Agalloch - Ashes against the Grain

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19 May 2009, 5:15

If you would ask me if I have had any bizarre experience as a result of the music I listen to, I would say - YES! This idiosyncratic event recurs every time I listen to Agalloch's magnum opus 'Ashes Against the Grain'. Whenever I listen to this album, there are these instrumental segments where my quiescent soul jactitates. There are no physical movements but I feel it erupting, I feel my mortal body struggling to contain my soul. Some symptoms include my hair standing on its end, my consciousness moving into stand-by mode (subconscious mind).This album excites me with its intensity, sedates me with its tranquility, zonks me with its virtuosity!

Why call 'Ashes against the Grain' as Agalloch's magnum opus when they are still alive, active and all geared-up to fire on all cylinders?? The balance attained on this album is often attempted and seldom achieved. This album has the pronounced aura of uniqueness which will never vanish. This album is the consequence of esoteric minds working beyond existing boundaries and displaying refined musicianship. This is the album which comes once in a lifetime. This is the album which smells like fresh flower above and reeks of rotting flora below. This is the album which crawls like a snail, slithers like a snake and gallops like a stallion!

As I sit here staring at the charred falling bird on the album cover and leafing through the album's booklet, wondering what inspired Agalloch to dole out this timeless classic. The memories of how this disc reached me draws a grin on my face. The place where I stay [India] doesn't have much access to extreme metal. After the failed attempt to buy it online from a distro [No shipping to India], one of my fellow metalhead suggested that his metalhead friend from Belgium can buy this album for him and his colleague who had gone on-site to Belgium, can collect it from him. My disc was acquired at the Agalloch's gig in Belgium, handed over to my friend's colleague and after 5 months brought to India. After exchanging many hands, my friend finally received it and couriered it to me. And now it sits pretty on my rack as the brightest star among the constellation of small collection I own. My sincere thanks to all the people who have helped me to get this CD!

When the whining guitars greet you at the beginning of this album, it builds a curiosity which is allayed by the improvised jamming session by the band. This improvised jamming session gets intensive at a point and drops to droning guitars leading to one of the many acoustic guitar interludes layered with sporadic lead guitars. The drums contribute to the ‘build’ that will make you feel as if you’ve betrayed gravity and you are spirally ascending towards the epicenter of Agalloch’s music. The raspy black-metal vocals seem to guide you to it and all of a sudden, there’s silence... At this point, you stand still and gravity seeks vengeance by dragging you back to the point where it all started! This is the basic pattern on Ashes against the Grain. There are "moments" on this album which makes you feel like a bird being deplumed. The clean vocals adds to the soulfulness of this album and provides another dimension to this masterpiece. This album brags of melodic sequences with acoustic guitars rekindling nostalgic moments and lightening the atmosphere. Special mention has to be made for impeccable drumming on this album. It fine-tunes the entire feel on the album and can't imagine how this album would sound without the drums. Bass is audible and I really appreciate the way its recorded adeptly.

The first one minute into ‘Not Unlike the Waves ‘is a fine example of the ‘build’ Agalloch offers. They take you on a trip aboard sinusoidal wave encompassing some engrossing parts in this album which make you pound your head, make you nod along, put you into an unearthly trance among many other uncanny experiences. 'This White Mountain on Which You Will Die' is a brief instrumental which some may dismiss as a "filler" but that would be insulting for a band like Agalloch. I would say its a "small bridge" between 'Falling Snow' and 'Fire Above, Ice Below'. The 'Our Fortress Is Burning...I' is the first installment of the trilogy and has a typical Agalloch's progressive intro and the progression suffuses subsequently into further chapters. ‘Our Fortress Is Burning... II-Bloodbirds’ is the track, which nests some soul-stirring moments. The lengthy instrumental passage appears to narrate tormented tales, intensifying every passing second and the tragic climax is conveyed by harsh growls. It ends with some painful screams performed ingeniously. The concluding track ‘Our Fortress Is Burning... III-The Grain’ is a psychedelic drone journey which I initially dismissed as a track which does not suit this album. But after many listens, I felt it is the masterstroke of Agalloch to allure me to the edge of a pit and nudge me right off its edge! This free-fall into the bottomless pit, is for introspection and admiration of past 55 minutes. This monumental journey of around an hour is advisable to be completed at one stretch to everyone who wishes to guzzle a strong brew of various equipoised metal sub-genres.

Agalloch is that source of light which focuses less on emitting bright light and more on intensifying the dark shadows. 'Ashes against the Grain' is that tender feather which caresses the stabwounds...

Originally written for - http://www.metal-archives.com/review.php?id=113100#190595

Comentarios

  • The_Night_Head

    tl;dr how much would you give it out of ten?

    20 May 2009, 16:08
  • stab_wounds

    10/10. Nothing to take away!

    21 May 2009, 3:38
  • scapino

    Agalloch are starting a new genre of music, I'm telling you.

    22 May 2009, 4:19
  • dimensionalpha

    Agalloch ARE a new genre of music.

    27 Jul 2009, 12:55
  • crestfall1

    definitely. their unique blend of bleak neofolk and MDB-esque doom spiced with occasional black metal vocals are pure excellence. I definitely hope they are starting a new genre of music, and it would be so awesome if there would emerge more bands that would progress this style of music even further (as if Agalloch themselves couldn't do it!). but more bands means more variation, which is always nice. let's just hope that if more similar bands would emerge, they would do more than just rip off Agalloch's style but create something of their own.

    22 Ago 2009, 14:46
  • adrasl300

    I...really cant see what you do here. Ashes Against the Grain is far from perfect. If I would have fallen for this hype before I bought the album I would have been furiously dissapointed!

    23 Ago 2009, 18:37
  • adrasl300

    At one point of the text you explain the first 4 minutes of "Limbs" I hardly think the intro is improvised. It starts of with those brilliantly echoing guitars and just drone on uneventfully.....the first guitars die out....another drone comes in and thats about it. Then it settles on what you describe as "one of the many acoustic guitar interludes layered with sporadic lead guitars" Soo that is an acoustic guitar!...At first I thought it was a piano! Then both a piano and acoustic guitar. The fact that it is an acoustic guitar makes it a little better somehow....still sounds like a music school student trying to hammer in a simple progression of notes though!(yes I find it rather dull tbh). And the "sporadic lead guitar" is just a beautifully echoing line with no variation that pops up regurlarly. Im not putting down the album as a whole really.....but the hype! The album would have benefitted from richer harmonies, some counterpoints here and there and better note progressions.

    23 Ago 2009, 18:55
  • MetalUrge

    I wouldn't say the album was 'heaven'. No. Although I find their previous albums more rich and vibrant, to say the least, Agalloch themselves have never been fully satisfied with any of their releases, so we don't get a chance to fully disapprove of their work.

    23 Sep 2009, 15:53
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