Saturday, February 2, 2013

Agalloch: Ashes Against the Grain

Believe it or not, up until a few weeks ago, I had never heard Agalloch.  I had heard of them, but I never really checked them out.  I am not really sure why.  Perhaps it is due to the band's well-regarded status in the more hipster-oriented metal circles.  Alongside groups like Neurosis and Isis, Agalloch was one of the bands that made it okay for hipsters to enjoy metal.  Or maybe it was just that I never got around to it.  Whatever the reason, when I was recently at the used music store and picking up a couple of W.A.S.P. albums, I also decided to get my first Agalloch album.

The music on this album is very rich and textured.  I read an interview with the band recently in which they stated that they were heavily influenced by films, yes the hipster flag went up when I read that.  I would agree very strongly that Agalloch's sound is very cinematic.  The band would be able to easily make the transition to fully instrumental band.  It is extremely dramatic and does sound like something that would be playing in the background of some artsy film involving the forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Agalloch's music is clearly based in black metal.  But to call them a black metal band would be a gross oversimplification.  There is so much more going on here and the band definitely does not sound like a stereotypical black metal band.  For the most obvious reason, their music actually borders on the beautiful.  Agalloch have smoothed out the rough edges, improved the production value, and added layer upon layer of melody.  They have also allowed for the influence of folk music to shine through in parts.  The result is impressive, if not terribly aggressive.

I mentioned that they would be able to make the transition to an instrumental band earlier.  It is not as if the vocals are bad in any way.  The clean vocals fit the music quite well, and the raspier black metal vocals also sound surprisingly good.  I just think that this band could go that route without any real problem.  There are hardly any vocals on this album as it is.  Agalloch lets their music do the talking most of the time anyway.

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