic with a great classical theme on fuzzed out guitars, it develops dramatically till the songs takes up speed around minute 2.30 and goes through a number of melodic riffs till minute 4. Then it shifts to moody chords and rough whispers, making up a chilling atmosphere. Agalloch also add some female vocals, not overstated as in most female-fronted metal, but quite subtle and functional. The song continues with another up-tempo part that sounds slightly muffled, it’s a small mixing flaw on this otherwise satisfactory production. Part 2 of the track picks up the faster pace again, reminiscent of Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day stylings. A clean electric guitar plucking similar to early Anathema serves as a bridge into the 3rd part, which features the first verses with some clean singing. They also bring in galloping riffs known from Iron Maiden. Agalloch’s music can of course not be compared to the arena anthems from Maiden, but the influence of Maiden on their black metal should not be understated either, many bands from the extreme scene (Immortal, Dissection, In Flames) openly quote Maiden as an influence. So does Agalloch here in my ears.

The Misshapen Steed is a gentle moody classical interlude featuring harp, flutes and strings. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony is another big composition with an enchanting up-tempo pace and great guitar harmonies. As usually in modern metal, the vocals could be an acquired taste. The husky shrieks of Agalloch are not obtrusive or really extreme but the artistic choice for evocative ambience over melody might put off some of some sensitive souls. It’s my experience that it takes a while to make the ‘click’ to appreciate this vocal style but, unless you have blocking principles against non-melodious elements in music, they will eventually make sense. Simply because they do.

Dead Winter Days continues the same vibe as Hallways of Enchanted Ebony. Fast and slightly dissonant riffs spin an entrancing groove, I can not overstress how huge the influence of Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day must have been. As Embers Dress The Sky already featured on the debut demo, it’s Agalloch’s trademark sound and has predominant clean vocals that create an interesting effect that is both harmonious and sinister. The Melancholy Spirit is a more drawn out type of composition, laid-back with gently brooding sections, it’s the kind of music they would perfect on Ashes Against The Grain.

The only criticism for this very mature and accomplished debut is the muffled sound and the sometimes abrupt transitions between song sections. Both issues would be dealt with on the ensuing releases. In the meantime, 4 solid stars.

Members reviews

The secret relation between music and the mind that perceives it

The thing with this album is there is no way I can get anyone to understand what it means to me. Unless you like it yourselves, you will never understand it. You have to be in my head while I am listening to it to sense, feel, sympathize and realize just how much the music here moves me, makes me shiver; how much I connect to it and how much it describes some of my most depressive feelings and emotions.

Sure I can describe the music, and analyze it somewhat, but that would be only scratching the surface, a superficial representation of what this album is to me. For you see, it is not only what is in the music. It is also what is in your mind when you listen to the music. And if you don't know that mind, don't understand it, its background and motives, then how would you understand how this mind relates to the music? This makes sound the art of reviewing futile, but after writing several reviews and reading a lot of them, I'd say that it is not futile. But in some cases, it is damn near impossible to do so. This one album (and their next one, The Mantle, as well) are for me two such cases.

There is this "click" in my mind when listening to this album (and others as well, of course but those are irrelevant for this review). It is as if the music is a key and my neurons in my music listening part of the brain are some sort of lock that are only unlocked by certain tunes, a certain music, a certain song, composition or melody.

When the key fits the lock, my mind is ignited and the pleasure of music is unleashed. Now that is not to say that only certain music is the key; each type of music or individual album is another type of key, each one opening a different "mind-door" to another room of musical pleasure. If I had to use one word to describe this process, it would be "Magic".

The "room" of Pale Folklore is one room I love a lot to "visit". It is a semi-dark room; dim candle lights, augmented by the fire in the fire place and a faint early sunrise from outside the wooden window is visible as the morning has yet to unfold. As the album progresses, the day beings, but it is not a sunny day; rather it is a winter day, a bit grim, grey and somewhat foreboding but there is also a calm side to it, and aspiring for inner peace. I'd attribute winter as the season to fit this particular release.

The opening riff of the album, which starts the trilogy of "She Painted Fire Across The Skyline", followed by a switch to acoustic and the harsh and raw vocals set the mood for the album. This opening is in contrast with the more relaxed and repetitive opening for their next album, The Mantle. This opening song is the key that opens my mind and begins the journey. This first song is quite dynamic, alternating between the dynamic fast riffs and the laid back slower parts (where there are the occasional female voice chanting). This opening, made of three parts, has a musical thread connecting them all into one coherent piece.

The fourth track, "The Misshapen Steed", is a quiet piano piece that is a sort of break from the storm outside. The "bad weather" resumes on the next track "Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony" which follows the "ground rules" set up by "She Painted Fire Across The Skyline" though more aggressive than it. I won't bother as much with the rest of the tracks as I can't describe in words the melody but the concept guiding their music should be clear by now (for better or worse). Whether you think you like it or dislike it, there's not much more to reveal about it (except of course to actually listen to it and I mean actively listen). I will say that track 7, "As Embers Dress The Day", has a most haunting and captivating melody, great riff and great quiet acoustic middle section. Track 8, "The Melancholy Spirit" too follows in the path of the previous track, though different in structure, yet the Agalloch characteristics that are the rough and the mellow and the changes in musical motifs, are prevalent throughout this track.

It is not so much an album of complexity, though this is not some simply composed piece of music; there are of course intricacies and changes along the songs that keep the interest and that make it even more enjoyable (the first three songs are a good example). Rather, it is more a piece that describes a set of mind, an ambience delicate (melody, clean vocals) but also roughly edged at the same time (guitar riffs, harsh vocals). It is an album to lay back, close your eyes and drift away with, along with the leaves from the trees outside the window of the "room". The light cold current of air, represented by the acoustic guitar, is replaced by a stronger torrent of the electrical riff of the guitar soaring the skies, while the vocals echo in the front, both of them working to encapsulate the listener in their midst.

While the sensations are of music suitable of adjectives such as: cold, winter like etc. it is actually the opposite effect that goes on in my stomach and heart/mind when I listen to the music; that is to say, I am filled with warmth listening to the guitars and vocals together charting a sorrowful texture of sound. This defies the laws of physics I guess; and there's the magic of music: being able to create warmth in the listener's heart/mind.

The album goes on in its "slow and ponderous changing to dynamic faster parts and back again" pattern and so there is the risk of falling to trap of "this is the same all the time; boring and never developing". Two possibilities. The first is that this is not your type of music; this music does not hold the key to the lock in your mind. The other possibility is that you are not paying enough attention; not in the right set of mind; not receptive to this at that moment and not enough concentrated and this is leading to the album not being well-registered by your mind and musical sense.

So for me this album, in light of my personal mind experience with the album, is a great, very enjoyable and rewarding and naturally flowing album but in the sense that my enjoyment is not as much based on quality, or other less subjective parameters as it is on my particular musical leanings (but I don't mean this album is without any qualities; though I think I made it clear with my above text). However, I realize that for most people this album constitutes simply a relaxed and even boring, somewhat ambient, atmospheric and metallic piece of music that is not too impressive. Therefore, I can't recommend it to anyone since I don't know the potential reader's mind (I know of only two other people here in PA that love this album to similar extents: Ansen and Ivan). If you don't like music that's repetitive, gloomy and without much "meat", then avoid Agalloch entirely. But if you're willing to open your mind and sit down calmly, without any distractions and listen to this repeatedly for several times (at least 5 times), then there is a good chance you'll be able to perceive what beauty lies in those melodic tracks. Note: If you like this album, The Mantle is highly recommended as well (in fact it's a must).

Let the guitars lead the way.

Ratings only

  • Necrotica
  • Caio2112
  • ian
  • MorniumGoatahl
  • PS-RagE
  • 666sharon666
  • TheHeavyMetalCat
  • starlessabstract
  • Zargus
  • serenitypaintedeath
  • clone62
  • Primeval Scum
  • DreamInSong
  • aecht
  • IMPF2112
  • GESM123
  • kogaionon
  • Triceratopsoil
  • Wilytank
  • (De)progressive
  • Coracin
  • Xaxaar
  • spitf1r3
  • Fantacide
  • Charcaroth
  • Any Colour You Like
  • NorseGangsta
  • justametalfan
  • Hagbard Celine
  • sauromat
  • Jake Kobrin
  • JRuined

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