Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Agalloch/Bindrune Records

It was inevitable that someone would go to the demoniac well of the Faust myth for a concept album; but Faustian Echoes marks Agalloch as one of the few bands that can actually pull it off in style.  Musically, the single track EP is a fairly straight-forward exercise in melodic black metal, sparing the folk and post-rock influences that made them so many friends outside the metal world.  Littered throughout the 20 minute song are samples taken from another work based on Faust, Jan ҆vankmajer's stop motion headfucker.  The presence of these spoken word passages is jarring and slightly off-putting, but maybe men can only grasp those concepts that movie quotes express.

If Agalloch's crossover into the world of pledge drives and tote bags has created a niche, then Bindrune Records might be the ones to fill it.  As the label that unleashed Wodensthrone on the world, Bindrune have a reputation for metal that eschews pointy fashion accessories and probably spends its week-ends hiking through the forest.  Or maybe just meditates while the miso soup cools.

Agalloch come from the Pacific Northwest city of Portland, Oregon; Falls of Rauros come from the North Atlantic city of Portland, Maine. Somehow this seems significant, as if the two bands are opposite coast doppelgangers.  They definitely mirror each other in their mix of black, doom, and folk.  A mature and accomplished work, The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood is highly recommended for anyone who likes the woodsier side of black metal.

Starting an album with Tuvan throat singing is slightly belligerent and a surefire way to drive off new listeners; but if you can resist the urge to hit the "skip" button, you'll see that Blood of the Black Owl has a knack for building up tension with their sweat lodge doom/drone.  The heavier side of neo-folkie Chet W. Smith (perhaps best known for Ruhr Hunter), Light the Fires! trudges like Earth or Om on a vision quest.  This is the kind of thing that NPR would eat up with trail mix; though considering the way the album artwork mimics a certain ancient Vedic symbol, I doubt any left wing radio station would touch them with a ten foot pole.

Nechochwen may have begun as an exploration of its eponymous creator's Native American heritage, but has more in common with Scandinavians Opeth and Enslaved.  A largely acoustic affair rooted in classical guitar, OtO almost immediately evokes Opeth's Damnation, albeit infused with new world pagan/folk elements. Expect your tolerance for flutes and tribal chanting to be tested.