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THE METAL OBSERVER - Review - AGALLOCH - Ashes Against The Grain

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7 tablatures for Agalloch

Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain (4,5/10) - USA - 2006

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


  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

For some reason, I eat a lot of bread and butter pudding. It wasn't until I was writing this review that I knew why. I didn't really like it all that much- it tastes decent, but not too great- but the reason why is pretty much the same reason why I listen to AGALLOCH. Pretty simple really- bread and butter pudding, like this band/album, is fairly pleasant (sweet but not TOO sweet), has a fairly nice texture, goes down well, and doesn't give me constipation and what not.

Of course, there will be those who say: "Shut up, this is a cold/desolate/dark/melancholic album", or whatever, but those people would be advised to grow some bigger testicles. Fact of the matter is that AGALLOCH are quite bland and somewhat inoffensive (hell, my Mum likes 'em), and while the most complimentary adjective I can think of for them is 'pleasant', that doesn't entirely work against them.

I guess it's because that pleasantness makes this easy to listen to. When it's raining and I want to feel slightly thoughtful (without actually having to think), or when I want to put some music that I can study to, this album dominates. It's also a good album to play around chicks- the right mix between 'edgy', but also all 'poetic' and 'romantic'.

I'd be happy leaving it at that, but some musical description is required. There will be those who will claim that tunes like "Limbs" and "Fire Above, Ice Below" are some sort of Black/Folk/"Dark" Metal masterpieces, but we all know that's not true- AGALLOCH traffic in a kind of slow burning, completely tame atmospheric Rock that brings to mind an ULVER song covered by COLDPLAY. There really isn't much here to suggest that it's Metal- the guitars are happy doing the 'chug away at chords' kinda thing, the vocalist may do some sort of Black Metal rasps but they still sound ridiculously polished and tame, and nothing getting too fast or too slow lest their delicate fans get upset. It's worth noting that the best song ("Falling Snow") is when Agalloch finally admit that they're actually not that Metal, or atmospheric or whatever, and write a long but still quite straight ahead Rock tune.

It's hard to deny that this ULVER/DRUDKH/COLDPLAY hybrid has been well executed. of course, the problem with all of this vaguely-foresty pleasantness is that it does get boring. Forcing myself to listen to this thing with no distractions made me quite weary, and whoever recorded the clean guitar should've been shot (No, it does not sound good if you put a Chorus effect on every freaking clean guitar bit). The vocals are pretty annoying, and AGALLOCH seem to be under the same impression that has plagued a few other similar bands (OPETH, I'm looking at you)- the songs average somewhere around the nine minute mark, with quite a few somewhat unnecessary acoustic bits stinking the songs up.

To conclude, then, it's hard for me to hate this album, because it's so lukewarm in nature that it's hard to have any feelings about it all. I guess it's a well executed bit of music, but hardly what you'd call exciting. Most people will hardly ever listen to it, but if you like supermarket/elevator music, or want to play, uhh, 'Metal' that your mother/pastor/girlfriend/grandparents approve of, then perhaps you should pick this album up.

(Online May 11, 2008)

Caspian Yurisich

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