When Agalloch split in the summer of 2016, this also marked the birthplace for 2 new musical projects as the artists parted ways: John Haughm started up the more black metal inspired Pillorian, while the others, consisting of Don Anderson, Jason William Walton and Aesop Dekker formed a new band called Khôrada together with Aaron John Gregory from Giant Squid on guitars and vocals.
The connection between Giant Squid and Agalloch goes way back from when they were both still on The End records. Aaron’s partner and band mate, Jackie, has even contributed several cello pieces in the past.
While you could easily hear the roots of Haughm’s former band in Pillorian’s debut, albeit in a harsher from, the stylistic shift on Khôrada’s first record is a far greater leap.
In case your interest in this review was primarily peaked by the Agalloch reference, allow me to elaborate a bit on the severely overlooked Giant Squid. Like Ahab, they tell maritime inspired tales, draped in lengthy prog excursions that will dabble in jazz as much as it would in doom. From that angle the music on Khôrada makes perfect sense. Gregory’s distinct vocals are at the heart of ‘Salt’s manner of telling a story and form somewhat of an acquired taste. His emotionally charged singing is often compared to System of a Down’s Serg Tankian. Although that comparison is somewhat farfetched here, it is still a far cry from the blackened shrieks found on ‘Ashes against the Grain’.
The genre defying odysseys that defined ‘Minoans’ and ‘The Ichthyologist’, seem to have permeated the very fabric of ‘Salt’. With Gregory’s previous band indefinitely on hold, it’s almost too tempting to consider Khôrada as a continuation of Giant Squid, but that would trivialize the input from the rest of the band. For one, Don Anderson’s riffing inevitably echoes the finer moments of his past efforts and goes to show once more that their back catalogue was never just Haughm’s sole vision.
The choice of artwork should also not go unnoted, especially since Gregory is an accomplished artist who has taken care of much of Squid’s artwork in the past. In my humble opinion, I probably would have preferred one of his wonderfully painted pieces over the rather expressionist work from Cedric Wentworth that is currently chosen as cover.
You’ll need to spend some time with this album to fully appreciate it, especially if you’re coming in with the expectation of finding some forest obsessed post black metal like ‘The Mantle’ or ‘Marrow of the Spirit’, but if you’ll pardon the pun, doing so, really is worth its salt.
Release date: July 20 2018
Label: Prophecy Productions
2.Seasons of Salt