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Agalloch - Marrow Of The Spirit CD (album) cover

MARROW OF THE SPIRIT

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.78 | 162 ratings

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jverweij
4 stars Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit. For me this was one to look forward to. I've been a fan of Agalloch since the Mantle and have thoroughly enjoyed Ashes Against the Grain as well. It took me quite some effort to eventualy gain a copy of marrow of the spirit, because i live in europe and we are at the mercy of viva hate records (why...tell me why?). A few days ago it had finally arrived and I was as happy as a kid at christmas. I have played the record for about 8 times in it's entirety now, which is about the amount I need to completely digest an Agalloch record, so I feel confident that I can now write a review.

The album opens with "they escaped the weight of darkness" . This is a really slow, mood-setting opener and it does just that. The mood is bleak and dark, but that really is nothing new to Agalloch. Nice cello-driven intro, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Next comes "into the painted grey" . The intro to this song is very loud and chaotic, mostly due to the blastbeats. To my knowledge this is the first time that blastbeats are used on an Agalloch record, and it is a significant change to the vibe the band usually has. Too be quite honest, I do not think that blastbeats and Agalloch are a great mix, but more about the drumming later. After about a minute it breaks into a very recognizable Agalloch-riff. The song ventures on until at about 4:30 there's blastbeats again. Again, this does not really add anything to the sound, it makes it sound chaotic and out of place. Then again when at 5:30 the blastbeats stop and make room for the guitar riff, the contrast displayed is very nice. This pattern is (unfortunately) repeated troughout the whole song. Apparently Agalloch has decided to create a bigger contrast in their songs, much as Opeth did on Watershed (there, blastbeats were introduced aswell). Basically this an Agalloch song as we've come to like and expect, with the addition of far more aggressive drums. (6/10)

Track #3 "the Watcher's Monolith" . This song starts in a "mantle"-like fashion with accousitc guitars. the riff at 2:00 is not really Agalloch-like and it is quite obvious that these guys are trying to evolve, again similar to what Opeth was doing to Watershed. I keep bringing this up because after reading alot of both expert- and fan reviews it would seem that this album is producing the same feelings of controversy as did Watershed. A part of the dedicated fans seems to be turning away from this album, while another part embraces the bands craving for exploration. Anyways, back to the song. At about 3:20 the first and sadly only clean vocals of the album appear, very nice. The same musical pattern keeps repeating until 5:00, where the song takes another direction. This song reminds me mostly of the mantle, but with more agressiveness, which i think is a good thing. It goes from seriously loud to calm, it just seems like the differences between loud and calm are bigger. The song ends with nighttime environmental sounds and a very nice atmospheric piano outtro. (9/10)

The environmental sounds continue into the album's epic "Black Lake Nidstång" . It starts with an eerie bass sound, followed by drums signaling something big coming our way. Slowly the guitars build up the mood. This is an amazing intro. At 2:30 the slow electric-guitar driven riff gets support from an accoustic mini-solo. The songs main part begins at about 4:10. 2 guitar driven riff accompanied by Haughm's whispers. This continues until 7:20 where all of a sudden "pale folklore"-like singing is displayed. This was something I did not really like on Pale Folklore, but here it really fits. The emotion displayed in singing is fantastic, showing a mix of despair, fear, and pain. At 10:00 the song is starting to steer in a completely different direction. It starts with electronic spacelike bass (almost Pink Floydlike), added with triangle sounds, which again set a great mood. Slowly the bass line opens up for a rather unusual (for Agalloch atleast) guitar riff, with an equally unusual bassline. This part of the song is really incredible. The song ends in heavy fashion, which suits it well. Imo this is the best song Agalloch has ever made, and I doubt they will ever be able to top this. This song alone is worth buying this album (10/10)

Surely the rest of the album will be a disappointment after Black Lake Nidstång? No it really isnt. "Ghost of midwinter fires" . Again the guitar riffing here seems remarkably different from both the Mantle and Ashes against the Grain, but I definately like it. The calming intro is nevertheless very much Agalloch. At 3:00 the song gets heavier, supported by heavy grunts. The chorus is yet again backed up by blastbeats, but this time it seems to fit the music alot better. Right before 6:00 the music jumps back to a variation of the intro-riff, which is very nicely done. All in all this is an excellent song (9/10).

The last song on the album "to Drown" is a very slow, dark one. This starts with the sound of wind and floating water, accompanied by an eerie sounding cello. An equally eerie low riff is played on the accoustic guitar, shortly followed by the electric guitar. Whispers of Haughm have never been more at place. The eeriness is actually getting heavier the further we are in the song. At about 5:10 the electronics join forces with the cello and the song goes from providing an eerie mood to providing a dreaded mood, truly haunting. Very good last song (9/10)

In total I would rate this album 88/100. This is by far the most progressive record Agalloch has made. The only disappointment is with the drums. The blastbeats are out of place, and add nothing but chaos imo. It might have to do something with the way the drumming is recorded aswell, because throughout the album they seem to be more of a presence then they were on previous Agalloch records, but this will not in the least keep me from enjoying this record for what it is, a masterpiece.

jverweij | 4/5 |

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