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Friday, January 8, 2010

Agalloch:An American Black Metal

Agalloch is an American metal band formed in 1995 in Portland, Oregon. The band is led by vocalist and guitarist John Haughm and so far have released four limited EPs, three full-length albums, two demos, one split album, one compilation album and one live DVD. A fourth full-length album is planned for future release.
Agalloch began as the creation of John Haughm and Shane Breyer, named after the resinous wood of the Agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha). In early 1996, the duo began producing songs and, during the summer, Don Anderson joined the band to further refine the material. These songs would later become the From Which of This Oak demo tape in the autumn of that year. This recording showed a large amount of black metal influence, with an amount of material which would later appear on subsequent albums in one form or another. Shortly after the recording, Jason William Walton was added to the line up as bassist.
In 1998, the three recorded a new promotional tape solely for labels. It caught the attention of The End Records, who offered them a record contract, resulting in the Pale Folklore album. The album features less of a black metal influence than before, many totally reworked demo songs, more folk elements and neoclassical interludes. The album was met with much critical acclaim. After the recording was complete, Breyer departed from the band line up due to lack of interest in music.
After a period of quiet, the band released an EP of unreleased material from 1998-2001 entitled Of Stone, Wind and Pillor, revealing more of a neoclassical and experimental element. The EP also includes a cover of Neofolk band Sol Invictus' "Kneel to the Cross" that would later be released on Sol Lucet Omnibus, French label Cynerfierrd's tribute compilation to Sol Invictus.
During the 2001 to early 2002 period, Agalloch recorded The Mantle, featuring more of a post-rock influence. The album sleeve art contains photographs of public statues and fountains found in downtown Portland. This album marked a change in media attention for Agalloch, landing them interviews with a few mainstream magazines.
Following the release of The Mantle, Agalloch played their first show on March 6, 2003 in Portland, Oregon. This was followed by a few shows in March and a US west coast tour in May.
In 2003 Tomorrow Will Never Come was released, and in 2004 The Grey was released. These EPs showcased an even more experimental side of Agalloch, featuring remixed and reworked versions of songs from The Mantle as well as a new post-rock-influenced title track on Tomorrow Will Never Come. Agalloch also performed a series of shows on the US and Canada east coast in 2004.
A nature-themed split 10" picture disc EP with the Finnish band Nest was also released in 2004, showcasing a collaborative, neofolk effort by Agalloch. The Nest track was a more electronic, percussion-heavy effort with vocals and guitar contributed by Haughm and Anderson.
2005 saw double vinyl re-releases of The Mantle and Pale Folklore in limited wooden boxes, complete with new artwork for both albums. It was only available to commemorate the band's single 2005 live performance at Day of the Equinox, a music festival held in Toronto on October 14, 2005.
Ashes Against the Grain was released on August 8, 2006 by The End Records, featuring less focus on The Mantle's prominent acoustic guitars and instead more emphasis on electric guitars and metal elements, giving the album a different sound from that of their previous releases.
On February 29, 2008, Agalloch released The White, the second half (and stylistic opposite) of their 2-part EP release for Vendlus Records. This was a collection of dark folk/ambient work from between the years 2004 and 2007. The sound had reverted away from the sound of their last release, Ashes Against the Grain, and is more akin to the acoustic guitar sound of The Mantle. The tracks "The Isle of Summer", "Sowilo Rune" and "Summerisle Reprise", are themed on The Wicker Man, the latter two utilizing samples from the film. Also, the track "Birch White" borrows its lyrics from a song by A.S.J. Tessimond titled "Birch Tree". The track "Sowilo Rune" was posted on their MySpace roughly two months before the album was released. As with The Grey, the album was limited to 2,000 copies.
On August 4, 2008, Agalloch released a compilation album called The Demonstration Archive. It was a compilation of material recorded in between 1996 and 1998 that came from From Which of This Oak, the then-unreleased Of Stone, Wind and Pillor, and their 1998 promo album. Ashes Against the Grain completed the band's contract with The End Records and in April, 2008 the band decided against renewing the contract. Currently, Agalloch is working on a fourth full-length album, which is planned to be released in 2010. The band is yet to announce on which label the album will be released through.
On August 12, 2009, the demo "From Which of This Oak" was re-released as a picture disk through the German label Eisenwald.
Agalloch has recorded a track with German artist Mathias Grassow for the upcoming compilation album, "Der Wanderer ├╝ber dem Nebelmeer" (English: "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog"). The track is named "Nebelmeer".

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