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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 Mantle (Remastered) (2xLP Gatefold Vinyl)The Mantle (Remastered) (2xLP Gatefold Vinyl)
BMG/The End Records 2016
$35.78 (used)
Ashes Against The Grain (Digipack Reissue)Ashes Against The Grain (Digipack Reissue)
BMG/The End Records 2016
Audio CD$10.71
$10.73 (used)
The Serpent & The SphereThe Serpent & The Sphere
Profound Lore 2014
Audio CD$9.99
$7.91 (used)
Pale Folklore (2xLP Gatefold Vinyl)Pale Folklore (2xLP Gatefold Vinyl)
BMG/The End Records 2016
$18.00 (used)
Marrow of the SpiritMarrow of the Spirit
Imports 2010
Audio CD$26.63
$24.99 (used)
Of Stone, Wind, and PillorOf Stone, Wind, and Pillor
The End Records 2002
Audio CD$30.81
$26.52 (used)
Agalloch: The Mantle Vinyl 2LPAgalloch: The Mantle Vinyl 2LP
The End Records
Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain Vinyl 2LPAgalloch: Ashes Against The Grain Vinyl 2LP
The End Records
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AGALLOCH discography

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

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

3.76 | 144 ratings
Pale Folklore
4.16 | 332 ratings
The Mantle
3.84 | 204 ratings
Ashes Against The Grain
3.90 | 188 ratings
Marrow Of The Spirit
3.75 | 74 ratings
The Serpent & The Sphere

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

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

2.18 | 8 ratings
The Demonstration Archive
4.25 | 4 ratings
The Compendium Archive
4.60 | 5 ratings

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

2.82 | 23 ratings
From Which of this Oak
3.28 | 36 ratings
Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor
2.28 | 22 ratings
Tomorrow Will Never Come
2.07 | 27 ratings
The Grey
3.54 | 55 ratings
The White EP
4.40 | 32 ratings
Faustian Echoes
3.67 | 6 ratings
Celestial Effigy


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Pale Folklore by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.76 | 144 ratings

Pale Folklore
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by javajeff

5 stars Atmospheric and stunning! I am just getting into Agalloch late, so I am absorbing the collection at one time. I enjoy Pale Folklore more than The Mantle, but they are both great albums. This is really an excellent place to start, and work your way through all the albums. With such an amazing catalog of music, it is really hard to go wrong. Pale Folklore has elements of post-rock, operatic vocals for layers of texture, and of course excellent musicianship and songwriting. I have no complaints with this excellent debut, and feel it deserves a 4.5/5 rating. She Painted Fire Across The Skyline parts 1,2 and 3 is just an incredible suite and a worthy addition to any collection.
 Pale Folklore by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.76 | 144 ratings

Pale Folklore
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Agalloch's debut album sets out the stall for what the band would offer for much of their subsequent career: an intricate mixture of influences from atmospheric black metal, post-rock, folk metal, and just plain traditional folk, combined into an intriguing mixture. One of the things which keep Agalloch interesting as a group is that whilst most of those ingredients are present to one extent or another on most of their albums, at the same time the centre of gravity shifts about, making each album a distinct and different proposition. Pale Folklore, for its part, seems to me to be centred in a deliciously accessible brand of folky metal which gives way to darker currents as the album progresses, and is a worthy part of the group's musical progression.
 Marrow Of The Spirit by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.90 | 188 ratings

Marrow Of The Spirit
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by RuntimeError

5 stars Agalloch combined their earlier ideas and crafted a timeless masterpiece.

This is generally a misunderstood album by Agalloch fans. It doesn't feature the purity and inescapable solitude of 'Ashes', neither it features the examination of natural beauty like in 'The Mantle'. What it does however, is finally achieving Agalloch's vision of translating vision into sound. When the album starts with the cello piece, you are instantly dragged into a path you do not know leads. I don't think I've ever seen the cover art resembling the album athmosphere so well. When this grandeur path ends, a valley of horror, fear and death opens up with 'Into The Painted Grey' - one of my favourite Agalloch pieces. The first blastbeats and amazing tremolo picking melody transfers your mind to another plane. It's good that Agalloch decided to ditch the overproduced digital style and try something raw and violent. It certainly works here. 'Into The Painted Grey' dismantle into very athmospheric guitar work and toms start to come in and at last the vocals along with some standard Agalloch riffing. This song goes through many stages finally achieving a magnificent climax at the end.

'The Watcher's Monolith' starts slowly while holding the tension from the last song and it climaxes into very simple melody accompanied by heavy pounding drums and vocals. The outro serves as a path to the next song: 'Black Lake Nidstång' . This horrifying masterpiece showcases why Agalloch is so loved by many. The screaming 'Nithing Pole' vocals are absolutely terrific in every way. At first listen this song might seem rather dragging but everything here serves a purpose.

'Ghost of Midwinter Fires' is the weakest song unfortunately. I wished they had thought of something more original after the previous masterpiece. It's not bad of course, but somehow it doesn't succesfully hold the athmosphere set by previous songs.

'To Drown' is a post-rock type of song where Haughm whispers his epic lyrics. This song is so haunting and beautiful that I cannot put the emotions into words. Listen to yourself!

5/5 - a masterpiece

 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 74 ratings

The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars One of my co-workers who I give a ride to and from work asked me the other day if i'd heard of AGALLOCH. Well the answer was yes and he went on and on about them. He's a Death Metal fan and said he's ordered all of their music. It was this album that got his attention so I thought it was high time I reviewed it. This is AGALLOCH's fifth studio album and the majority feel it's also the fifth best, yet many of those including Conor and Jonas feel it's still a 4 star recording. For my taste this isn't just barely 4 stars but closer to 4.5 stars, i've enjoyed the hell out of this one. By the way these guys have released a studio album every four years without fail.

"Birth And Death Of The Pillars Of Creation" is a good rainy day tune with those depressing guitar leads and the overall sound. We get an acoustic guitar intro that lasts over a minute before the heaviness arrives. Strummed guitar only before 3 minutes but then it kicks into gear once again. Vocals after 4 1/2 minutes and they will come and go in this mid-paced doomy track. "(Serpens Caput)" is a 3 minute track of acoustic guitar melodies along with some atmosphere. "The Astral Dialogue" is heavy with some fast paced drumming before a minute. Vocals join in and then we get guitar only 2 1/2 minutes in. Cool. It then kicks back in. "Dark Matter Gods" is a top three tune for me. The sound is almost brighter here and uptempo as the vocals come and go. There's some amazing moments in this one including the sound 6 minutes in and a minute later. So good!

"Celestial Effigy" is another top three track for me. The drums, bass and guitar all sound incredible here. Vocals before 2 minutes and check out the atmosphere after 3 minutes which is almost mellotron-like. It then picks up again. "Cor Serpentis(The Sphere)" is a pleasant acoustic guitar driven piece at around 3 minutes in length. "Vales beyond Dimension" builds nicely but then it settles and the vocals join in around 1 1/2 minutes. Spoken words too a minute later in this melancholic piece, especially the guitar leads. "Plateau Of The Ages" is my final top three. This is the longest song at around 12 1/2 minutes. Atmosphere to open as the electric guitar is picked. It turns heavier 2 minutes in as some excellent guitar solos come and go over top. There's even some Post-Rock styled guitar 4 1/2 minutes in that lasts for some time. Love the guitar throughout this one. Tribal-like drumming 9 1/2 minutes in and they are kicking ass 11 minutes in. "(Serpens Cauda)" ends the album as we get acoustic guitar and atmosphere leading the way, the guitar is beautiful I must say.

Another solid album from these boys who have in my opinion been very consistent throughout their career. Great album!

 Ashes Against The Grain by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.84 | 204 ratings

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!

 The Mantle by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.16 | 332 ratings

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.

 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 74 ratings

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.

 The Grey by AGALLOCH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2004
2.07 | 27 ratings

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.

 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 74 ratings

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.

 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 74 ratings

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.

Thanks to Littlewashu5 for the artist addition. and to Any Color You Like for the last updates

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