One of the weirder things that have come out of Agalloch, we have Khorada. The first time I’d heard this album, I wasn’t exac
tly feeling it – but this second listen seems to elicit a slightly different impression. “Edeste” opens the disc with a little bit of everything and that might be where my mind collapsed into a black hole, as if I was pondering Graham's Number. Vocals seem shoved to the back, and aside from the bass I'll admit that it can be awfully hard to hear the melodies. I'd like this record a bit better if I could actually discern it. There are sections of doom and post-metal, pieces that may sound a bit Goth and then we have about ten million avantgarde trappings fronted by a halfway decent clean vocal approach. Again, maybe if I could hear the performance a little better, I could properly discern it. Maybe Audacity to raise some of the vocals? I mean, seriously? Why is the guitar louder than the clean vocal? Why are the drums overpowering the harsh vocals? Why are the instruments drowning out all sense of vocal on this album? These vocal raises would have taken two seconds. You're about a four, you need to be about a six. It isn't '96 anymore, we have the technology to make ye olde garage band sound like they'd recorded their shit in a million dollar studio. I'm on the 8:29 mark of “Seasons Of Salt.” Listener, tell me. Can you hear the cleans for the first part of that? I can't. I'm only hearing drums. There's a section a few seconds after that I catch, but I can't discern the lyrics at all. So why even bother if I can't understand what he's saying? The man may as well be singing about a purple elephant. Whatever powerful message you had in the vocals is completely fucking buried in the mix. Of course, some people are going to like the raw sound and I can understand that. But if I have to personally attune my ear to catch the vocals on this record, than something is wrong. Khorada would have been a great mix of melancholic avantgarde and post/doom extreme metal if I could actually understand them. There's a slightly heavier Lycia thing going on here and it could be cool, but for some odd reason these guys wanted to record in a box. As with most records recorded this way, it isn't until the instruments slow that I can actually hear the vocals. Once again, I would have raised all the vocal sections on this record about an octave or so higher. Just so that I could discern these cleans. My volume meter is currently set at 68, which is what should be suitable for most albums.
Now I could understand the early days when bands that didn't have a ton of money basically had to go with whatever kind of production value they could afford,but in this new modern era we have bands with literal pennies to their name creating high-dollar performances just because of the software. Not everyone in this industry is using Pro-Tools and there are a lot of great free alternatives to expensive recording software that are equal to, if not better than some of the commercial stuff. This is because of an open source community that continues to update and compete with the big names and hefty price tags. In my honest opinion, unless it is a top-grade recording studio, there is no sense in paying someone hundreds or even thousands of dollars to mix an album anymore. There are many times where I've talked to older musicians who just don't understand this stuff. They're Luddites in most cases and understandably so. But I urge every musician that wants a quality production to go with their quality performance (because the album here is structurally quite brillaint) to simply research this stuff. I know many of us have side jobs and families, but if you just take a few minutes out of your day to learn how to work with these programs, over time you'll be able to mix and master records yourself. And what's really cool about this generation is that if the directions are too complicated in software manuals, you can always watch tutorial videos on YouTube. You don't have to pay to watch these videos, there's no special classes to attend and you can virtually learn how to do anything in a step by step manner. Some are even arguing that college itself is unnecessary, since you can practically learn any skill or trade you want simply by watching YouTube videos. As an example, there was a man who recently built an entire house from the ground up simply by watching YouTube videos. Now I know that the place is getting crazy with free-speech bans and such, but there are a number of alternatives like bitchute or D-Tube on the Steemit network that will probably become more beneficial to content creators.
Though I'm getting away from the point of this review, which is mainly that while I do enjoy this performance and will give it a fairly strong score as I respect the time and effort required to make something brilliant; but with the proper mixing and mastering; this could have sounded much better. If Khorada paid anyone hundreds or thousands to mix this album, then said person is absolutely horrible at their job, needs to quit doing what they're doing and the band should ask for their money back – with interest, because this kind of shoddy production job could affect sales revenue. For a performance as strong as this, it shouldn't have been limited by production and I really hope they decide to work on that level of the album recording process a bit more with the next one. Folks, there are entire sections of the record that I can't even hear. I won't say that I have an amazing sense of hearing, but these are more than just small nitpicks. If you really like your weird experimental avantgarde music completely unbalanced and more raw than uncooked potatoes, then feel free to check the album out at the link below. Unfortunately, all I hear is a great idea that needs a touch of Mr. Clean.
Simply put, Salt could sound a little better and I'm having a lot of trouble discerning parts of it. Parts that I would seem integral to the listening process. I'm looking at all these positive quotes on the Bandcamp page and all I can think to add is, "Would probably be much better if I could hear it." It's a valid complaint.
(7 Tracks, 55:00)
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)