Agalloch
Of Stone, Wind and Pillor EP

While the term “Forest Metal” may sound ridiculous and comical, one listen to Agalloch’s Pale Folklore and their most recent EP Of Stone, Wind and Pillor and it’s difficult not to see large expanses of forest and snow-capped mountains.¬†Much of Agalloch’s allure is its organic sound and sweeping, melancholic melodies – crossing Ulver’s Bergtatt and Katatonia’s Dance of December Souls should give you some indication of what I’m referring to.

¬†Of Stone, Wind and Pillor is a stopgap release to let all 12 of the people who bought Pale Folklore know Agalloch is still very much active. The EP includes Agalloch’s unreleased three-song 7″, a Sol Invictus cover(“Kneel to the Cross”) and an instrumental composed by S. Breyer. The three 7″ tracks are interesting in and of themselves, but really makes Of Stone, Wind and Pillor great is the Sol Invictus cover. The first cut, the title track, is the closest cousin to Pale Folklore and while novel doesn’t really compare to any of the full-length’s material, especially “She Painted Fire across the Skyline.” “Foliorum Viridium” and “Haunting Birds” are both instrumental tracks that are neither indicative of ther debut or the great conventional rock tendencies of Agalloch. I found them to be unnecessary and flat, but thankfully “Kneel to the Cross” saves the whole EP. It’s basically the reason why you’re reading this review. For those unfamiliar with Sol Invictus, the song starts with a massive vocal chant accompanied by a church organ; the prologue works well within the context of the staunch anti-Christian lyrics.

Musically, this is a very different Agalloch, though. It’s mostly sad, roving acoustic guitar lines that follow an intoxicating vocal melody composed in a folk music-styled arrangement – repetition of the chorus, an involved harmonic structure and narrative lyrics are all hallmarks here. What a great cover choice. Perhaps my tolerance for dark ambience is at an all-time low, but “A Poem By Yeats” just begs to be skipped. The slow, evanescent synth lines are uneventful – if you’re looking for dark, ambient soundscapes, I suggest trying Robyn Miller’s Riven or Myst soundtracks. At the very least, you’ll be enchanted to worlds that are more encompassing than a three-chord variation on the keyboard.

Of Stone, Wind and Pillor in some instances is a inviting look into what Agalloch are ultimately capable of, but truthfully I’d rather hear them advance to the sound of guitars, drums and bass than keyboards and vocals. Collectors will undoubtedly find Of Stone, Wind and Pillor essential, so it is to the casual listener out there that I recommend the EP on the merits of the cover alone.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
May 28th, 2001

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