24 July 2014

Toehider - What Kind Of Creature Am I?

This album has been a long time coming as far as I’m concerned. Ever since I reviewed their last album, To Hide Her, a couple of years ago, I’ve been listening to them fairly constantly., whether To Hide Her, their 12 in 12 collection of EP’s or Children Of The Sun (A covers album of retro kids TV themes). They all have moments of brilliance on them and are probably one of my favourite current bands, along with Eureka Machines, at the moment 
My main gripe with To Hide Her was that they tried to cram in all aspects of their musical variance, from Drone, to Folk to Prog Metal and Pop Rock. The end result was a bit of a Mish Mash that detracted from the great songs. The fan-funded What Kind Of Creature Am I? dispenses with the multi-genres and sticks to energetic, catchy and irreverent Progressive Metal. It’s all the better for it.
A brief burst of discordant noise heralds the arrival of the first track, You and I Both Lose (But 5 Wins). It’s an upbeat song with a stop start riff and memorable chorus. Many songwriters like to tell stories through their lyrics but none really do so in the peculiar style that vocalist/band leader Mike Mills does. His habit of using conversational quotes through it can be hard to follow unless you actually read the lyrics along. This song is one of those songs. It tells the story of a man who once met a mysterious woman who taught him an unusual game of cards. It might have hidden meaning or it might just be weird. Either way it’s an interesting way to open the album.
Whatever Makes You Feel Superior is gloriously catchy Pop Metal complete with parping keyboards and some big, Queen-esque harmonies in the chorus. Halfway through it all goes off kilter with some heavy guitar noodlery that fades into a quiet little orchestral bit. it all comes together at the end and then finishes abruptly.
The Thing With Me carries on both the pace and the Queen influence. There’s a touch of Devin Townsend about the guitars too. It’s a fun and ridiculous song that doesn’t really have any chorus to speak of but doesn’t particularly suffer for it either. There’s a great little polka section, what sounds like a balalaika and a Wurlitzer that fades into some heavy guitar chugging. It’s a remarkable song and one of the best the band has done so far. 
The title track comes next and begins with some all epic and dramatic build up before kicking off into a surreal rambling story about a thing that hatches from an egg. It’s an enjoyable song but confusingly surreal. The humour is very much along the lines of Dr. Seuss.

There’s no sign of the pace letting up any as Smash It Out! kicks off with a frenetic burst of urgency. Two breath taking minutes later it’s gone. It its place is some well-earned reprieve in the form of Spoilt For Choice. A slow Pop Rock song all about being old and wishing you did more with your life. It’s a touching song that fits perfectly after so many fast paced songs.
(L-R Amy Campbell, Mike Mills, Ricky Evensand, Lachlan Barclay)

Next is the succinctly named Whoa. It starts off slowly with some jingly jangly verse before the chorus erupts with a cacophony of, yes, whoas. It’s annoyingly catchy and, after a couple of listens, you’ll find yourself bellowing it to whoever is in earshot.
Under The Future, We Bury The Past is the first real Prog length song at just over seven minutes. It begins modestly with some lone hammond organ and muttered vocals. it gradually builds and fades, often back to minimalist strokes of the organ (snirk). Eventually the guitars chime in and it heads off into power balladry territory with Mike making full use of the high end of range with some impressive wailing. It’s better than it sounds.
Meet The Sloth is a behemoth of a song. Its twelve and a half minutes of unabashed proggery. It’s an account of the adventures of a young boy, let’s just call him Syd (Is that a Pink Floyd reference?). It begins with some mandolin and is peppered with acoustic guitars and time shifts. Despite its length it never gets dull and seems shorter than it is.
The final song is Geese Lycan (I assume that’s a bastardization of Grease Lightning) and is probably the heaviest song of their career.  There’s full on death grunts and blast beats aplenty towards the end. It’s likely to be the only songs you’ll get to hear about someone who’s part-goose, part-wolf, all man any time soon.
What Kind Of Creature Am I? is a brilliant album and showcases perfectly how Progressive Metal doesn’t have to be pompous, serious and dull. Toehider show that it’s possible to be technical and experimental without losing sight of what makes a song great in the first place. Mike is a great guitarist and an impressive singer but it's his unique take on song writing that make Toehider special.
My one complaint is the fact that three of the songs (Whatever Makes You Feel Superior, Smash It Out and Whoa) have all been previously released, albeit not on any album. I’d have liked to have seen one or two of them left off in favour of another new song. Still, all are excellent and deserve to be heard so maybe it’s for the best.
I can’t recommend this album (or band) highly enough to anyone who likes heaver stuff and is looking for something a little different. M
9 - Almost perfect....Almost
Best Track: The Thing With Me
You Can Buy and listen to it HERE
Visit their website HERE
You can read my old review of To Hide Her HERE

23 July 2014

Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestite

I have a feeling this review will not take long, but the album is not a short release.  It is also a surprise that I am doing this review at all. This is the fifth album from American black metal Wolves In The Throne Room and it has been billed as a companion piece to their last release 'Celestial Lineage'.  At the time of that release, the band said that they were finished and not releasing anything else.  However, here we are four years on and another album is released.  A brief history lesson - the band was formed in 2003 and consists of Aaron and Nathan Weaver, plus whoever they want to help them at the time.  In metal circles, there is sometimes spoken about in hushed tones; almost as if they were super natural beings or deities who would kill if they wanted to do so.  They have a strange aura about them and they love to use natural imagery and organic sounds in their work.  I have to say from the start that the cover is one of the prettiest I have seen this year, but now we have to look at the music and see if it delivers.

Now from the outset I would like to point out that there is no metal riffage on this album, it is all very atmospheric and brooding soundscape, some guitars are on evident on this album; just not as many as some of you will like.  If you are expecting the band of old, you will be disappointed; but not as much as you would think.  As the band has always said, they will play Black Metal on their own terms.  The opening track is called "Turning Ever Towards The Sun" and much like Ulver, it dispenses of the tradition aspect that has until now been the mark of the band, the keyboards and drone material is all seeing from the outset and the eleven minutes plus of the song disappears in an instant.  I felt like I blinked and it was over, it was that hypnotic and the feeling of an almost organic nature are undeniable.  The lack of traditional black metal guitar is actually not a disadvantage for this track.  But fear not dear corpse paint fiends! Behold the guitar does appear on "Initiation at Neudeg Alm", like a distant rumble of thunder it falls on the new plains being carved from your mind.  It sounds like Sunn 0))) trying to make an earthquake in the Grand Canyon, it is a strange and epic track.

"Bridges Of Leaves" is the shortest track on offer here, coming in at just over five minutes.  It continues the foundations that have been laid by the first two tracks, with those haunting melodies and sonic vibrations.  The band continues to abandon their own tradition sound head towards a different route, something more natural to their own thoughts and dreams.  "Celestite Mirror" is just shy of fifteen minutes and represents a third of the album; so it is an important track in terms of the whole record.  The band seem to have left everything behind at this point, there is stuff on here which I am sure will make the most diehard black metal fans either combust into flames or break out in joy.  For me, it is just that shade too loose and whilst the previous works on the album were awe inspiring, this track is just a good piece of music; it is not bad, but it does not feel right.  It also has a natural break point around the nine minute point which could have split it into two and made two really interesting works; but this is a personal thing here and does not take away from the brilliant work on offer.  Also, in the second half of the track the rumble of guitars fill the speakers and make for thunder against the peaceful landscape.  Ending the album is "Sleeping Golden Storm", another long piece of work just over nine minutes in length.  It ends the album on another piece of relaxing and thought provoking music that will make you think about the bigger picture for a while and let yourself drift from your surroundings.

This is the sort of music that fills my dreams at night, it is so relaxing and I can feel all tension being removed from my body.  Honestly the more I listen to the album, the more I find that impresses me about the concept as a whole.  What I did not point out at the beginning of the blog is that I have not really been the biggest of fans of WITTR, they have always came across as a bit aloof and up their own arses; it is not that their music is not of a high quality, it is just that the band themselves just did not do themselves any favours in their interviews, shows or delivery.  This album does a lot to change that, as they have started to change.  Just like Ulver before hand, they are morphing into something else that will leave their previous shell behind.  This is not going to be for everyone, but it is worth the effort.  I will also concede that whilst I like it, I would not put it on out of choice unless I wanted to feel my muscles unknot. However anyway you look at it, it is going to be interesting seeing what they do next.  

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Initiation at Neudeg Alm

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can also purchase the album from the WITTR Bandcamp page here 

You can visit the Wolves In The Throne Room website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Alternatively, you can listen to the album via Deezer here

Morrissey - World Peace Is None Of Your Business

Steven Patrick Morrissey is something of an enigma/twat/dictator/miracle worker to me; he both fascinates and frustrates me in equal measure.  Some of his work is like manna from heaven, I swear to this day every time I hear "Speedway" from 'Vauxhall & I' (blog cleverly linked here) I am took back to that first heart wrenching moment when I first heard it.  Yet this is the same man who released "King Leer" from 'Kill Uncle' which makes me want to put holes through walls.  So after the last few years of cancelled tours, weird support artist, hospitalisation, autobiographies and general rumours of stopping venues selling meat where he sings; it is nice to get back to listening to a new album from the man.  The general feeling in the press is that this album is a return to form and one of his best ever; which is what they say with each of his album and it usually turns out to be not as good at the pundits are saying (sorry Morrissey fans, but 'Years Of Refusal' and 'Maladjusted' are nowhere near as good as 'Vauxhall & I' or 'Viva Hate').  It is sort of like when a Slayer album is released, everyone is hoping for 'Reign In Blood' part 2 and they are sad when it is not quite there. But this is before the fact, time to listen to the latest release....

Starting off with the title track of the album, Morrissey comes out with quite possibly one of the most slowly burning tracks that I have ever heard.  When I first heard I was ready to break the laptop with distain, it was plodding, dower and dull; however the more I listened to it, the more I digested the lyrics which are some of the most barbed words he has written since Thatcher (may she burn for what she did) was alive and torturing the nation, the more apparent it became that this is one of the darkest and subtle of openings to an album that I have ever heard.  A protest song about how governments and shadowy organisations are keeping the world in the dark and how we are all part of the problem, it is easily one of the best songs since "Irish Blood, English Heart". "Neal Cassidy Drops Dead" is next and with a distorted punk rock/krautrock feel, another rant against humanity and the ever increasing population of the world, you can sense that Mr M is not a family man.  The vitriol that comes out of his mouth in this song is quite possibly one of the most disturbing that I have hear from Morrissey in a long time.  Next is the seven minute plus "I'm Not A Man" starts off with a soundscape that is of background noise and feedback from the guitar for the first two minutes which gives way to a gentle keyboard lament about not being a man if it means you have to be a dick.  I have to applaud the lyrics here, he nails it on the head what the modern media say a man should be; it just states what I feel myself in this area and it is nice to have a kindred spirit in the world (even if I disagree with him on other things).  The whole song builds towards a delicate and straight lined finish, the bitter way he mentions meat and cancer is just like the king trying to turn the tide; honourable and heroic, destined to fail but such a ending.

"Istanbul" follows on from that long and epic track, the song itself is decent with a swagger that would not be out of place in a mods and rockers film; it is not quite as good as "I'm Not A Man" but it has its own self confidence.  The keys mixing in with the guitar sound that cross musician boundaries to steal a unique sound that makes the listener stand to attention.  "Earth Is The Loneliest Planet" comes out with an acoustic opening, a mixture of cop drama song and verses about the state of humanity that would end the world in a heartbeat if it could.  It is the first song on the album to leave me cold, but it is not a bad song; I am just a little picky and this one doesn't do much for me. "Staircase At The University" is a hell of a lot better, it has a much more basic approach to the world, a tale about a death in an accident in a university (a subject I wrote about many years ago, but that is a different story).  It is back to the story telling, this is the Morrissey that I love the listen to; the music and lyrics are in complete contrast to each other.  I can imagine this going across like a Vegas number with Morrissey in his shiney golden jacket whilst the dancers are around him.  The darkness of the lyrics is brilliant and such a fantastic ode to the pressures of the world on the youth.

"The Bullfighter Dies" is next and much like "Earth Is The Loneliest Planet", the music does not set my world on fire.  However, this ode to the death of bull fighters and the cruelty of the sport are interesting.  But cheering the death of a person is a bit strange; unless you’re a passionate support of animal tights, which Morrissey has on countless time shown his unlimited support for.  Thankfully it is also the shortest song on the album, leading onto "Kiss Me A Lot".  Again it is when Morrissey goes for the simple that I find myself falling under the charm of his music. The song isn't too hard, it is not complex and it makes for a fantastic addition to his arsenal; watch him ignore it if I ever go to one of his shows.  "Smiler With Knife" is a creepy number, acoustic for the most part and sinister in both sound and lyrics; it is another upside down song that shows that when he applies his mind to it, he can scare the living bee-jesus out of his audience.

"Kick The Bride down the Aisle" has been purposed in some circles as the fifth single to be taken off this album to be released (ironically two of the others are the strangest choices - "Earth Is the Loneliest Planet" and "The Bullfighter Dies"), and it suits his crooner persona that has been developing over the years.  It is a song that sounds like a twisted tribute to Scott Walker, with the awkward and mournful lyrics making the bitterest heart melt into a puddle of joy and sorrow.  It may not be my favourite song on the album, but it is one of the strongest on offer here.  "Mountjoy" is the follow up and it actually makes for a perfect follow on to "Kick The Bride Down The Aisle". It is a strange mirror to the world and the worlds view on joy, it is a fucked up number to say the least and if the album had have ended on this twisted note it would have been a brilliant place to end.  However it does end on "Oboe Concerto" which is actually the best track for ending the album.  With a strange sax solo going on in the back ground, it sounds like the last bar in the world heading toward armageddon with the flood just crashing through the door.  It is a final dark slice that is not as dramatic as "Speedway" but it is a perfect ending to this album.

For once, the press is actually right; this is one of Morrissey's strongest releases, quite possibly the best since 'Vauxhall & I'.  It is not better than that record, but that was an album created in the face of his world falling apart.  This album is created when his body has been letting him down in places, the world is going to hell in a handbag of shite and everything is starting to shift toward the endgame that is always being threatened.  A few of the numbers are not quite up there with his best (hence why it is down a few marks), but it would not be a Morrissey album without a few moments of self indulgence; it would be like a day without a night.  But if this is a start of another green patch for the former resident of Manchester, then it is a great place to start.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top Track - World Peace Is None of Your Business 

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

There is not an official Morrissey website, but there is this unofficial one which is very good for all your Mozza needs

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link to Deezer so you can listen to the album there is you wish

Here is the offical video for World Peace Is None Of Your Business - it is a spoken word oddity that makes me laugh.

Ginger Wildheart - G.A.S.S. Month 3

Month 3 of Ginger’s Year-long project has been released and, once again, features three brand new songs and two old unreleased or demo songs. I’ve been so slow getting round to reviewing this that it’s almost time for Month 4. How time flies for a lazy man.

Of all the songs released through G.A.S.S., I’d say these five were the most eclectic set of songs so far. Everyone is different to the other four. There’s also echoes of older songs in some of them too but more of that as I get to them.

The first song, and lead track, What Would Henry Rollins Do? is a spiteful diatribe against an unnamed person and what Ginger should do about their situation. Towards the end of the song it deals more with what happened when Ginger contacted Henry Rollins about guest vocals on the song. Henry’s response was clear, concise and pointedly negative.

Whilst the majority of the song is driving punk, the verses are snarling, ranting, spoken word, similar to How I Survived The Punk Wars off of his Hey! Hello! album. In fact, the melodies of both songs’ verses are almost the same, different words obviously but very similar flow.
After the first couple of listens I wasn’t mad struck on this song at all and thought it was one of Ginger’s weaker songs but, as I’ve been singing the chorus all week, that probably isn’t the case.

The second song,Do You?, is a no-frills, mid-paced rock song about depression and suicide. It sounds surprisingly upbeat for such matter and the falsetto chorus is nicely infectious. It’s a typical Ginger song that needs a few listens to really appreciate.
Petite Morte (There seems to be some confusion over the spelling of both words) is the final song and features Yolanda Quartey (from Bristolian Country band, Phantom Limb) on lead vocals. It’s a beautiful song regarding the death of a husband and father. Yolanda’s vocals are warm, powerful and emotional. The song is really sad and inspiring in equal parts and will squeeze a tear or two out of you if you aren’t careful.

The first of the unreleased songs is a song that was originally written by Ginger with the intent of Alice Cooper recording it, though that never happened it’s called Friction In My System and  sounds exactly like it should be sung by Alice Cooper. It also actually reminds me of early Wildhearts stuff. It’s incredibly cheesy but all the more fun for it.
As this song was never used, I guess Ginger thought he may as well get some use out if it because the man guitar line also cropped up in Bulb from Valor Del Corazon.

The final song is Patience & Gratitude; it’s a mostly instrumental psychedelic piece that sounds like the theme of some trippy cartoon from the 70’s or 80’s. Towards the end there are some nice gang vocals that repeat the same two lines to good effect. It has a twangly little tune running through it that has, again, since been reused, this time as the melody in the verses of That’s A Nasty Habit You’ve Got There (from the first Month of G.A.S.S.).
I can see why it was never included on anything as t’s hard to see where it would fit. It’s an interesting song all the same.

Whilst there has been better songs in previous months, as a whole I think thiis is probably the best month so far in the G.A.S.S. project and I’m really looking forward to the next batch (Which isn’t that far away now, thanks to my tardiness).

4 out of 5 – This is really good, just short of perfect

Best Track: Petite Morte

There is actually a video for one of the songs on Youtube this month, however I'm not going to bother posting that. Instead here's a video by Phantom Limb. It's the title track from their last album The Pines.

Weird Al Yankovic - Mandatory Fun

Fourteen albums of parodies. That is a lot of comedy to keep your brand fresh and relevant, but somehow Alfred Mathew "Weird Al" Yankovic has been doing this for what seems like a Millennium.  When I was younger I was given a tape of his works (as well as some songs which were not by Weird Al, something that happens all too often), it was a comedy gold mine.  For some people, they think they have made it when he parodies their music (Nirvana were one of these acts), other artists don't like his versions (Coolio, James Blunt (or at least his people)) and some people (Prince) just flat out refuse to let his versions of their music to be heard by the world.  However, he has always managed to have one or two songs on each album that take a song and make it into something completely different - such as "White & Nerdy" which took "Ridin' " originally by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone, the new song was make a nerd sound like a pimp before the Big Bang Theory made it popular.  But the times have changed and Weird Al has been doing this for so long, there is always a danger of releasing a sub standard album or just missing the mark. So before a do can be ignored or made into a strange statement, let’s see if this fun should be compulsory.

Now I will admit to being a little behind the charts, so some of these parodies just pass me by a little - i.e. I am not bothered with the latest trend setting band/artist willing to 'take one for the team' to make some money fast.  So you will have to bear with me when I sound like a grumpy old man, wondering why they cannot listen to some Pearl Jam or Fishbone.  So when I hear a parody of "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, I have no reference point to the original material; having checked out the original for the blog I can say my life is the same for hearing it as it was beforehand.  But "Handy" using the music and changes the lyrics to a tale about being a handy man.  It is a funny song and already a thousand times better than the source material.  This is the gift that Weird Al has; he can make something that seems a little dull to the listener fun. "Lame Claim To Fame" is an original song in the style of Southern Culture On The Skids (another band I have no idea about, but I am guessing from the song that they are one of the Southern Rock bands who worship Lynyrd Skynyrd).  It is a song about all those silly claims that people have to knowing a famous person without really knowing the person, it is another funny number but it does fade with repeat listenings. Next is "Foil" which is a song that I actually know beforehand! Hazar for the grumpy man!!!  This is a parody on "Royals" from Lorde, and it is the stand out track of the album.  I was laughing out loud; the bit about aliens is brilliant.  Check out the video at the end of the blog!

"Sports Song" is a song which is sort of lost on me; it is a big band song which sounds like a song played before an American Football game.  The lyrics are funny, but the music is lost in translation for me.  Also, Ben Folds nailed it better with the start of 'Effington".  "Word Crimes" is another gem here, based on the slightly rapey song called "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke (never has a man be so perfectly named) it is an attack on the grammatically impaired (something that is levelled at this blog regularly and with good reason - dyslexia is a horrible disease).  Even though I am responsible for most of these crimes at various points in my life, I was laughing out loud - especially at the Prince reference.  Well played Al, well played.  "My Own Eyes" is a song in the style of the Foo Fighters, whilst the music is pretty much spot on for Mr Grohl the lyrics are just not up to the usual standard that Mr Yankovic is capable of delivering.  It is a shame as he is usually spot on.  Next is the highlight of most Weird Al albums; the Polka number.  This one is called "Now That Is What I Call POLKA!" and features some of the following artist - Miley Cyrus, Daft Punk, Will.I.Am, Foster The People, Gotye, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, LMFAO and others.  It is basically a mega mix to polka music and it is a brilliant as the other polka songs that he has released.  It will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day once you hear, it has been for me since I heard it.....Weird al, you git!!!!

"Mission Statement" is another original song; this time is the style of Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Now I love CS&N (better when Neil Young was with them), the lyrics about mission statements from big companies (some of which I have heard and that make me want to hurl) is a complete contrast to CS&N musical style and make this song something dark, subverted and brilliant. For Mr AF"W" Yankovic, this is a strange mix and it also shows that he might have accidently made his most complex number by pure chance. "Inactive" is based on "Radioactive" from the Imagine Dragons, this is another band that has passed me by, but I had heard the song on various adverts so I have some reference point at least.  This is another ode to the lazy man who cannot be bothered to do anything, but it was done much better in his James Blunt parody "You're Pitiful".  Also, musically this sucks balls.  It is something that cannot be levelled at Weird Al, but Imagine Dragons aim to be epic and sound pretentious.  "First World Problems" is another original, this time in the style of the Pixies.  This is much better and has the right combination of comedy, music and a healthy dose of the strange.  Next is "Tacky" which is the last parody on the album, this one is based on "Happy" by Pharrell Williams (who happens to be the most used artist on this album - his vocals appeared on "Blurred Lines", "Get Lucky" and obviously "Happy").  The song is about a man/woman who has the tactile ability of a brick in the face.  It is a funny number, but again like "Lame Claim To Fame" it loses its appeal on repeat listenings.  Ending the album is "Jackson Park Express" which is based on the style of Cat Sevens (aka Yusuf Islam - his preferred name). This track is really lost on me and whilst it is played well, the final product just fails with me.

What we have here is the classic Weird Al album; some of it is top draw and really clever/funny/insane, whilst other parts are destined to be skipped and forgotten after the first listen.  The polka number and some of the parodies work incredibly well, but overall this album is nothing without the viral/visual campaign that came before it.  But you have to congratulate Mr Yankovic on still releasing albums this long into his career and finally scoring a number 1 in the USA.  Shame it is on an average album, but there is some choice cuts for the next Weird Al compo tape/CD/playlist that his fans (including myself) will create.

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - Now That Is What I Call POLKA!

 You can purchase the album from Amazon here 

You can visit the Weird Al Yankovic website here; it has links to purchase the album as well 

You can listen to the album on Spotify here 

Alternatively you can listen to it on Deezer here 

22 July 2014

Agalloch - The Serpent & The Sphere

This band has a special place in my heart.  I will remember a few years just spending a full winter listening to 'Ashes Against The Grain' and it was just perfect for the mood I was in.  It was dark and beautiful with a large slice of epic metal to send shivers down the spines of weaker mortals.  The whole package was just a delight and every release since has also been rather spectacular. Also, they move at the pace of a glacier creeping across the sea in an ice age.  They may not be the most quickest or stomping of bands, but they have always been one of the most beautiful for me.  So the fact that they released another album is a cause for celebrations in my books, but before I light the fireworks and release the balloons I have to listen to the album first.

Never a band to shy away from epic opening tracks, the band open with the ten minute plus "Birth And Death Of The Pillars Of Creation" which starts with a simple guitar opening, the plucking of strings in a mournful  way breaks into the sort of riff that sounds like a bomb exploding in the landscape of your mind.  It take a minute for the noise to come and it takes a further four minutes after that for the first vocals to be unleashed onto the listener like a whip that will tear chunks out of your soul.  If your idea of music is a short, short blast of noise and fury ala Discharge, you will have to look elsewhere.  But it will be your lose as this is an epic and corrosively beautiful opening; morphing between the contrasting shades of doom metal fury and cold acoustic frozen waste lands.  Coming straight afterwards is "(Serpens Caput)" which is a short acoustic blast which is much needed after the grand destruction of the last track.  If is a stunning piece of atmospheric acoustic work with swirling electronic sounds and bells in the background that would actually make this a great piece of music to clear your mind to; it is that peaceful and relaxing.  "The Astral Dialogue" is next and the metal is back in full effect.  This song is a flat out metal attack, there is a twisted glamour about this beast; after the naturalistic and organic opening two pieces, and this track can be akin to a volcano exploding whilst surrounded by all the people of the world.  It is so good and this makes for a beautiful beginning to the album.

"Dark Matter Gods" is next and is another epic slab of metal, but this time it is not going at the pace of a glacier.  It may start off with a hypnotic and soulful sound, but the peddle is firmly in the ground very soon afterwards.  The pulsation of the song is stunning and it grinds across the soul like a man who has an axe to grind against his government (which could be anyone in the world at the moment).  The power and beauty on here is of such a high quality, that I have no shame in saying that it has replaced my favourite song of the band. It is quite possibly the most stunning song of the year - this is eight minutes plus of perfection.  "Celestial Effigy" is the next and whilst it may not be as jaw dropping as "Dark Matter Gods" it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention.  This is a great piece of dark/gothic metal and brings to mind some of the earlier work of Paradise Lost.  It shows a band in full control of all of their powers, not afraid to lay the world to waste or create a dark fractured mirror to shine on the world.  "Cor Serpentis (The Sphere)" follows on which is another short acoustic interlude, the placement is a welcome break to the powerful elements of this album and shows the more reflective nature of the band.

"Vales Beyond Dimension" starts the final third of this album, this track is the most Gothic of the whole album; I could imagine it as the dinner party music to a meal at the house of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Sounding like the bastard version of the union of Paradise Lost and Sisters Of Mercy, it is perhaps the most 'basic' of the tracks here.  It is not saying that it is not a good song, far from it; it is better than anything Paradise Lost have done for a while (sorry PL, but you are still brilliant), but after the high water marks that have came before hand it would have been hard to match the crush destructive power of nature that is the first part of this album.  But it is still a brilliant song, make no mistake about that.  "Plateau Of The Ages" is the longest track on offer here, starting with that slow atmospheric build that is the Agalloch calling card.  But the difference here is that whilst the music is undeniably heavy, it is also has a more melodic side that an amazing fold to the usual Agalloch sound.  The song is also split almost neatly in two at around the six minute mark when they has another slow building moment of musical genius.  Ending the album is "(Serpens Cauda)" which brings the whole album to a natural close, the last of the three acoustic moments it is a thoughtful and inspired ending to this album.

I think it is safe to say that this album is quite possibly one of the most important metal albums to be released this year, if not in the last few years.  From the very first note, this album is something really special; I will not say that it is for everyone, I cannot see it going down well at your local neon-tax venue where Cheryl Cole is the flavour of the minute, but as far as the more darker and melodic side of metal goes I can honestly say that this album will be hard to beat and with the Sleaford Mods album it is up there for album of the year.  If I write any more about this, it will shortly become a love letter to the band.  So, buy it now! Why have you not bought it yet?  Seriously, buy this now.....

10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a god

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Agalloch website here

You can visit the Agalloch Bandcamp page here & purchase their album's there

Here is a link to the album on Spotify here (a couple of the songs are not available at the time of writing)

Here is a link for our Deezer users (Same as the Spotify, some tracks are not available)

Past sermons

Greatest hits