AGALLOCH: Marrow of the Spirit: CD

Mar 01, 2011

I’ve known about Agalloch, the Portland, Oregon based black metal band, for a number of years. I worked with a guy in Seattle who is good friends with them, but beyond the name I didn’t really know much of them. I passed them over as just being another dumb black metal band that was “extreme” but lacking any real musical substance. And now I would like to eat my words, as I was severely wrong. What I have come to realize is that Agalloch is a complex four piece that is crafting way more than just some stereotypically evil-sounding music. The six songs that comprise Marrow of the Spirit are rich and diverse, especially if you come into this thinking (as I did) that you’re only going to hear some growling vocals and heavy guitars. What the sixty-five minutes of music on this album proves is that Agalloch has a depth to them that is lacking in so many metal bands. They’re not afraid of being creative and plumbing a range of sources to make for music that is able to touch a deeper, emotional chord that you’d expect to be hit when you listen to Sigur Rós or something more cold, atmospheric, and dark. While many fans of metal will no doubt hear strains of Isis’s later work in Marrow of the Spirit, Agalloch offers a wider array of sound than just heavy music mixed with a contrasting growling and singing vocals. There is a good dose of cello, neo-folk guitar work, and crystalline keyboards alongside blast beats and sinister vocals similar to such an act as Gorgoroth. It makes for compelling listening that often crosses the line into beautiful. Songs clocking in at twelve or seventeen minutes don’t drag whatsoever. Instead, they’re part of a skillful arrangement of ethereal beauty. It’s akin to that feeling one gets when they find themselves in a cold, snowy field and the sky stands grey. It’s not oppressive or depressing; rather it’s a capturing of the notion of environment that makes Marrow of the Spirit stand as remarkable in its delivery.

 –kurt (