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It is not just a bleak winter!!! - 95%

AgeOfTheWiccans, May 13th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Viva Hate Records

Agalloch is an interesting band, the quartet from Portland, Oregon, has proven to be one of the rare bands capable of maintaining a very high-quality level with each new release. "Ashes Against the Grain" had astonished the fans and thanks to a decidedly inspired song writing session. The expectations were high for "Marrow of the Spirit" because it is an album full of emotions, of atmosphere and feelings. A record that represents a step forward in the career of this band who has always refused to deliver the same product over and over again.

You can notice, from the first notes of "Into the Painted Gray", a familiar sound. A sound which turns towards black metal and as well as the post-rock experiments, which had characterized "Ashes Against the Grain", is present. The structures undergo a new direction, making the album more direct than its predecessors: the song writing of the boys of Portland manage to move with great confidence, always convincing. The fascinating duo John Haughm / Don Anderson at times maintains a formal elegance and the rhythm section becomes more robust and aggressive than in the past, also due to the contribution of Aesop Dekker.

We found ourselves with "Into the Painted Gray" which is the clearest demonstration of how the Agalloch sound has evolved. This piece represents the black metal emerging with greater arrogance. There is no shortage of splendid melodic openings. This is what we want, the Agalloch's trademark, touching moments that have characterized all the band's records so far. "The Watcher's Monolith" brings the post-rock reminiscences typical of the most recent past. This song manages to impress us, it should be noted that the track winds through moments of illusory peace and others of great tension, emphasized not only by the guitars - which become more robust - but also by John's screaming.

However, it is with "Black Lake Nidstång" that the boys score the best shot in this album. The 17 minutes progresses as it takes on a heavy and epic trend, characterized by an almost modest tone. The guitar-work becomes minimal, the rhythms more dilated and rhythmic; to enrich the whole we find delicate inserts of acoustic guitar. Musically, the long instrumental part in the second half of this piece breaks the atmosphere created in the first half. "Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires", which for the first time fails to impress me as a listener is more appealing as you listen to it more and more afterwards. The piece itself is not at all unpleasant, on the contrary, but it seems far from the emotional peaks that characterize the compositions of Agalloch. The abundant nine minutes flow nicely, but giving the impression that the track does not actually add anything new.

The end of the album is one that no one would expect. "To Drown" is slow, suffocating with an electric guitar in the background supported by a few acoustic guitar chords and accompanied by violins, which give a mood that is at the same time very delicate and melancholic. The words longed for by John and the minimal melodies lead us to the second part of the song which is totally instrumental and anomalous: the violins increase the sense of suffocation and loss that permeates the track in every note, up to the final part , in which you can hear the roaring of the water again.

"Marrow of the Spirit" ends like this, as it started, leaving a strong sense of disorientation. The emotions that come from listening to this record cannot be described with simple words, since such work, in order to be thoroughly understood, must be lived and assimilated. For the record, despite its extreme goodness, presents some (few to tell the truth) weaknesses. Among those that are most noticeable passages repeated for too long and an excessive emphasis on drumming, which sometimes seems not to marry perfectly. Wanting to understand such an album with few plays is a difficult task, almost impossible: To be able to grasp the purest essence, it must be heard over and over again. The facets are many, almost infinite and each time a new passage can be heard as a new aspect.