Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reviews by Chase: Agalloch, "The Serpent and The Sphere"

AGALLOCH - The Serpent and The Sphere
"The Serpent and The Sphere"

Track Listing:
# TitleLength
1."Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation"10:28
2."(serpens caput)"3:06
3."The Astral Dialogue"5:11
4."Dark Matter Gods"8:36
5."Celestial Effigy"6:59
6."Cor Serpentis (the sphere)"2:58
7."Vales Beyond Dimension"6:48
8."Plateau of the Ages""12:26
9."(serpens cauda)"3:12
Total Length:  

Agalloch… where do I even begin? Hailing from Portland, Oregon, and originally formed in 1995 by vocalist and guitarist John Haughm, they have put out an impressive catalogue of perfection. If you have never listened to this band, you need to. If you don’t like this band, something is wrong with you. Seriously wrong with you. The music produced by Agalloch is something that is altogether different than the entirety of metal. It transcends any genre of music, becoming something of it’s own classification. But what is Agalloch? They are equal parts black metal, doom metal, neo-folk, post-rock, neo-classical, and pure atmosphere. They pull influences from everywhere; from the Dark Metal band Bethlehem to the Progressive Rock band Rush. Agalloch calls themselves Dark Metal, but when in reality, their genre should just be ‘Agalloch’.

But are they just Agalloch? Is Iron Maiden just Iron Maiden? There is a reason why the name ‘Agalloch’ resonates so highly with the metal community and there’s a reason why I called in sick to work to just listen to this gods-damned album 5 times in a row. The Serpent and The Sphere is a masterpiece, hands down. There are only a small handful of bands that can just create perfection and these bands, by somehow, have the supernatural ability to just bleed perfection. Iron Maiden does it, Black Sabbath does it, Death did it, and Agalloch is doing it right now. The Serpent and the Sphere is perfection.

If you’re a fan of Agalloch, and I know you are, then you’ll be happy to hear that this is their most progressive album yet. It’s almost like they blended together all of their previous albums/styles and added a whole other array of fresh ingredients. The interplay between aggression and melody is Agalloch’s key element and they seem to have brought it tenfold on this release. There is a clear doom-metal influence on this album that is apparent from the start to the very finish; this is by far their heaviest album yet.

The album starts out with The Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation which has a clear emphasis on doom. Whether it be from the heavy doomy guitar riffs or the deep growls that Agalloch hasn’t used since their demos, it bellows doom at the top of its lungs. The next track is (Serpens Caput) which is the first of the instrumental neo-folk tracks that were performed by guest Musk Ox guitarist Nathanaël Larochette. It’s a gorgeous piece that flows right into the next song, The Astral Dialogue.

The entire album is one giant flowing masterpiece. Just like many albums before it, it was made to be listened to from front to back. I have found myself listening to this from start to finish and not knowing where which song starts and which song ends. The Astral Dialogue is an epic 6 minute piece filled with some of the most power and energy of any Agalloch song. Dark Matter Gods is next and slows the pace down again but in doing so, sounds more like the old school Agalloch we all love. This song flows into Celestial Effigy, which was the single for the album. This song has some of the jammiest riffs of the release and ends with one of the best melodic parts Agalloch has ever done.

Cor Serpentis, the second Neo-Folk piece by Nathanaël, starts at the conclusion of Celestial Effigy and following it is Vales Beyond Dimension. This is the last Agalloch song on the album with vocals and John brings them to the forefront around the 1 minute mark with a croaking “I am alive”. This song arguably has the best lyrics on the album. Right after Vales is my favorite song on the album, Plateau of Ages. This is the instrumental conclusion to the album, and at 12 minutes, it’s a doozy. I’ve listened to it at least 4 times by itself on repeat already and its worth every second. The album then ends with Nathanaël a third time, playing us out with his last piece, Serpens Cauda.

This is the album of the year 2014. Yeah, I said it. It’s an absolute masterpiece and once again Agalloch fails to disappoint. The production is perfect; the bass punches through and the drums have balls. The mix is superb; you can hear every detail. Honestly, if you haven’t listened to this thing by now, you need to drop what you’re doing.

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