"The Serpent & The Sphere" (Profound Lore Records; 2014)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I must admit, this is my first time hearing Agalloch. These guys are doom metal, black metal, and folk metal. They've been around since 1998 with their d?ut disc "Pale Folklore." This type of music can be very dark and full of drudge. It has that creepy kind of element to it but it also has some enlightening moments due to the "folk guitar" aspect. Agalloch blend acoustic and electric guitars throughout "The Serpent & the Sphere" very seamlessly.

The vocals, when they are present, are dark and not very understandable so when the music takes over a song it's best just to let it unfold and grow to its potential. There are plenty of cool guitar sounds on this disc. A lot of it is progressive and it has a great sound. There is more music than vocals on "The Serpent & the Sphere" and I found myself just sitting back and listening to the incredible guitar work and not worrying about what might be sung or growled.

There are plenty of time signature changes due to the in and out method of electric and acoustic guitars. The rhythm section keeps a solid sound behind the upfront guitar. There are burst solos, lengthy solos, fill-ins and plenty of backing guitar to keep the music never predictable and always interesting.

Agalloch: John Haughm - guitars, vocals; Don Anderson ? guitars, piano; Jason William Walton ? bass; Aesop Dekker ? drums. Guest musicians: Nathana? Larochette (Musk Ox) ? acoustic guitars.

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"Ashes Against the Grain" (The End; 2006)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Portland, OR black metal troupe Agalloch have always been oppressively heavy, but they've gotten a whole lot heavier on this, their latest eight-track offering, which makes "Ashes Against the Grain" the band's most exhilarating release to date. 

While the remnants of their acoustic alchemy from albums such as "The Mantle" are still very much apparent throughout the course of the disc, a bulk of the material is electric guitar driven, and heavy-handedly at that, showcasing the vibes usually set aside for acts like Katatonia and Daylight Dies. 

Tracks like the fist-pumping anthemic feel of "Not Unlike the Waves" glimmer with lead guitar brilliance, as the glistening "Fire Above, Ice Below" clocks in at over ten minutes and is laden with some of the most moving melancholic musical passages heard from a metal band, while the quartet's somberly-charged vitriol kicks in on "Limbs" and "Falling Snow," evoking a one-two punch that those on suicide watch should steer clear from. 

Raising the bar for black metal across the globe, this gem is a must have for adventurous avant-garde metal fans everywhere.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Revised: 01 Jul 2024 12:10:24 -0400.