Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2020
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

"The King is dead, long live the King" - 90%

RichardDeBenthall, March 30th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

A lot of internet ink has already been spilled regarding the messy divorce of Agalloch and the two bands, Pillorian and Khorada, which have risen from it's ashes. Regardless of where you sit in the ensuing Pillorian vs. Khorada debate, one thing seems to bring most commentators together; the feeling of loss at the demise of Agalloch, a singularly unique band, and a feeling of disappointment in their swansong LP 'The Serpent & The Sphere'.

Thus, I feel that the overall feeling towards John's new endeavor Pillorian was overall quite negative, especially in light of his ill worded but probably misconstrued words on Facebook. When Pillorian's 'Obsidian Arc' was announced, I'm pretty sure that everybody was expecting John Haughm to disappear so far up his own arse on this record that he'd have to be retrieved by an emergency enema, courtesy of the internet critic powers that be. Haughm has long been regarded as being too filled up with his own self importance and this, apparently proved by the events surrounding Agalloch's demise, surely set the stage for an ill-conceived, overindulgent and rushed album that would prove the righteousness of the Camp Don Anderson.

How surprising it was then when the two singles released from 'Obsidian Arc', 'Archean Divinity' and 'A Stygian Pyre' clearly showcased something which we hadn't seen from John in many years, anger. The two singles seethed with bitterness, writhing with swagger and hatred and taking the listener on a tour de force of inspired black metal. In fact most of the tracks on this record are surprisingly fast paced and angry and despite frequently referring back to those now legendary folk and post-rock moments, the overwhelming thing I take away from this record is that John Haughm is pissed off and he's got something to prove.

And boy, does he prove it. With Pillorian, I was expecting their debut to be something more akin to a continuation of 'The Serpent & The Sphere' mixed with the vibe of 'Pale Folklore'. That feeling of melancholy does surface at times during the record, but any wistfulness is washed away swiftly by the driving power of these rhythmic black metal riffs that I dare say we've never really heard from Haughm. The role that Stephen Parker (bass, guitars) and Trevor Matthews (drums) had in creating this record is somewhat unknown to me at this point. However, while this album is certainly different from anything Agalloch ever produced it still seems entirely haunted by Haughms presence on vocals on guitar. Safe to say however that the performance of the other two band members is exemplary with special note to Matthews, whose role behind the kit is key towards the aggressive and driving sound that permeates this record.

Despite the above, 'Obsidian Arc' does contain a surprising amount of variety and this helps pace the album well, making it an easy but journey for listener. Slightly slower tracks like 'By The Light Of A Black Sun' and 'Stygian Pyre' are nicely broken up by the faster songs 'Archean Divinity' and 'Forged Iron Crucible'. A pretty post-rock instrumental, which would feel at home on 'The Mantle' separates the rest of the album from the one true anomaly on this album, album closer 'Dark Is The River Man'. Only on this track does Haughm truly provide the listener with what could be considered a true Agalloch song. In a way, the likeness of this track to Agalloch's output seriously highlights how much of a singular role John had in their sound.

After every listen to this record I feel impressed. Not only have Pillorian exceeded my expectations, and I imagine a great many others if the Bandcamp reviews are anything to go by, but in my opinion they've managed to rival any album Agalloch brought out since their magnum opus 'The Mantle'. Will it equal the impending debut of Khorada? Another question for another time. In truth it doesn't really matter. Instead of another album from a band that was clearly deeply at odds with itself, we've got one great album from a fresh new band and the potential for another.

"The King is dead, long live the King!"