|Review: Gallowbraid - Ashen Eidolon|
Year released: 2017
Originally released in: 2010
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: March 22, 2022
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Rated 4.71/5 (94.29%) (7 Votes)
Jake Rogers is something of a U.S. underground legend these days. He's best known for his work in Visigoth and Caladan Brood, both of which are largely (and rightfully) regarded as modern exemplars of Epic Metal in entirely different ways, and whether through his vocals, riffs, or songwriting, he stands out as one of the strongest in the scene. It's tempting to assume this level of quality would come from someone who started out as brilliant, and oftentimes, that's not the case. However, his first project Gallowbraid and its one and only EP, Ashen Eidolon, not only suggests he did, it also might stand as his greatest work to date and one of the best releases of the 2010s.
It's hard to believe Jake wrote this album way back in 2006 when he was freaking 15, both because of its quality and the fact it sounds more like a culmination of everything he's done since rather than a starting point. The base of Gallowbraid's sound is very heavily indebted to Agalloch at their least pensive and gloomy, but it also has elements that would later be explored in Caladan Brood and Visigoth with the riff style and use of keyboards, choirs, and folk instrumentation. In the hands of a less capable songwriter, this would be a bloated mess, but here it all comes together to create a massive and involving sound that wears its influences on its sleeve while sounding like very little else out there.
The opening title track is a testament to this, a 14-minute epic that contains jaw-dropping guitar work and gorgeous melodies that pair beautifully with the evocative and beautiful lyrics. This song alone would make this album incredible, but after a lovely woodsy instrumental, it keeps going with the haunting clean singing and folk-fueled riffage of "Oak and Aspen." The original release ended with a brief companion piece to the previous instrumental, but I urge you to make certain you hear the reissue, because it contains the colossal "Stone of Remembrance," whose variety, scope, and breathtaking chorus may well make it one of the best songs to come from the U.S. scene.
I realize I just covered every song on here, but this is the kind of album where every moment is so beautifully put together, I'd struggle to talk about it if I didn't do so. Hell, as I write this, I struggle to properly convey how much this album affects me, as it makes me feel triumphant, lonely, nostalgic, and somber every time I listen to it. Ashen Eidolon is more than worthy to take its rightful place alongside such similar masterworks as Oath Bound, The Mantle, and even Jake's own Echoes of Battle, and even if this project never produces another work, it deserves to be remembered among the very best out there. Magnificent.
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