By Jonathan Millard-Smith
After loving an album as layered and powerful as 2010’s Marrow of the Spirit, my expectations and hopes for Agalloch‘s new EP, Faustian Echoes, have been. . . complicated. After all, it is only a single song release, but at the same time its running length of just over twenty minutes means that it’s hardly a musical drop in the bucket. Agalloch are no strangers to producing full listening experiences that come in smaller packages. We’ve even seen albums from the band, such as the White EP, that feel like complete releases in and of themselves and that I view as essential parts of the band’s discography.
Not so with Faustian Echoes. It must be stated up front that the song itself is really good. It’s the most traditional-sounding blackened piece of music Agalloch have released in some time. This means that when it isn’t presenting audio clips from Jan Švankmajer’s 1994 film adaption of Goethe’s Faust, it’s filled with delightfully fast drums, shrill and urgent tremolo riffs, and John Haughm‘s manically tortured rasp. The film references are also welcome. The band has often talked about how film has inspired their work, and it’s a welcome change of subject from the nature aesthetics and allusions to heathenism that have so often been featured in other Agalloch albums. However, despite the promotional material’s claim that Faustian Echoes is made up of two parts, the song lacks the dramatic shifts and emotional highs and lows that makes a piece like “Black Lake Niðstång” so memorable and a complete work in and of itself. This new track sounds like an epic, though straight-forward, closing song in a full-length Agalloch album, not a stand alone experience. It’s an A-side that lacks a B-side.
Given that you can get a digital copy of full-length Agalloch albums for only a few dollars more, Faustian Echoes‘ $6 digital download price might seem steep to some. However, it’s worth noting that drummer Aesop Dekker described the EP as a project intended to help fund future band endeavours. It’s a price I was willing to pay to have the song with me when I’m out and about, and doubtless many fans who see Agalloch on their upcoming tour will happily purchase a physical copy from the band. Faustian Echoes will likely make an excellent addition to the band’s live catalogue even if alone it is only a teasing taste of future efforts to come.
Faustian Echoes can be purchased via Agalloch’s bandcamp page, found at http://agalloch.bandcamp.com/track/faustian-echoes.