After AGALLOCH’s “The Grey” EP in 2004, a lot of people (including myself) were concerned about the direction the band was going to take on its next release. “The Grey” took the Post-Rock elements found in a few tracks on “The Mantle” and extrapolated them in new directions a lot of fans weren’t comfortable with. Well, “Ashes Against The Grain” came and we were happy to see it was indicative of a major direction came.
Well, two more years have come since the release of “Ashes Against The Grain” and we’ve got “The White” EP, which focuses considerably on AGALLOCH’s Folky acoustic elements. I figure in between the next two albums we’ll get “The Black” EP, which will focus on their Black Metal roots. Just a hunch.
“The White” is an album driven primarily by guitar and, on the two tracks where that’s not present, keyboards. Haughm doesn’t lend his vocals until the fourth track (“Pantheist”) and there aren’t even lyrics until “Birch White.” The first two tracks are the strongest on the album, as “The Isle Of Summer” is remarkably catchy and “Birch Black” features some subversively innovative material that sounds like it should be played on a mandolin or Russian domra rather than an electric guitar. And yet it works well, possibly because the electric guitar is a rarity on the album, possibly because it’s a fairly simple riff that sounds more complex than it is. “Pantheist” is the longest track on the album at , and has a fascinating story to tell if I could only figure out who was the protagonist and who the antagonist. “Birch White” sees an accordion in the background and I believe a mandolin hidden within acoustic guitar picking. “Hollow Stone” and “Summerisle Reprise” are both keyboard songs, the first a synthed ambient passage and the latter a piano introspection, while “Sowilo Rune” is the only track where piano and guitar meet.
“The White” is a mandatory purchase for fans of AGALLOCH and probably has a good deal of crossover appeal with the Neo-Folk community. As with all AGALLOCH albums, the music is fascinating and almost a narrative in itself. There’s only one track that’s really worth skipping (“Hollow Stone”) and the rest are promising gateways into a world of natural wonder. This is AGALLOCH’s nature worship done to an extreme, almost shutting out the human emotions that color their other works. This explains why the vocals, the most intimately human aspect, are kept to a minimum even by AGALLOCH’s standards.
Oh yeah, the sound samples from the first and last two tracks are from the original The Wicker Man. Good movie, good choice of samples, even if I do disagree with the portrayal of Lord Summerisle it provides.