Agalloch - _Marrow of the Spirit_
(Profound Lore Records, 2010)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (8.5 out of 10)
The fact Agalloch comes from Portland, Oregon means little to many but a lot to some. The North American black metal scene has recently been growing in prominence, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Pacific Northwest or Cascadian region of the United States and Canada. (I understand that the inclusion of Canada would probably make the future acronym for this scene tediously long.) The Pacific Northwest, along with the whole of the States, has been praised for its ability to innovate black metal as well as adhere to the deep traditions which defined the style's historic second wave. Wolves in the Throne Room are probably the most recognizable name in the Cascadian scene, with Skagos, Aldrag, Agalloch and a legion of other bands following en tow. The Pacific Northwest appears to be the idyllic place for a black metal renaissance, if nothing else, for its undisturbed forestry and less than warm climate. Agalloch is not as conservationist as some of the other, more publicized, Cascadian bands, but shares the same philosophy on experimentation and tradition.

Agalloch's 2006 _Ashes Against the Grain_ was a triumph in the cohesion between contemporary post rock and second wave black metal. Each song was an odyssey across a harsh landscape riddled with melting snow and freezing rivers. The harsh vocals and shrill dissonance of each verse only intensified each of the building song structures. _Ashes Against the Grain_ was complemented two years later with _The White_; an EP of dark neofolk songs. _The White_, together with the previous releases, defined Agalloch's versatility as well as some flattering comparisons to Norwegian black metal folk titans, Ulver. _Marrow of the Spirit_ returns to the black metal landscape, seeing the post rock style almost completely integrated and inseparable from its surroundings.

Long crescendos have always been the highlight of Agalloch's songs, as well as their ability to stretch a six minute song into a thirty minute multi-faceted epic. Like previous records, _Marrow of the Spirit_ runs continuously as one long 65 minute song with six sections. Each track exposes a certain melancholy rooted in distant optimism. The highlights are scattered through the record, but become unmistakable near the middle with the seventeen minute peak "Black Lake Nidstang". The pagan spirituality is apparent on this record, as any Internet search will lead you to Norse legends and stories involving band members healed by ancient stones. Agalloch's spiritual nature has never been the centerpiece of their records, but the fact that it is so solid never works against it. The experimentation on Agalloch's records has always been reverent to the sonic textures of Emperor, Bathory and Burzum's pre-incarceration releases. But unlike their Scandinavian uncles, Agalloch's songs display more of a transcendental spirit; even if that spirit sounds like an encroaching banshee.

Some of the most interesting aspects of Cascadian black metal, as well as the rest of the country, is its choice to use black metal as a tool rather than a destination. Whatever lays beyond the veil of shrieks and cries can only be reached through more shrieks and cries. Agalloch makes another solid entry into their already strong portfolio of work. _Marrow of the Spirit_ also strengthens the chance that the region will be bestowed with historic importance. The "New Wave of Pacific North West Black Metal" and subsequent acronym (NWOPNWBM) have already been claimed with MySpace and Last.FM pages. In fact, the snowclone "green is the new black" has already been thrown around in various Internet articles. It may be later rather than sooner, but Agalloch as well as the Cascadian region will soon be recognized as an important monument in the history of North American black metal.


(article published 8/12/2010)

5/30/2014 M Dolson 9.5 Agalloch - The Serpent & the Sphere
8/12/2006 P Azevedo 9 Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain
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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