All good things come to an end, nothing lasts forever, you know all the clichés by now. Part of what makes like so precious and all is the fact that we’re only here for a small amount of time, and some of the things that enrich our journeys also do not have shelf lives as extended as we’d hope. So, we take what we can get an enjoy it while we have it.
Black metal demigods Agalloch were as close to royalty as one was going to find in the American scene, so when their dissolution was announced (I’m not going to rehash that whole thing, because it’s been done to death) last year, it was a stunning blow. For those way outside the band’s inner circle, it was a saddening shock, and it made me damn happy I trekked to Maryland Deathfest in 2014 just to see the band. But from Agalloch’s fall will come other bands, the first up being Pillorian, featuring John Haughm, who was one of the driving forces behind that group. Here, he’s joined by bassist/guitarist Stephen Parker (Banewreaker, Maestus) and drummer Trevor Matthews (ex-Infernus, Uada), and the band’s debut record “Obsidian Arc” is an awfully impressive, fiery first step. If you’re going in expecting an Agalloch record just because Haughm is involved, guess again. While some of those tenets are there, the folk underpinning are at a minimum, with the band instead roars like a black storm, creating black metal that’s equally ferocious and melodic. Over seven songs and 48 minutes, you take a devastating trip that punishes fully.
“By the Light of a Black Sun” starts with acoustics mixed with heaviness, as Haughm’s growls settle in sounding gnarlier than usual, as it mixes with the strong, spacious playing. “I am the face of the gods,” Haughm roars, as the music starts to fade away and enter serenity before everything opens up again, the guitars go off on an adventure, and everything corrodes in noise. “Archaen Divinity” is both punchy and infused with air, and then it begins crushing in earnest. Haughm’s growls again are a harsher brand than we’re used to, as the music flows nicely from verse to chorus, eventually fading into chilly terrain. From there, whispers rise like a fog before the song whips up for a thunderous conclusion. “The Vestige of Thorns” also simmers in atmosphere, as the growls are gurgly at points, downright brutal in other areas. The lead guitar work feels like it flies over mountaintops, with Haughm calling, “Make me whole again!” Clean singing pops in for the first time, as the track ends with industrial-style churns and acoustics guitars that soak the ground.
“Forged Iron Crucible” has a compelling, jarring start, and then the growls set in and begin to chew at your nerves. “A vessel that will carry me to the grave,” Haughm prods, before observing “purity in fire,” as the band ramps up its efforts, and the song bleeds out in stormy winds. “A Stygian Pyre” is crunchy as hell, as guitars take off and hit the gas pedal, and Haughm warns, “Our fire burns black.” That’s paid off in the guitar work that twists up your guts right before they take flight, and the final moments both punish and galvanize at the same time. “The Sentient Arcanum” is a short cut with guitars toppling and strange, eerie noises scraping along. Closer “Dark Is the River of Man” is the most comparable to Agalloch, as Haughm’s stinging clean singing takes center stage, and the song floats in ice cold waters. “Tie your hands and suffer,” Haughm urges, as the song kicks up more power while the track progresses, and some folkish fires catch, letting this record burn off into the night sky.
Pillorian truly is a fresh start for Haughm and the rest of the band. “Obsidian Arc” is an album that packs some surprises, as well as a powder keg of explosiveness for its listeners. This band is carving its own bloody path, and their first carving into the wilderness is a riveting, unforgettable one.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.pillorian.com/
To buy the record, go here: http://records.eisenton.de/merch
For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/