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The 'loch, reinvented once again. - 100%

raspberrysoda, January 15th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Profound Lore Records (Digipak)

Agalloch have always delivered good albums. From the proggy debut, to the melancholic The Mantle, and the shoegaze influenced Ashes Against the Grain, the band managed to reinvent themselves EVERY SINGLE TIME, while always keeping their material original (Kirisun, anyone?). The band's originality streak wasn't skipped over in this album.

The band's musicianship hasn't degraded from its quality in their previous albums. John and Don maintain the album's sound with very melancholic and melodic riffs, varying between kvlt tremolo sections to post-metal passages and distorted doomy riffs that are accompanied by fitting acoustic guitars and deep, emotional solos. They don't fall out of relevance in every moment of the album, which is a thing that most bands of the genre never achieved in any of their albums. The drumming and bass help with keeping the steady tempo of the songs- a thing which defines their music which is very dependent on these two instruments.

There is no doubt that the band wanted a different direction with this album- for the sole reason that none of their previous or proceeding albums share the same atmosphere that Marrow of the Spirit has. It is darker than The Mantle and rawer than the over-produced Ashes Against the Grain, but isn't dragging like their debut. While being very depressive and excruciated, it still is very tamed, and even has a sense of calmness in a certain way. To fuel the melancholic atmosphere, the band uses some very tortured whistling/screaming that execute very correlating lyrics:

"Where am I?
How long shall I suffer here?
Forlorn in the cold neolithic embrace
Forsaken deep in the sullen tide
How long shall I suffer here?"
(Into the Painted Grey)

Another notable thing about this album is the use of unorthodox instruments. I bet you can't name a single metal band that uses hollow bones or Gockenspiels as percussion instruments, or a very 60's styled Moog synth. They don't hinder the album's musicianship and sense of continuousness, but instead they fit in perfectly at every moment they show up and add to the musical diversity and the album's interestingness and sense of originality.

A very eminent thing in Marrow of the Spirit is the simple fact that every song is different, with still having the same base structures: while Black Lake Niðstång has a very brooding and droning ambient calm section in the middle, Ghosts Of The Midwinter Fires have parts that sound like they were played by guitar player Ewan Dobson (who plays trance-like palm muted guitar pieces), the cello-fueled instrumental They Escaped the Weight of Darkness or the post-apocalyptic To Drown. They definitely lack no originality and boldness, and provide an excellent resource of progressiveness.

Hell, the band even made the album's cover photo atmospheric. Hvis Lysett Tar Oss and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas don't give you a slightest portion of feeling that the cover has. I can't recall ANY album cover that has ever triggered any emotions within myself, and this band made one. The production in this album, as stated before, is intendedly rawer than their previous release (with the excuse of it being too polished)- but it doesn't fall out of quality, and every instrument is heard perfectly throughout the album, which is nothing short than perfect: it has everything an atmospheric metal release needs: moody instruments, a sense of originality, a haunting atmosphere and vast soundscapes with gigantic walls of sound.