It’s always interesting when a musician who’s made a big impact within their respective field of music decides to finish it up and have a clean slate. Such is the case with former Agalloch vocalist/guitarist John Haughm. When the group disbanded after a lengthy career, Haughm moved forward at a quick pace and joined up with Stephen Parker (Maestus, ex-Arkhum) and Trevor Matthews (Uada, ex-Infernus) to form Pillorian.
After a quick 7” vinyl release earlier this year, it was time to put the finishing touches on the debut album, and that comes to us in the form of Obsidian Arc. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I heard Agalloch similarities, because after all, we know the history. But, a comparison to the past isn’t very fair. This is a new venture into the metal world, and it needs to be judged on it’s own merits, and not to it’s ties to former glories.
‘By The Light Of A Black Sun’ opens up the album with metallic guitar picking with a forceful drum pattern. This evokes a lot of cross-genre mixing for me, with black meets death with prog elements, with a soul-crushing doom-type backdrop. ‘Archaen Divinity’ almost sounds like a mix of classic Tiamat and Paradise Lost, which isn’t a bad thing at all to me. Because of this identifiable homage (directly or indirectly), it brings back amazing memories to me of loving those bands while I was a teen. They take the original sounds of those bands and make something really special in this song. ‘The Vestige Of Thorns’ features a more brooding atmosphere than the previous tracks. There’s great pacing and emotion put into the song, with a great acoustic backdrop that is built upon by the metal elements.
A delicately picked riff starts off ‘Forged Iron Crucible,’ and then builds with purpose into a crushing black metal approach. This is perhaps the most punishing track on the album due to the force and deep emotion put forth. It makes me think that this song would be best suited for going out to battle in a cold Viking onslaught, almost reminiscent of early Bathory. ‘A Stygian Pyre’ gives off a great double-bass drive that propels the momentum of the song. At the mid-point of the track we go from up-tempo to mid-tempo, which paces everything really well. ‘The Sentient Arcanum’ is a short track that is almost used as a little break before the end of the album. Nothing much to note except that it’s atmospheric and dark as hell.
‘Dark Is The River Of Man’ gives a somber start to the song with bass picking doubling up with the guitar to give the depressive atmosphere more depth. There are clean vocals too which add to that aforementioned depth. This song serves as an apt sendoff for the album, however I would’ve enjoyed a more ambitious track to close off this collection of songs. I’m not saying that it’s not good from a depth standpoint, but I just don’t feel like it was fit for putting a bow on this album. It’s a great track nonetheless.
The band plays together incredibly well, and set forth an ambiance that is engrossing and exciting. What I find great about this group is that they take on an attitude of not trying to do too much too soon. They’re content with letting the music breathe and expand with repeated listens. Words can only do so much to describe what is given to us in this gothic-tinged wall of metal, so fully partaking in the music with an immersive attitude is the best way to fully appreciate the Pillorian experience.
I’m very impressed with this album to say the least. Pillorian as a whole show a maturity that comes from past projects, but puts forth it’s own impressive stamp on the metal world. I can’t wait for the follow-up.
01. By The Light Of A Black Sun
02. Archaen Divinity
03. The Vestige Of Thorns
04. Forged Iron Crucible
05. A Stygian Pyre
06. The Sentient Arcanum
07. Dark Is The River Of Man
Playing time: 48:21
Release date: 10 March, 2017
Website: Official Pillorian Website