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Agalloch-Marrow Of The Spirit - 69%

marblez, January 5th, 2011

Agalloch is probably one of the better bands to have broken out from the American metal scene in recent years. Their music is an interesting blend of styles, some of the most dominant being black metal, neo-folk, doom metal, and post-rock. I tend to call it atmospheric black metal, but that isn't really a good description, as it neglects many aspects of the music. It's really something you have to just listen to and make up your own mind. However, it should be noted that the band very much invokes an atmosphere of nature, especially of the American northwest(the band is from Portland). This atmosphere has been present on all past releases, and is still present on "Marrow Of The Spirit"

The album itself almost immediately defines itself as different from other Agalloch releases from the start. The opening track "They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness" is three minutes of cellos over a sample of a running river. The next track incorporates a lot of extreme metal drumming(it opens with a blast beat), which was already something the band didn't really utilize. John's black metal rasp is very echoey, but somehow sounds harsher here, whereas before it could be described as a harsh whisper. "The Watcher's Monolith" reminds me of "Fire Above Ice Below" from the previous album in pacing and melody, something I liked very much.

"Black Lake Nidstang" is my least favourite track here. It developes a little slowly, and despite having some nice melodies, I thought it was a lot longer than it really should have been. However, after that comes "Ghost Of The Midwinter Fires", my favourite song here. It has a very consistent feeling and developes around the central motif from the start, in a similar way to "Not Unlike The Waves". It seems to develope naturally, giving the band lots of different melodies to play with and place around the song. There is another blast beat hear, and it works extremely well. "To Drown" closes off the record very slowly and drearily, featuring alot of ambient noise throughout. Towards the end, you can hear the guitars playing the melody from "They Escaped..." as the track fades into noise and then into silence. A great ending.

However, I'm going to say that this is Agallochs worst album. While by no means a particularly bad one, many parts seem rather lackluster, and most of the songs don't quite grab you in the way that the other albums did. The production is also worth mentioning. Apparently, it was recorded on analog equipment instead of digital, giving it a murky sound. While the tone works well for the atmosphere, the guitars sound rather flat and powerless. There are also more than a few moments where everything seems to get mushed together rather messily. I can't say I hate it, and it has grown on me since I first listened to it. However, it is not without some glaring problems, and I would really recommend "Pale Folklore" and "Ashes Against The Grain" very heavily for newcomers to this band.