The only thing that might console us after we heard that Agalloch is no more, is the knowledge that they have had massive influences on many bands. Basically bringing folk black metal to the masses, their depressing and frigid hand rests on the shoulders of countless bands. These bands have picked up the mantle (get it?) of black metal sprinkled with quieter passages who set the soul and mind wandering. A paragon of this legacy is Oak Pantheon. The band, who have been around since 2011, create emotional, varied and fascinating black metal. The folk elements, combined at some points with almost melodic death metal, create a heady counterpoint to the heavier parts, a balancing act we’ve known to grow and love. However, unlike many bands now operating within the genre, they hold their own sound and don’t rely on tried and true formulas for strength.
The opening track, “Dawn as a New Day” is really all that you need to get a sense of what this album is like. It opens with furious blastbeats over a riff that’s one part black metal, one part melodeath. The intro is also marked by an excellent shriek, leading to amazing vocals across the entirety of the firs track and, indeed, the album. Around the 3 and a half minute mark, a softer hand is displayed when clean vocals are layered on top of the still relentless riffing. This creates a beautiful contrast, one which will be capitalized upon very soon in the track. A minute or so down the line, the instruments cut out in favor of an acoustic guitar, traditional drums and strings. The folks elements reign supreme but they’re also original and well composed.
The thing I like best about this track is that the folk segment isn’t an outro. The electric guitars erupt back in before the track is down, taking the catharsis created by the folk elements into even grander places. The vocals follow suit and return to their original fury and pain. This is why you should listen to the entire album; it’s filled with these clever moments, well written phrases that undermine and play around with the classical structures of the genre. Agalloch may be dead (hopefully not completely) but the cold fires that they lit still burn in the hearts of many musicians. Oak Pantheon are some of those artists and for that, we thank them.