I am a huge Agalloch fan so when the band broke up I was quite upset. Then it was announced that they had fractured into two bands: Pillorian and Khôrada. So then I thought that maybe we’ll get 2 Agallochs? Pillorian was first out of the gate with ex Agalloch singer and guitarist Jon Haughm. And while I liked it a bit, it was missing much of the atomsphere and musicality of the old band.
I was very much looking forward to the debut album “Salt” by Khôrada which has the 3 remaining members of Agalloch, Jason Walton, Don Anderson, and Aesop Dekker. I assumed that Khôrada would basically sound like Agalloch but with a different singer. The singer being Aaron Gregory formerly of Giant Squid. While this is somewhat true, the music is more sludge and lacks the dynamics that I loved about Agalloch.
The biggest problem for me is Gregory’s voice. It’s just not very good in my opinion. Most times he is flat or off key and since he only has a clean vocal (Haughm uses a black vocal in addition to his clean vocal), there’s really no hiding the limitations of his vocals. Though when the music is louder, he does get a bit more buried in the mix.
This brings me to the other issue: the mix. It’s really muddy and I was really surprised by that. Maybe it suits the style that Khôrada were going for. So then I decided that I needed to set aside my love of Agalloch and all of the expectations that I had for this album. This is a new band so why not approach it as that? Unfortunately, it’s really not a band I’d probably notice if not for the connection.
The songs are good but other than the closer “Ossify,” nothing approaches that big epic sound that a band like this is capable of. That’s not to say that many of the songs aren’t long, they are. “Seasons of Salt” is a good song musically and longer. The same is true of “Wave State.” The problem is the vocals get in the way of enjoying things fully. And a cleaner mix would add more punch to the album as well.
At this point, I’d say that “Salt” is my disappointment of the year. I really thought this was going to be the band to watch. Maybe if there’s an instrumental version of the album I’ll give that a listen. I think many people will be willing to overlook the vocals (or maybe they are Giant Squid fans) but for me, they are just not on par with the music. Without a connection to Agalloch, this is a band I’d never listen to. Having said that, I think many fans of that band will still find this interesting enough to enjoy it. I am just not one of them.
2. Seasons Of Salt
3. Water Rights
4. Glacial Gold
6. Wave State