Agalloch - _Ashes Against the Grain_
(The End / Grau, 2006)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)
While I haven't had the patience required to track down each and every EP that Agalloch have released since 2002's full-length _The Mantle_, ultimately that only served to increase my appetite for _Ashes Against the Grain_. Having greatly enjoyed their debut _Pale Folklore_, I thought _The Mantle_ was a good album for what it tried to be, but failed to provide a real follow-up to those who wanted more of the style that had fundamentally shaped its predecessor. Seven years after the release of their first album, _Ashes Against the Grain_ finally addresses the burning issue: would Agalloch be able to concoct an album that captured the best of both its predecessors?

Building up from what Agalloch like to call dark metal, _Ashes Against the Grain_ mixes elements of black metal, post-rock, progressive music and string-based atmospherics. This means the listener will be in for some slowly evolving, layered and complex song structures that are quite far removed from what is generally associated with black metal, but Agalloch remain just as willing to unleash their dark side, throat-searing snarls and all, and often even integrate the two. This metamorphosis is vividly represented throughout the ambitious album closer, "Our Fortress Is Burning", a track that also shows the kind of intense climaxes that Agalloch excel at creating.

Elsewhere, there is a clear Katatonia vibe during the second half of "Falling Snow", while opener "Limbs" starts off with guitar work that might bring to mind Anathema; yet it is still all Agalloch. Their dark metal face soon reveals itself in the aforementioned opening track however, while midway through the record, "Fire Above, Ice Below" brings more of a _The Mantle_ vibe to _Ashes Against the Grain_. Ultimately, Agalloch continue to have a distinctive sound without having to consciously break away from everything and everyone else, simply because of the way they develop and integrate everything that they do with their music.

This is one of those albums that needs to be experienced rather than described in order to have some idea of the impact it will have on you -- which may easily range from not much to album of the year. This album is not about technical wizardry, all-out aggression, being avant-garde at any cost, or permanently trying to blow the listener away with every riff; instead, it is an album that needs time to grow (and it does so quite slowly) in order to progressively reveal the extent of its quality. _Ashes Against the Grain_ is an excellent album, the kind that is greater than the apparent sum of its parts; and it can be a very inspiring record.


(article published 12/8/2006)

5/30/2014 M Dolson 9.5 Agalloch - The Serpent & the Sphere
12/8/2010 J Carbon 8.5 Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit
10/19/2004 Q Kalis 5.5 Agalloch - The Grey
9/1/2002 A McKay 9.5 Agalloch - The Mantle
8/12/2001 B Meloon 7 Agalloch - Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor
7/7/1999 B Meloon 9 Agalloch - Pale Folklore
3/28/2011 J Carbon Agalloch / Worm Ouroboros / Vindensang / Aeriel Ruin The Gods in Ruins
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