There is a long stretch of lonely road. There is nothing behind you for miles, there is nothing ahead of you either. There is no sign of civilization nearby. It is snowing. You walk alone barefoot. You stumble and fall, a nearby old wooden spike cuts you deep. You start bleeding. You have nothing to stop that, and you don’t even care.
Red birds escape my wounds, and return as falling snow.
Your future is known to you. A slow painful death. Cold and tragic. You have moved past almost all the stages of grief. The last one, acceptance, takes you in her arms. You know your fate. The survival instinct has withered away. Nothing matters any longer. Even fear has left you. There is a terrifying tranquility hovering over your psyche. The signs of life start fading. You look towards the horizon. You see the snowfall on the mountain peaks. You feel an uneasy smile escaping your dry cold lips, semi-consciously you mutter in a dragging voice,
The snow has fallen
And raised this white mountain
On which you will die
And fade away in silence.
This is how Agalloch greets you. It sucks everything that is false in this world. It bleeds you out of hope, cheer and optimism, for those were always things that had you clinging to the causality of this world. Be another link in the chain. You escape the weight of darkness, sit alone beside a lonely stream. The melancholy cello cuts so deep, no healer of this world can mend.
Agalloch is the music of the learned, the music of the deep. It is abstract, grieving, but it is not of despair. There is no fight there. There is no blaming. There is pure acceptance. There are occasional high-spirited attempts to crawl back to the world of the living only to fall short.
They are the artists who paint a soundscape of emotion, many times sans words. They take the most esoteric instruments, which includes even a deer’s skull, and bring out the ephemeral aroma of the landscape. They give a new layer of meaning and existence to some old classics. Like in Hawthorne Passage, the single line they take from The Seventh Seal,
Antonius Block: Vem är du?
Döden: Jag är döden.
Agalloch’s experience is surreal. May it be the shrill and chilling rendition of ‘Solstafir’ from Not unlike the waves, or the Kneel to the cross’s layered vocals. Most of the times they mesmerise by the creativity of their naming. Very few bands can boast the creativity of naming something like ‘She painted fire across the skyline’ and then have three parts of such a song.
They were recommended by a friend, and I shall forever be indebted to him. There has not been a time when Agalloch was not near me. Over the years, it has always been in my laptop, iPods, phones. It has always kept me company. I hope they gracefully darken your paths too. I leave you with them on the Hawthorne Passage.