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)

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