There is a river in us all. It flows a unique spirit through our veins, the life blood of individuality. It gives our identities health and life, and drowns the rest of the world. We float along our own rivers of inspiration, each current of catharsis unique to its respective sojourner yet universally binding us in our need to follow these fjords on a slow course to oblivion, until there is nothing left of us here. Dark is the River ov Muppet, not unlike the waves of Black Lake Ni∂stång which carried me through the falling snow of Maine’s dead winter days for years. What I’m trying to say is that I really, really miss Agalloch. Blending folk, black metal and doom into something too good for this world, Agalloch just fucking got it, and I considered the great cold death of the band as conclusive proof to the absence of the divine. Who, then, would tuck me in at night with a desolation song and pale folklore of stone, wind, and pillor?
The answer, revealed after a decidedly brief period of grief-induced psychosis, was the best one a Muppet could hope for: John Haughm, the melancholy spirit himself. Enter: Pillorian, Obsidian Arc. The wooden doors open with the first acoustic notes of “By the Light of a Black Sun,” and there is an undeniable similarity to the dark matter gods of old, but make no mistake: this is not Agalloch 2.0, or worse yet, Agalloch Lite. Rising like bloodbirds from the white mountain on which Agalloch did die, Pillorian carve their legacy from the hollow stone of our pantheist idols and burn it birch black.
To see the lineage of the past reborn so darkly, wander the enchanted ebony hallways of “A Stygian Pyre” or “Forged Iron Crucible,” where the melancholy of The Mantle has been charred into something far more scornful. The masterful blending of charged violence and acoustic calm that we know, love, and miss is quite present, but oh so much angrier. Rather than peering through every window into the past, Obsidian Arc forges a path ahead into the marrow of trve black metal’s spirit. While one can clearly hear aforetoomanytimesmentioned band’s influence, listeners will recognize this as something more sinister than anything by the heathen saints of serpents and spheres.
That said, the ghosts of Haughm’s musical past can’t help but rise from the flames, and nowhere is their haunting presence felt more strongly or perfectly than on closer “Dark is the River of Man.” An ominously mercurial and flowing clean intro, doleful rasps and haunting guitar melodies coalesce into the most beautifully dark song that Agalloch never wrote, their old voice of wisdom haunting the vale as a new age of rebirth darkens the dawn. I’m running out of references and allotted words, so suffice it to say that the song fucking rules. If you liked Agalloch, you’ll love this.
If you missed this, stop everything and fix that/yourself; let Pillorian teach you their ways of hatred, unlight, and death. There is no turning back from here. With Obsidian Arc, Haughm and crew push us into the black mire of the future 48 minutes at a time, and I for one welcome our scornful new overlords.
Tracks to check out: “Dark is the River of Man,” “By the Light of a Black Sun,” “A Stygian Pyre.”