Cascadia. The word literally makes my stomach churn. I should know better than to dismiss an entire genre/scene based upon the actions of a derpy collective of unwashed, liberal, wanna-be neo-pagan goons living off of mommy and daddy's trust funds, but sometimes I cannot help it. Granted I do enjoy a bit of what has come from that location (Agalloch, Woodsmoke, Fauna, Skagos) but more often than not its rehashed, flavor-of-the-moment socio-political, faux pagan 'black' metal. It inflames me with contempt and makes me want to vomit at the same time. Enter the mysterious Echtra...
I have enjoyed what I have heard from Echtra (and his other projects) and this release is no exception. Exchewing the typical Cascadian cookie cutter bollocks, Echtra manages to create something unique and worthwhile in each of his musical outings. Paragate opens up with funeral paced acoustic strumming, making way for doooooooooooooooooooooooooomy distorted hiss, plodding drum patterns and croaky, almost growled vocals. This all breaks away to summon a dark, haunting type of ambience to close out the first track. The second track opens where the last ended; bleeding distortion, minimal ambiance and a beautiful acoustic melody to open wide the paragate. This all builds up into an almost Velvet Cacoon-esque black metal dirge; rife with traditional blasts, screamed vocals and layered guitars. The chaos tapers off to resound the acoustic/doom previously explored on the recording.
This is a lesson in haunting yet beautiful ambient doom/black metal. Granted millions of worthless bands have beat this horse into glue, none can do as well as Echtra. There is a reason this guy and his other projects are held in high regard within the Cascadian and US black metal scenes, simply for the fact that they do it better than the rest. Not many bands popping up in the US scene can compare or hold a candle to this work.
Dear hippie Cascadian metallers; listen to this album and take note to what you are NOT doing, that is, creating worthwhile art packed with emotion and sincerity. Give it a try sometime, might make you worth listening to.