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Wading through the Familiar: Pillorian’s “Obsidian Arc”

As I began listening to “By the Light of a Black Sun,” I intentionally and necessarily told myself not to get caught up in the trapping that will most assuredly consume many who explore Obsidian Arc by immediately comparing the work of Pillorian to Agalloch. After all, the album is, at least in part, the work of John Haughm. Being that Haughm has now aligned himself with Stephen Parker (Maestus, ex-Arkhum) and Trevor Matthews (Uada, ex-Infernus), Pillorian is indeed a new beast altogether—one that will not be defined by the nostalgia of others.

The name Pillorian, as one could expect from minds like these, is fitting for the atmosphere that the band has precisely conjured in Obsidian Arc. Here, you’ll be ripped through waves of sorrow and then furiously into anger; this trio of musicians are wielding something truly magnificent through the creation of Obsidian Arc. Haughm’s vocal presence continues to grow more fierce as he transitions between howled vocals and the occasionally whispered lyrical passages that carry his patented sense of natural mystery—a talent that he has become exceedingly masterful with over the past two decades.

Haughm’s vocal approach aside, I was particularly impressed with Trevor Matthews‘s contribution to Obsidian Arc; as any drummer will be likely to tell you, it takes an incredible amount of discipline to not  overplay, and he doesn’t disappoint in his understanding of the importance of space. Trevor’s shifting between blast beats and the more dynamic or slower passages is executed with precision and intent; a key element to all music that on a wider scale throughout the music world has been long forgotten.


Outside of this impressive debut, Pillorian released a two-song 7″ EP on Eisenwald that features “The Ardor of Scorn,” which is an exclusive track featuring Allison Chesley (otherwise known as Helen Money). The EP was unleashed just a month ago and quickly sold out. Obsidian Arc, however, was officially released just a week ago and saw its preorder phase through Haughm’s Dammerung Arts in North America and Eisenwald for the European audience, respectively. Making their live debut at Old Nick’s Pub in Eugene, Oregon at the end of this month, Pillorian will then be set to embark on a full European tour with Valborg in support of this album, as well as appearing at various high-profile festivals including Inferno in Norway & Roadburn in the Netherlands.

If it’s not clear enough to you by now, Obsidian Arc is exceptional and has surpassed the expectations that were set out for it upon its initial announcement. This record offers a rich experience and is thankfully a complex new beginning for three capable, experienced musicians. Obsidian Arc was clearly worth the wait for those who have been holding their breath since September.

Track List:

01) By the Light of a Black Sun
02) Archaen Divinity
03) The Vestige of Thorns
04) Forged Iron Crucible
05) A Stygian Pyre
06) The Sentient Arcanum
07) Dark Is the River of Man

Written by: Ben Manzella
Label: Eisenwald (Germany) / Eisen119 / 12″ LP, CD, Digital
Black Metal