Agalloch – Faustian Echoes – 83%

Faustian Echoes cover art

There are few bands that are able to pull off songs that eclipse the 20 minute mark without losing my interest. My first forray into 20 minute epics was Rush’s “2112”. Then it was Dream Theater’s “A Change of Seasons”. Of course Opeth had their “Black Rose Immortal” and Pelican wowed us with “March into the Sea”. There is no shortage of Godspeed You! Black Emperor epics either and most recently I reviewed the 56 minute epic “Explore” from Hands of the Templar. The art of making a song that long that can hold the listeners interest for 1/3rd of an hour is an endearing task of attrition and I can safely say that “Faustian Echoes” deserves a spot among all the aforementioned bands.

Faustian Echoes is a showcase of strong black metal mixed with that classic refined Agalloch sound. I believe that the song is based off the play Doctor Faustus that originated in either the 1600 or 1700’s. It features excerpts and samples from the play, most likely the 1967 film adaptation. Much of the song is very much in line with the heavier side of Marrow of the Spirit while still retaining the high caliber guitar work we’ve known to love and appreciate from the masterminds of John Haughm and Don Anderson. As a whole the track feels less polished than some of the work you’d find on say Ashes Against the Grain or the Mantle.

Haughm’s vocals are spot on here and are excellent dark vocals. His screams are simply incredible and consistent. In my earlier years I was heavily into the black metal stylings of bands like Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth as well as Agalloch. Nowadays I only keep up with one of those bands, that being Agalloch of course. The sound staging is very small and tight, meaning the instruments are very close together in the mix. This sometimes leads to the drums being highly irrelevant during the heavier segments when they are overshadowed by the guitar work. Of course with a song being this brutal and loud that’s a given, but it’s still a nuisance.

As a member of the 20+ minute long song family, it’s a worthy addition. As a contender to the throne of best Agalloch song, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. It simply doesn’t compete with “Black Lake Nidstang” and “In The Shadow of Our Pale Companion” in terms of quality despite being longer. Bigger isn’t always better and while it’s a song that will fit right into the Agalloch catalog, it’s just not their best work. 7-13-12

Available for $6 at http://agalloch.bandcamp.com/track/faustian-echoes