Agalloch "Ashes Against the Grain" CDPosted on Friday, September 1st, 2006 @ 11:37am » permalink
I've adored Agalloch since the very moment I first encountered their incredible "Pale Folklore" debut many years ago (which I revisited here last year), and they've not slipped from my list of favorite contemporary metal bands once since that day. So it was with great pleasure that I picked up their new album, "Ashes Against the Grain", from The End Records shortly after its release earlier this month. As expected, this is yet another absolutely stellar album in the Agalloch canon, which delves into new fields while still retaining the dark melodies and brooding atmospheric elements upon which the band has always laid its foundation.
In some respects the core of this album is similar to the somber fluidity of "The Mantle", though stripping things down a touch and letting a slightly more pulsing, droning style of melody seep into the arrangements. However, I'd also cite that the material feels a little more dynamic once again, returning to some of the epic buildups and "harsher" (at least by contrast) aesthetics of the mighty "Pale Folklore". There are still a great deal of lush, restrained passages with toned down singing or whispering alongside acoustic guitars and dense percussion, but it feels like there's more of a counterbalance here with distorted chord progressions and layered melody lines, or even the occasional display of sneered vocals. At the same time, you get the sense that the bulk of the record is instrumental. Damn near every composition tops seven minutes, and there are no vocals for the first five minutes of the opening track, for example. Beyond that, over two-thirds of the three-part, nearly 20-minute closer, "Our Fortress is Burning…", is entirely instrumental – including just over seven minutes of churning ambient noise to close the disc during the final segment, "III – The Grain". Even still, to some degree, "Ashes Against the Grain" exemplifies the result of all of Agalloch's past work fused together and taken to a new level of focus – both in terms of songwriting and with regard to performance and recording quality. It would seem that this band can simply do no wrong…
I quite enjoy the lyrics on this record as well, as is generally the case with this outstanding outfit:
The woeful silence and wind's reflection of your body's pale ode, an icy fortress of blood and ages. Sky fire above, ice below the hearth. Fall away from me to that citadel at the end of time, where death sleeps and dreams of your buried pain. There has never been a silence like this before. There will never be an ode like this again.
This band is simply incredible, and will likely always deserve far more appreciation than whatever significant amount they'll achieve. Buy this record, explore the band's back catalog (if you're unfortunate enough to have not done so already), and experience a rare breed of inventive, uncategorizable metal the likes of which are immeasurably uncommon: