Last May the dearly beloved Pacific Northwest atmospheric black metal band Agalloch called it quits, ending a 20-year run as a pioneering and magical force in American heavy metal. (You can read about the controversial breakup here.) It wasn’t long after the announcement, though, that bereaved fans knew they’d soon be hearing from the band’s members again. When Agalloch splintered, frontman John Haughm formed Pillorian with fellow Oregonians Stephen Parker of Maestus and Trevor Matthews of Uada, while the rest of Agalloch teamed up with Giant Squid’s Aaron Gregory to create Khôrada.
Pillorian’s “A Stygian Pyre” is, fittingly, the first song to rise from Agalloch’s ashes, and while elements of the song will certainly feel familiar to fans, Pillorian are a different animal. The song pulses with dark energy, and from the gate it assumes a muscular posture. Runaway blasting is punctuated by sinister and brooding verses in which Haughm’s signature rasp features front and center, backed by delightfully articulate drumming or a behemoth low-end that lurches in lock-step. Those vocals seem a bit heftier, now, and bear a more aggressive, ravenous bite as part of what’s at times a thrashy assault.
There’s violence here, but the evolution of the song is striking — from dour beginnings, a middle bridge opens up to pensive riffing and shifting tempos, as well as a poignant solo featuring a familiar singing guitar tone. Dark folk elements are never far off. Toward the end of the song, as it moves to an up-tempo outro, Haughm unleashes a breathy exhale, an Agalloch special move and something of a secret handshake in a new, promising, and exciting context. Listen.
“A Stygian Pyre” will first be available as a 7″ single that will feature a B-side exclusive, due out 2/10 and available to pre-order on Dammerung Arts in the United States and Eisenwald in Europe. The song is taken from Pillorian’s forthcoming debut album, Obsidian Arc, coming 3/10 and available to pre-order from Eisenwald.