Mixing black metal with atmospheric textures, gothic doom, and flourishes of neo-folk and post-rock, Portland, Oregon's Agalloch quickly developed a rabid cult following upon the release of their debut album, Pale Folklore, in 1999. The band issued four more boundary-pushing and critically acclaimed full-length efforts, including The Mantle (2002) and The Serpent & the Sphere (2014) and a handful of EPs before officially ceasing operations in 2016.
Founded in 1995 by guitarist and vocalist John Haughm, the band initially operated as a duo with Haughm joined by keyboard player Shane Breyer before expanding into a four-piece with the arrivals of guitarist Don Anderson and bass player Jason William Walton. The quartet recorded the demo tape From Which of This Oak the following year, with a second demo, Promo 1998, arriving two years later. The latter caught the attention of the End Records, which signed the group and released their debut album, Pale Folklore, in 1999. Eschewing the more traditional black metal approach of the demos, the LP retained the icy soundscapes and supernatural vocals of the genre while introducing elements of neoclassical and folk into the mix.
Breyer left the fold shortly after the album's release, but he appeared on the group's 2001 EP Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor, which featured unreleased material from 1998-2001. The following year saw the release of the band's sophomore full-length effort, The Mantle. Drenched in dark post-rock atmospherics, the LP was a critical success that garnered significant mainstream attention, and Agalloch performed their very first live show during this time. They continued to tweak their sound on the 2004 EP The Grey, and in 2006 they issued their third long-player, the more traditional black metal-inflected Ashes Against the Grain, which adopted a more stripped-down electric approach that echoed their epic live performances. It would be the group's last LP for the End.
In 2008 the band released the dark ambient EP The White, which was inspired by (and featured samples from) the 1973 pagan folk-horror film The Wicker Man. A pair of compilation albums, The Demonstration Archive 1996-1998 and The Compendium Archive 1996-2006, were released via Licht von Dämmerung Arthouse in 2008 and 2010, respectively. 2010 also saw the arrival of the group's fourth full-length studio effort, Marrow of the Spirit, their first outing for Profound Lore. Recorded on vintage analog equipment to achieve a rawer and more visceral esthetic, the LP marked the studio debut of new drummer Aesop Dekker. The EP Faustian Echoes arrived two years later and featured a single 21-minute track. In 2016, Agalloch elected to disband after the release of their fifth and final studio album, 2014's The Serpent & the Sphere, a richly detailed set of blackened progressive folk metal that elicited near universal acclaim. ~ James Christopher Monger