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Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain CD (album) cover

ASHES AGAINST THE GRAIN

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.80 | 181 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Agalloch: Ashes Against the Grain [2006]

Rating: 8/10

Agalloch are a band who manages to create albums that are both individually unique and characteristically identifiable. This is a group with a specific style and method of music-making, but every work they create stands alone as an exclusive whole. This is one of the many reasons why their music is so interesting and powerful, and Ashes Against the Grain displays why. After the monolithic masterpiece The Mantle, Haugm and company had enormous standards to live up to. Thus, this album is not a mere recreation of The Mantle; rather, it takes the band's characteristic folk/metal dynamics and adapts them to a sort of long-form groovy ambience akin to post-rock. As with all of Agalloch's music, however, this is still an ethereal and atmospheric trip though dense musical caverns.

The spectacular 'Limbs' opens with a lengthy instrumental section focused on marching rhythms and acoustic/electric guitar interplay. The verses are equally as powerful, and the folk breakdowns keep the track consistently interesting. 'Falling Snow' is the highlight of the album. The most incredible element of this track is the groove; every idea flows together in a beautifully seamless manner. This culminates in the conclusion, which has to be one of the most powerful musical moments ever put to tape. The drum work also deserves mention; this has to be one of the best drum performances I've ever heard. 'This White Mountain on Which You Will Die' is a short and rather uninteresting ambient interlude. 'Fire Above, Ice Below' is the folkiest piece on the album. The electric guitar features an absolutely perfect tone, and the entire track is powerfully epic. 'Not Unlike the Waves' features an absolutely crushing main riff and some tortured vocals from Haugm. This track displays one of the things Agalloch does best: taking simple ideas and turning them into a compelling and complex final product. 'Our Fortress is Burning' I' is the closest Agalloch have ever gotten to pure post-metal. Dissonant piano and acoustic guitar accompany a simple yet effective driving rhythm. 'Our Fortress is Burning' II - Bloodbirds' continues with the post-rock vibe. This track's conclusion is absolutely immense; Haugm's vocals are at their most powerful here. 'Our Fortress if Burning' III - The Grain' is the album's biggest flaw. It infuriates me that they included this here. 'Bloodbirds' would have been such an epic concluding piece; in fact, it would have been of the best closing tracks on any album, ever. Instead of allowing this, however, the band tacked on seven minutes of white noise on the tail-end of the album. It's useless, and it should have been left on the cutting-room floor.

Ashes Against the Grain is an incredible album, and it pains me not to award it a full five-star rating. However, there are flaws here that prevent this from being a full-on masterpiece. The first and most obvious of these is the throwaway track 'The Grain.' The second flaw is more of a nitpick than an actual problem: some of the tracks here tend to overstate musical ideas. There are innumerable powerful riffs to be found throughout the course of these tracks, and I can't help but think that a few of them would have been more powerful if presented within a more moderate musical framework. This is not a major issue, however. Ashes Against the Grain is a superb piece of work from a creative and consistently intelligent group of musicians.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |

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