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7 tablatures for Agalloch


Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain (9,5/10) - USA - 2006

Genre: Doom Metal / Black Metal
Label: The End Records
Playing time: 59:49
Band homepage: Agalloch

Tracklist:

  1. Limbs
  2. Falling Snow
  3. This White Mountain On Which You Will Die
  4. Fire Above, Ice Below
  5. Not Unlike The Waves
  6. Our Fortress Is Burning…I
  7. Our Fortress Is Burning II: Bloodbirds
  8. Our Fortress Is Burning III: The Grain
Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain

This album is not “The Mantle 2.0.” Banish the thought from your mind; do not begin listening to “Ashes Against The Grain” expecting such a repeat. But rejoice, for this album is also not “The Grey” EP given full-length form. What is it, then? Beautiful. Devastating. Resplendent. Mournful. Magnificent. Elegiac. Triumphant. Barren.

 

But that’s AGALLOCH. I don’t like speaking in absolutes, but AGALLOCH is the most important band in the United States and simply one of the best bands in the world. “The Mantle” is one of my favourite albums and judging from personal top tens, one of a significant number of “The Metal Observer”’s staff. The Metal community has been waiting for the follow up with more than baited breath.

 

And oh God, it was worth the wait. Admittedly, they could have simply remade any of their albums and many would be pleased, myself included. Instead, they reach out to something that is at once a sum of all their styles and still more. There is the withdrawn barrenness of “The Mantle,” the crackling heavier parts of “Pale Folklore;” more remarkably, there simultaneously exists the experimentation of “The Grey” and the more straight-forward, faster Black material found on their demo, “From Which Of This Oak.” While at individual moments individual elements sound like discernable moments from previous albums, no entire song is so familiar (except the final track, which sounds like it could come from SCULPTURED’s “Apollo Ends”).

 

It’s futile to try a song-by-song description; I can only hope to compare with previous AGALLOCH output. As anyone who has heard AGALLOCH knows, an attempt to describe their music undermines the emotion; how feeble an attempt to pigeon hole a genre seems compared to the great expanse that is AGALLOCH’s musical landscape!

 

That being said, I feel I can safely make some generalizations. The major shift from “The Mantle” is a gradual decline in the use of acoustic guitars. They’re still there—they open the album and jar the listener out of the initial pattern in “Limbs”—but the album is heavier, the guitars more distorted, more often. It’s enough to make you want to say that the Black Metal influences are brought to the fore, but this doesn’t sound like any Black Metal I know. Haughm’s vocals also play a less important role; they’re almost absent in the concluding trilogy, only appearing briefly in “Bloodbirds.” He does break out some screams we haven’t heard since “She Painted Fire Across The Skyline” way back on “Pale Folklore.”

 

With even less of the focus on Haughm’s voice, the bulk of the album rests on Don Anderson’s and Haughm’s guitar work. Think of the incredible emotions they elicited with solos and melodies on “In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion”—that is the thrust of the album. Here they are more bleak; there is no hope in the barren wilderness where once we found beauty in sorrow. There’s still beauty, but it’s of little comfort. I’ve said before that Don Anderson is one of the most emotional, skilled players out there and “Ashes Against The Grain” reinforces that magnificently

 

I could go on ad infinitum singing this album’s praises, but I should stop here. Any AGALLOCH fan will already be buying this album and I hope this review will simply help them to not expect the second coming of “The Mantle.” This album will take a while to get into, but the repeated listens make it a joy. Give it a chance; you’ll be happy you did. As of now I’m sitting the fence on a 9,5 or a 10 rating and I have a feeling that if I wrote this review in another month, the score would be perfect. (Online June 28, 2006)

Keith Stevens



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