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AGALLOCH

Experimental/Post Metal • United States


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Agalloch biography
The essence of AGALLOCH'S music is a combination of cold, dark sorrow and natural aesthetic beauty. The foundation of the band began in late 1995 when a doom/death project called Aeolachrymae was reduced to a pile of ash. From those ashes, three bands were born - SUSURRUS INANIS, NOTHING and AGALLOCH. The primary goal in the beginning was to create majestic and epic dark metal. This vision was shared by the two main creators; John Haughm and Shane Breyer. In early 1996, a few songs slowly started to take form and in the summer, a second guitarist, Don Anderson was found. Later in the autumn, the debut demo "From Which Of This Oak" was recorded and shortly after its release, a permanent bassist - Jason William Walton Joined the effort. In early 1998 AGALLOCH recorded a new promo tape for labels only. The uniqueness of that promo earned the band a deal with The End Records and in January of 1999 they entered the studio to record their debut album.

The album, entitled "Pale Folklore", was released in June of 1999 and received much acclaim for it's grim concepts and folkloric aesthetics. Throughout 2000, the band kept a very low profile until finally emerging again with the release of a limited MCD entitled "Of Stone, Wind and Pillor" in mid 2001. This is a collection of unreleased material from 1998 - 2001 and includes a cover of Sol Invictus' "Kneel to The Cross". This cover also appears on Cynfierdd's "Sol Lucet Omnibus", a 2CD tribute to SOL INVICTUS. From late 2001 - early 2002, the band recorded their second album. Entitled "The Mantle", the album is a 70 minute epic which brings to life a darker, more bleak view of the world through more transcendental, existential, and nihilistic motifs. "The Mantle" is an expression of longing, decay, and the desperation of hope.

In 2006, the band released their third full length album "Ashes Against The Grain", which marked a shift towards a more stripped down sound compared to previous releases. Following in 2008 was "The White EP", a limited release which saw an increased aesthetical focus on acoustics and ambient soundscapes. AGALLOCH are set to release their fourth studio album, entitled "Marrow of the Spirit" in November of 2010. The release includes Aesop Dekker on drums, Dekker has previously toured and performed with AGALLOCH following the release of "Ashes Against The Grain". AGALLOCH also released a live DVD named "The Silence of Forgotten Landscapes" in 2009.

AGALLOCH hails from Portl...
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The MantleThe Mantle
The End Records 2002
Audio CD$7.31
$5.02 (used)
Pale FolklorePale Folklore
The End Records 2002
Audio CD$4.71
$4.71 (used)
The Serpent & The SphereThe Serpent & The Sphere
Profound Lore 2014
Audio CD$9.49
$8.10 (used)
Ashes Against the GrainAshes Against the Grain
The End Records 2006
Audio CD$8.25
$3.01 (used)
Marrow of the SpiritMarrow of the Spirit
Profound Lore 2010
Audio CD$8.97
$8.70 (used)
Of Stone, Wind, and PillorOf Stone, Wind, and Pillor
The End Records 2002
Audio CD$44.99
$247.26 (used)
Faustian Echoes EPFaustian Echoes EP
Dammerung Arts
Audio CD$49.95
$19.89 (used)
The Grey EPThe Grey EP
Vendlus Records
Audio CD$95.99
$83.95 (used)
Ashes Against the Grain by AGALLOCH (2006)Ashes Against the Grain by AGALLOCH (2006)
The End Records
Audio CD$26.51
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AGALLOCH discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

AGALLOCH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 130 ratings
Pale Folklore
1998
4.11 | 297 ratings
The Mantle
2002
3.83 | 186 ratings
Ashes Against The Grain
2006
3.83 | 168 ratings
Marrow Of The Spirit
2010
3.69 | 57 ratings
The Serpent & The Sphere
2014

AGALLOCH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

AGALLOCH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.14 | 13 ratings
The Silence of Forgotten Landscapes
2009

AGALLOCH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.18 | 8 ratings
The Demonstration Archive
2008
4.25 | 4 ratings
The Compendium Archive
2010
4.60 | 5 ratings
Whitedivisiongrey
2011

AGALLOCH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.82 | 21 ratings
From Which of this Oak
1996
3.28 | 35 ratings
Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor
2001
2.27 | 20 ratings
Tomorrow Will Never Come
2003
2.05 | 26 ratings
The Grey
2004
3.53 | 51 ratings
The White EP
2008
4.44 | 27 ratings
Faustian Echoes
2012
3.67 | 3 ratings
Celestial Effigy
2014

AGALLOCH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ashes Against The Grain by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.83 | 186 ratings

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Ashes Against The Grain
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by AndyJ

4 stars Agalloch's 'Ashes Against The Grain' is the third full-length studio album from the Portland metal band and is really quite a significant departure from the musical style developed on their previous album, 'The Mantle'. I remember listening to this album when it first came out, fully expecting a continuation of the folk-metal from their previous album, but instead hearing a far heavier record rooted firmly in the post-metal genre. The compositions are almost Isis or Cult Of Luna like at times, such is their heaviness.

Almost none of the folk-metal sound, which had been the bands trademark before, exists on this album. There is still a very unique Agalloch sound on this record - the black metal tremolo picking over the wall-of-sound sludgy guitars and the stark but effective drumming. But in 'Ashes' the clean vocals of John Haughm are entirely gone, almost all of the softer acoustic guitar moments are gone as well. The music is dense and, at times, stark. But the result is still as breathtaking as 'The Mantle', just in a different way. Instead of rehashing 'The Mantle', which is an album I consider to be the peak output for the band, Agalloch decided to take an entirely different route in 'Ashes'.

The compositions are long and full of suspense and build-up. The opening track alone has almost five minutes of build-up before Haughm's brilliant raspy vocals kick in. Every song on this album is a little bit different, but all rooted in a very heavy post-metal style. The focus is on the instruments and the musical progression rather than the vocals. There are very few lyrics on this album, and they only rarely intersect with the instrumental passages. Despite the density of the compositions there is a certain sense of freedom throughout this record. Haughm holds back on his voice enough to allow everyone in the band plenty of time to shine, and the result is that the vocal sections, when they do appear, are even more powerful for the listener and really grab your attention.

Every song on here is pure gold, none more so than the opening track 'Limbs' or the utterly epic three-part trilogy at the end of the record, 'Our Fortress Is Burning'. The second part of the trilogy in particular, 'Bloodbirds', gives me chills every time I hear it - the atmosphere is divine. That tremolo picking riff, first with the acoustic guitar and then with the distorted guitar is a work of genius. The final track as well is an amazing piece of electronic music, rooted in a style known as Musique Concrete.

On a bit of a side note when I studied Music at university I learned about an obscure technique used occasionally in electronic music known as granulation. This involves chopping up a stream of sound into tiny pieces, known as grains, and then rearranging them in semi-random order with overlapping between the different grains. This technique is a bit like cutting a film strip into tiny pieces, throwing them in the air and re-compositing them together in whatever order they fell and playing back the result. I mention this because the final track of the album has judicious use of this granulation technique, and its interesting to note that Agalloch knew of this technique and chose to apply it! Either that or their producer/engineer knew of the technique and talked them into using it on their record closer because it fits oh-so-well with their album title!

Final thoughts on this record are that I love it, its a work of art, brilliant compositions... But, for my worth, I still rate 'The Mantle' higher than this so I'll 'only' give it 4-stars. Seriously though, this is a brilliant album by one of the most creative and unique bands on the planet and should be heard by anyone even remotely interested in heavier progressive music... 4-stars!

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 The Mantle by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.11 | 297 ratings

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The Mantle
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by AndyJ

5 stars Agalloch's 'The Mantle' is one of the most perfect blending's of pastoral folk music and extreme metal I've ever heard - its also one of the most thoroughly depressing albums in my collection. This is not music for anyone feeling down or unhappy as it might just push you over the edge. The music is mournful and laden with sorrow, the vocals are emotional and the lyrics utterly bleak.

Musically what we have on 'The Mantle' is deeply atmospheric acoustic guitar driven music with a black metal edge. There are definitely a couple of songs on the record where the black metal style takes over almost entirely, but I wouldn't really call this album black/extreme metal - it has far more 'folky' acoustic moments than anything else. Not to mention that clean vocals dominate, and it is the extreme vocal style, which honestly aren't that extreme on this album, that are put to the side.

In many of the songs it is the acoustic guitar which leads the compositions, and the distortion guitar provides a textured background. Vocally John Haughm is absolutely spot-on in this record, both his raspy 'extreme' vocals and his clean voice are brilliantly executed. There are a great many highlights on this album, none more so than the third track, the instrumental 'Odal' or the lengthy instrumental 'The Hawthorne Passage'.

In many ways 'The Mantle' is the odd one out in the Agalloch discography. It is both totally unique from what came before, 'Pale Folklore', and what came afterwards, 'Ashes Against The Grain'. This is an album from a band not afraid to create a unique piece of art with each release, not caring how it would fit within their discography. It is also the only Agalloch album to feature a great many instrumental tracks, occupying 25 minutes of the total playtime.

Whilst I would say that 'Pale Folklore' and the albums after 'The Mantle' might only be suitable for fans of extreme metal I would definitely encourage any progressive rock fan to check out 'The Mantle'. Yes it does have some 'extreme' moments which might put you off, but there are also some really beautiful instrumental sections which I think might appeal. I'm reluctant to give too many albums a 5-star rating as it diminishes the significance of that rating, but with 'The Mantle' I can't think of any other rating. Easily their best work to-date and for my worth their only 5-star record. Unique, atmospheric and soulful. 5-stars.

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 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 57 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by AndyJ

3 stars Agalloch's 'The Serpent And The Sphere' is the fifth full length album from the Portland based experimental metal band, and it finds the band stuttering and struggling for creativity.

It pains me to describe this record in such a way. Agalloch have long been a firm favourite of mine, their first three full-length works; 'Pale Folklore', 'The Mantle' and 'Ashes Against The Grain', I consider to be truly excellent recordings and utterly essential. However the style of music the band developed on the 2006 album 'Ashes Against The Grain' has now been repeated for the last two outings without much, if any variation, and in my opinion to a lower standard than the afore mentioned 'Ashes'.

Now it isn't to say that 'The Serpent' isn't good, it just feels rather too derivative of the previous outputs from this band. There isn't anything particularly ground-breaking here. Where-as the first three albums were all unique and different to each other, and showed a band progressing and trying new things, with this record, and its predecessor, 'Marrow Of The Spirit', Agalloch feel more like they are stuck in a formula.

Furthermore the feeling I get from this record is a sense of exclusiveness (rather than inclusiveness) and it's somewhat cold towards the listener, particularly with the crushingly heavy but rather sterile opening 10 minute track. When I listen to an Agalloch album I want, above all else, a sense of atmosphere. Unfortunately that feels somewhat lacking here. If you weren't already familiar with the post metal style I doubt that 'The Serpent' would win you over.

But I feel I am being a little critical with my review up until now. Be under no doubt, there are some excellent moments here, particularly in the tracks 'Dark Matter Gods', and the (almost) closing track 'Plateau of the Ages'. Agalloch are a band I hold in the highest regards, I love their approach to metal and music in general, I just feel that with 'The Serpent And The Sphere' they were running on empty a little bit in terms of creativity.

I'd suggest any new listeners to Agalloch should probably start with either 'The Mantle' or 'Ashes Against The Grain'. This is a good, but not essential. Very definitely 3-stars.

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 The Grey by AGALLOCH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2004
2.05 | 26 ratings

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The Grey
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I definitely wouldn't call this Agalloch's worst album or E.P. simply because it doesn't really represent their sound. This is a band that has always been open to experimentation and not to remain locked into a certain particular sound like Doom Metal. They are definitely inventive and explorers of their genre and that is what elevates them above the norm. That is also part of what makes them progressive.

The tracks on this E.P. are both long and are both instrumental reinterpretations, or breakdowns if you will, of 2 tracks from The Mantle LP. "The Lodge (Dismantled)" is an excellent rehash of the original that starts out exploring the main riffs and feeling of the track. This is a more straightforward track that starts out sort of repetitious but soon develops into quite a moody dark piece that echoes the color of the title of the EP. This is a heavier piece than the 2nd, but it is still quite light compared to some of their other music and is still an experimentation of an already established piece. The heaviness is still quite blissful and strangely relaxing in a way. There are touches of dronework here, but not quite, more in the feeling of the piece then the actual performance.

The 2nd track is completely experimental. It is "Odal (Nothing Mix)" which is an appropriate name for this version. The sounds are electronic and ambient, quite a change from the previous track here, but it is still dark and brooding, a lot like a Bass Communion track but not as minimalistic. There is some structure to the track, but not much. It is still a great track for listening to on a stormy afternoon as it matches the mood.

This is not a very representative recording of the band as it is too experimental. But that is what keeps things interesting for me. Not my favorite exploration either, but still good enough when the mood is right. The music is dark and matches the title of the album. Not for everyone, but still interesting enough, I would have to rate this at 3 stars, but I love the fact that the band keeps things interesting. If this is your first Agalloch album, don't base your opinions about them solely on this album. Just be ready for experimentation and ambience here.

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 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 57 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "The Serpent & the Sphere" is the 5th full-length studio album by US doom/black metal act Agalloch. The album was released through Profound Lore Records in May 2014. Itīs been 4 years since the release of "Marrow of the Spirit (2010)", but looking down over their discography that seems to be their regular release cycle for studio albums. Agalloch have however released the "Whitedivisiongrey (2011)" compilation and the "Faustian Echoes (2012)" EP to bridge the gap between the two studio albums.

The music on "The Serpent & the Sphere" pretty much continues down the atmospheric and epic doom/black metal path that the band also tread on "Marrow of the Spirit (2010)". Itīs a music style thatīs actually a bit hard to describe correctly as it also features elements of folk, goth, post rock, and progressive rock. The only "real" black metal trait in the music is the raspy and raw vocals, which are occasionally whispering instead. Otherwise this is predominantly heavy, atmospheric and epic extreme metal. Itīs very dynamic music with both grand massive sections and beautiful mellow acoustic moments.

The album features 9 tracks and a full playing time of 59:58 minutes. Thereīre everything from 3 to 5 minutes long tracks to tracks like "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" (which features an opening that screams My Dying Bride) and "Plateau of the Ages", that both exceed the 10 minutes mark. As something extraordinary Canadian neo-folk musician Nathanaël Larochette has written and performs some acoustic guitar pieces, that work as little breathers between the more metal oriented tracks.

"The Serpent & the Sphere" is a well produced album featuring a warm, heavy and organic sound, which suits the music well and overall itīs another high quality release by Agalloch. Itīs not their most creative release but itīs still adventurous and well played and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

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 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 57 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'The Serpent & The Sphere' - Agalloch (71/100)

Agalloch is the uncommon result of an uncompromising vision and style. Though they've never let themselves be bound to one sound, their identity is strong and distinctive, even in the wake of recent imitators. With each album, Agalloch seemed to have found the perfect balance between staying true to one's own aesthetic, and shifting the style to the point where each album felt like a new journey. With that in mind, it's not surprising Agalloch have made such waves. Particularly in recent years, their momentum has snowballed to the extent where they're now one of the most talked-about bands in extreme music. Their second and third albums- The Mantle and Ashes Against the Grain- remain two of my best-loved albums ever.

With the unbearably high expectations that would no doubt arise with a new Agalloch record, I'm not altogether sure whether I could have listened to The Serpent & The Sphere without some sort of disappointment laying in wait. Agalloch's latest album is easily the least impression in their career thus far, but it yet stands as an impressive contribution to what is fast-becoming one of the best discographies in metal.

Similarly to the impression I had with 2010's Marrow of the Spirit, rather than renovate their entire style, The Serpent & The Sphere feels like a conscious consolidation of elements they previously innovated. The Ulver-esque black metal of Pale Folklore is arguably most prominent, with The Mantle's folk displays and Ashes Against the Grain's post-metal leanings filling out the rest of their palette. Taking the fourth album into account as well, The Serpent & The Sphere enjoys the distinct analog production of Marrow of the Spirit. All put together, you have an album that retains the rich quality and atmosphere of Agalloch, without so much of the identity I'd associate with their individual albums. Then again, Marrow of the Spirit also suffered this criticism, and I still consider it a masterpiece unto its own.

Whatever issues that may be had with The Serpent & The Sphere lay within the written material itself. The atmosphere remains as bold and vast, but in fusing their styles, the result is rather muddy and inconsistent. "The Astral Dialogue" and "Dark Matter Gods" pack a solid punch, but none of the individual songs have the memorable impact I may have taken for granted on earlier albums. In spite of coming off as weaker songwriters this time around, there are plenty of immaculate moments on The Serpent & The Sphere, precisely the sort of stuff that made them a favourite band of mine in the first place. "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" has a crushingly doomy feel, and while it lacks the dynamic impact of other slower Agalloch tunes (the masterful "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" comes first to mind), it sets the stage with a bleak atmosphere that carries throughout the rest of the record. While "The Astral Dialogue" seems to run together with "Dark Matter Gods" on the album, it stands out to me as one of the album's best cuts, with biting riffs that recall Agalloch's labelmates in Hammers of Misfortune. Perhaps it proves a point, but the included interlude tracks provided by Musk Ox acoustic mastermind Nathaniel LaRochette are the best written, most evocative tracks on the album. On top of creating a satisfying 'bigger picture' for the album, the interludes co-exist beautifully with Agalloch's bleakly solipsistic aesthetic, to the point where I hope this is not the last we've heard from him on an Agalloch release.

While the material on The Serpent & The Sphere does not impress me nearly as much as their last three albums, I can safely say Agalloch have improved the practical execution of their material to the point of virtual perfection. With the help of producer Billy Anderson, The Serpent & The Sphere isn't just the best- sounding Agalloch have ever been- it's one of the best productions I have ever heard on a metal album period. Marrow of the Spirit played with analog grit in the wake of the overly polished Ashes Against the Grain but didn't nail it entirely. The Serpent & The Sphere enjoys a richly organic production that sometimes even outshines the music itself. It's one thing to have a polished big-budget production, but it takes some level of vision and genius to find the optimal warmth and frame for a band's sound. Aesop Dekker's drumwork is thick and heavy, the guitars sound rich, and Jason Walton's bass work is consistently audible for once. From a technical standpoint, The Serpent & The Sphere arguably succeeds beyond any other album I've heard this year. It's a shame I don't find myself quite so impressed with the music itself.

There was something beautifully poetic and captivating about the way Agalloch sought to capture the essence of nature in their lyrics and music. It's certainly a bold move for the band to have stepped away from the earthly to explore its astral counterpart, but Agalloch's wordier approach to the ethereal doesn't carry the same resonance. Even so, if anything defines The Serpent & The Sphere in the context of Agalloch's illustrious discography, it is this conceptual liberation from the worldly plane. While the music is still perfectly recognizable to what Agalloch have conjured in the past, it is conscious of this change; space electronic embellishments and oscillations virtually unheard of in their work come to bear whenever the atmosphere permits. The lyrics reveal more depth when they're read, and taken into context with the album's interlude-heavy structure and cover art featuring the ceaseless worm Ouroboros, there is plenty of depth and thought-provoking content available to anyone willing to search for it. Agalloch are none the less meticulous in their work, but their earthly aesthetics of yesteryear are preferable to the road they've taken.

While he retains the rare gift of having a distinctive black metal rasp, Haughm has limited himself to a small set of familiar snarls and brooding whispers. Where his plain (and appropriately sombre) clean vocals might have added variety on past albums, his almost entirely rasped delivery on The Serpent & The Sphere doesn't offer the impact I would expect to hear from him. Come to think of it, it's probably a significant reason why I've never been able to connect to the album's theme and lyrics. There's nothing wrong with his snarl in of itself (and I might not have even noted the lack of range in a lesser black metal act) but by the sixth time he falls back on his default moody whisper to elocute some declaration to the universe, it no longer feels as poignant or moving as it should be.

If anything's been proven to me in this experience, it's that being a fan can have its downsides. Were this the first Agalloch release I'd had the pleasure of hearing, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it more, but I'm certain that my lasting thoughts towards it wouldn't have been so critical. Perhaps the album needs a pair of fresh ears to enjoy to its fullest extent; the fact is that while Agalloch remains a powerfully resonant force with a gripping sense of style and atmosphere, they seem to be at the point where they have begun to rest on their laurels, at least when it comes to renovating their sound. The Serpent & The Sphere is a solid album for all intents and purposes, but for a band as breathtaking as Agalloch have been in the past, I was expecting more.

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 The Mantle by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.11 | 297 ratings

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The Mantle
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Aldebaran_Well

5 stars After a very good debut, ''The Mantle'' back in 2002 fell like an unexpected meteorite upon the world of heavy metal music. This U.S band instantly left its eternal mark, in terms of personality, style and quality. In my opinion, Agalloch came to take the place of good 90's Paradise Lost in the throne of solemn, doomy and sophisticated metal.

I don't know if it's prog or not but I know for sure that Agalloch serves a very specific artistic vision. Their sound consists in equal parts of slow, dramatic and gloomy metal, extended acoustic folk passages, post metal references and black metal background. These sonic elements entwine strongly with the deeper philosophy involved: There is a mysterious, grey poetry, a dark earthly gaze upon things, dare to say a pagan approach. Agalloch's music is one with the earth, the soundtrack of secret deities ruling wild places. All these are delivered through long compositions that each one feels like a myst's journey. Fast outbursts, acoustic parts and sad heavy riffs change constantly - excellent songwriting and arranging skills - offering delight to the heathen ears!

Discovering ''The Mantle'' may feel like being a solitary traveler paving upon dry autumn leaves at a twilight hour. Here you'll find a world of truth in shadows. Here you'll find metal quality. Become the myst yourself.

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 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 57 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Aldebaran_Well

4 stars The kings of naturalistic metal are back, 4 years after ''Marrow of the spirit'' and the new album holds no surprises. The band still walks on the same musical road they alone created and defined 12 years ago with ''The Mantle''. Same ingredients: springing from black metal, sorrowful slow tempo metal, folk character, post rock/metal aesthetics, pagan philosophy. Quality is the word. Same taste: Delicious. The dish is served in a very clean and modern production which is a very impressive choice from the band. Most bands in Agalloch's style choose moody sounds. Agalloch obviously don't have any playing weaknesses to hide...

Though I don't believe they will ever release a mediocre record, it's obvious to me that their inspiration peaks have been reached in the past. After ''The Mantle'', Agalloch seem happy just to reserve persuasively their artistic personality, the musical and spiritual beliefs and the ideas this band stands for. So expect metal of extreme quality, expect music with deep roots and adventurous soundscapes that, yes, a progster may find enjoyable. Expect no masterpiece, too.

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 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 57 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by JJLehto
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The masters of atmospheric metal are back with their latest release.

"The Serpent & the Sphere" feels like a continuation of "Ashes Against the Grain" in that Agalloch continues to drift from their black metal tendencies, (even if they were always tempered with folk and prog) with more focus on black metal aesthetics, atmosphere and song writing. While Haughm's classic raw, gravely rasps remain, there are very few blast beats to be found, and indeed the overall album has a less intense pace and feel to it. The songs are mid paced and far more subdued than their last album, "Marrow of the Spirit". In fact, I'd say "The Serpent & the Sphere" is more subdued than their overall body of work, which has never been a stranger to tremolo picked guitar work, or bludgeoning. Not to say these aspects are absent, (there's even some good ol double bass chain drumming) but there just seems to be "less" of everything, if that makes sense. A more sparse, less heavy feel to the music. Certainly less intensity, and even more acoustic/light guitar. The balance between light, melodic passages and heavy, raw passages seems to have tipped definitively towards the former.

The tone of the music itself is cleaner and lighter than "Marrow of the Spirit", which admittedly took a bit of adjustment..I am used to Agalloch loud, buzzing, fuzzy guitar noise. My natural inclination upon first hearing this is "flat" or "lacking power" but of course it just is different sounding. I personally applaud the band for the lighter style.

This is perhaps not unexpected, as Agalloch was moving progressively in this direction until they released Marrow. So maybe the style is what we should have expected, is it successful?

Of course.

The songwriting as solid as ever. Textured, layered guitar work with riffs and melodies to die for, (even if they are lesser on this album than previous) and songs that move like a river, drifting but not without direction. There are a few other minor changes, such as more prominent bass, and a smidge "more" to the drumming than is typical. The songs are shorter than usual, and this album has a continuous flow to it, with segue pieces to connect the songs elegantly.

So overall, another solid, (if unspectacular) output from Agalloch, and as we know solid from them is better than most other bands could hope for. I will be sure to give this album many listens over the near future, and like all their other albums I'm sure this album will grow on me more and more.

Four Stars

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 Marrow Of The Spirit by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.83 | 168 ratings

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Marrow Of The Spirit
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by stranded_starfish

4 stars What happened? In my reviews of Agalloch's preceeding efforts, I wrote, essentially (spoiler alert!) that they were adequate but unexceptional. Then along comes this, a much darker and heavier release ' much closer to their Black Metal origins ' and it's a formula that really works. The musicality is still there, which is made apparent right from the outset with a tastefully classical-sounding introduction track, which is then mirrored in the final track. But it's enough that this feels more like a beautifully melodic black metal album, in parts oddly reminiscent of French band Peste Noire (albeit without the horrendous politics). A lineup change is, perhaps, partly to be credited for the shift in style: a new drummer, whose work sits comparatively prominently in the recording, driving the music elegantly and unstoppably forward. The guitar work is different too, feeling more centred around genuine riffs, as opposed to being used purely as a 'mood-generator'.

An extremely good album, of interest to anyone seeking the heavier end of post-metal or the more melodic end of black metal. Particularly of note is the album opener proper, Into The Painted Grey.

4/5

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