A Review of Ulver’s Album “The Assassination of Julius Caesar”

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One of my first forays into the black metal genre was Ulver’s trilogy from the 90s. I was first introduced to Ulver because of my love for nature-inspired black metal. “Bergttat”, “Kvledssanger” and “Nattens Madrigal” blew me away with stunning black metal and folk music. Also these albums were revolutionary in the progress of black metal. I was so excited to find this band that I wanted to hear more. Since those albums Ulver always changed up their style from intriguing (Perdition City) to boring (any of their electronic albums). I kind of stopped listening to them after Perdition City. Then I was reading one of my friend’s posts on Facebook and he gave his top albums for 2017 and to my surprise what came first on that list was Ulver’s new album “The Assassination of Julius Caesar”. So I listened to the album and was utterly floored by the music in it. I have been diving more into synthpop/new wave music and to see Ulver go in this direction was intriguing.

Ulver 2017

After multiple listens the more the album grew on me. There is some excellent stuff in “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” and it once again made Ulver accessible to me. There is still some weird and fascinating moments in the album that harken back to their electronic days, but instead of boring electronics it was interesting electronics instead. The best way to describe the music in this album is driving in a haze after a rainy night recollecting the highs and lows of life. It is a relaxing, introspective and morose album. The overarching highlight to me is the vocals of Garm, I have always respected Garm’s vocal style over the years and really missed hearing him in a bunch of Ulver’s newer albums. The tones, style and imagery he conveys in his vocals really makes “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” stand out to me. His vocals are versatile and really compliment the synth sounds and beats found in the songs. These is sense of darkness, beauty and longing all put into one package.

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I was even more impressed with the electronic and synth work in this album. There is warmth and coldness abound in “The Assassination of Julius Caesar”. I feel like I am listening to a movie reminiscing about the nostalgia and history of the 80s. The album’s lyrical content is very intriguing and thought provoking, Kristoffer Rygg seamlessly blends imagery and information about two different historical contexts and makes it into his own version of history. What really makes the lyrics interesting is how he takes these seamlessly random moments in history and compares them to the darkness and emotions of the human condition. I feel this album is especially relevant to the current events of today in a wide variety of ways. This disillusionment is real for us as humans these days.

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To conclude I consider this to be a heck of an album that could really tap into a wide variety of music lovers. I think Ulver’s has bridged the gap of obscurity to relevance. I feel this album could touch anyone who loves and appreciates music. There is something you can always relate to in “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” be it the lyrics, imagery, vocals or music. There is an undeniable catchiness to this album and it will continue to get consistent listens if you appreciate music that is dark as well as pop-driven. Ulver has crafted an album that has turned heads but also unlocked the potential they could still go for in future albums.

Rating: 9/10

Ulver Official Page: http://jester-records.com/ulver/ulver.html

Bandcamp: https://ulver.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ulverofficial/

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A Review of Mathias Grassow & John Haughm’s Album “Aurae”

 

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When one first hears the word “drone” the first images that come to mind are soundscapes that meander and lead the listener to a lull of catharsis and introspection. The tones and sound effects put the listener into a waking sleep, and helps the listener expand their imagination to even greater depths. One thing you will notice about drone music is the fact that you cannot “rock out” or dance to it. All you can do is listen and let your mind wander to the outer reaches of the universe.

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Photo By: Veleda Thorsson

Mathias Grassow & John Haughm’s latest collaborative effort “Aurae” deliberately gives this effect when you hear it closely. I have been super interested in their project for years now because I have an appreciation for the work Haughm has done through Agalloch and Pillorian, and after multiple listens loved the work of Grassow. There are moments in life when you just need to relax and forget about the chaotic world around you. The music found in “Aurae” is a perfect soundtrack to calm these moments in life. I have never heard an album that has immediately relaxed me and intrigued me in balanced doses. There is an unwavering sense of expanse and infinite when hearing “Aurae”. I see images of empty, rolling landscapes of green and wind-touched stalks of wheat blowing in the breeze that parallels with my own heartbeats. There is sense of wistfulness while being lost in the fog of shadows and light in the music. And the bleak, barren landscapes the music invokes gives glimpses of doorways that lead somewhere else to a place beyond the body and even soul.

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The brilliance of this album is that it gives listeners different experiences, one person could feel an emotion different to another person when listening to “Aurae”. When one could feel peace and serenity the other could feel suffocating anxiety. Drone music has this kind of effect which makes it such a fascinating sub-genre of music. There have been some drone albums that made me feel uncomfortable or even disturbed while others made me feel pensive and relaxed. This dichotomy is one of the key components to a successful drone album, and “Aurae” effectively does this seamlessly. The calm, tranquil art of Grassow melded with the oppressive darkness of Haughm’s music delivers an album that puts your mind through millions of emotions/feelings and somehow puts you into a better state of mind after multiple listens. If you are looking for something unique and different to listen to I would give “Aurae” a chance, if you want to journey into the astral plane “Aurae” will guide you there.

Rating: 8/10

John Haughm Bandcamp: https://haughm.bandcamp.com/

Mathias Grassow Bandcamp: https://mathiasgrassow.bandcamp.com/

 

 

Imperium Dekadenz “Dis Manibvs”

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I have spent a ton of time trying to find new things to listen to. I love all of the albums I have in some way or another but I just needed to hear something new and unique. I heard about the band Imperium Dekadenz from one of my friend’s and started listening to some songs by them. After hearing their music with much greater attention to detail I was immediately staggered by how good these guys are. Hailing from Germany Imperium Dekadenz arrived through the fogs and mists of the black woods and have created an epic album called “Dis Manibvs” that came out in August of 2016.

The best way I can describe the overall vibe of the album is sorrowful, ancient and triumphant. The songs seemingly blend into one another like a tapestry of stars and planets. The vocals remind me of yearnings for times of old and final breaths of stars dying into the black of space. There is a cosmic, polytheistic and natural energy when every note is played. There is strong feeling of melancholy in the way the instruments harmonize and crescendo. There are multiple things that standout in “Dis Manibvs” one of them standing out above all others is the drumming of Vespasian. They are powerful, emotional and thunderous like the heavens, blast beats sound like oaks growing and expanding in the rain, and the cymbal crashes remind me of bolts of lightning turning the night sky white. There is a real feeling of the gods speaking when you hear some tracks of “Dis Manibvs” and whatever they are saying is being conjured through Imperium Dekadenz.

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I can say when I hear this album my mind goes into a different place entirely, all the negativity and pain of life disappears and I feel like I am lost on a battlefield after Ragnarok. I see corpses around me, blood in the grass, mud and destruction everywhere. But I am not looking at the ground but the sky above. I can see stars clear and bright, clouds passing through the moon and treetops. I can see the dull light of dawn on the horizon and the ghosts of the dead wandering aimless among the piles of the dead. I know even after the brutality and violence of the battle that I lived and the gods had plans for me hidden from my view. I could only find the answers by moving forward and leaving the death behind me. My eyes scan to the east as I see the sun rise and notice glimmers of light as the sun shines over the vast raging river cutting through hills and valleys, a place to be cleansed of the blood and filth of the night before. These are the images and feelings “Dis Manibvs” evokes when listened to and it stays with you long after.

The songs that stand out most on this album are “Still I Rise” a triumphant, hopeful song about letting the past rot and being only aware of the present and seeing the future in a gauze of ether. The guitars are incredibly bombastic and immediately invoke these feelings and it just stays with you as a fond memory of the past you do not want to lose. The next song that is incredible is “Dis Manibvs” a slow, doomy black metal track which cascades like waterfalls and a steady warm rain. There is a sense of longing in this song, it is almost depressive in nature but it nonetheless is a song that can help with feelings of guilt and grief. The final song that stands out is “Volcano” it reminds me thoroughly of an old Emperor song it sounds like chaos melded with calm and develops images of a civilization on the brink of collapse through utter natural destruction. There is a sense of closure in this song, after the eruption and screams of thousands there is silence and it permeates through everything and leaves you utterly speechless in where the album will go next.

Imperium Dekadenz - Ragnarök 2014

Captured by Dvergir Photography

When the album ends the feelings, senses and thoughts stay with you like a vivid dream. You see yourself floating aimlessly in the infinite sky and see the god’s beckoning you to paradise. You find yourself at peace after the destructively beautiful sounds and images of “Dis Manibvs” and just want to play it again and again. The story Vespasian and Horaz crafted with such care, diligence and passion is something that will remain in your memory long after listening. An album that allows you to always hear new things and experience new visions is an album worth listening to. Be blown away by the utter perfection of this album and let it stick with you for the rest of your days.

Rating 9/10

Bandcamp: https://imperiumdekadenz.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ImperiumDekadenz/

Homepage: http://www.imperium-dekadenz.de/

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A Review of Twilight Force’s “Heroes of Mighty Magic”

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Salutations Warriors, Mages and Unsavory Sorts,

I the scribe of dreams has received a wonderful album tied to the realms of fantasy and legend. The fantastical music was created and then sent to the masses to bring hope and life back to the damned and forsaken. I have had the pleasure to review the wonderful album “Heroes of Mighty Magic” by the warrior bards Twilight Force. This album is not only a new road for power metal to venture on but a road that is encompassed by the magical roots of power metal in every conceivable fashion. Images of elves, dwarves, wizards and rogues ooze in every word, riff, flourish and tone. “Heroes of Mighty Magic” is an album needed in this time of utter despair and cynicism.

The vibrant and warm colors of the album art introduces you to a world devoid of darkness and hate. The image of a dragon breathing life back to the world is eerily metaphorical and gives a sense that there is still hope left in a world filled with negativity and disillusionment.Once you hear the first calls and choirs of battle in “Battle of Arcane Might” you can tell that Twilight Force is here to stamp out the vile evils of the world with machine gun riffs, soaring solos and emotionally positive vocals.

There is an inherent sense of vast landscapes dotted with castles, magical towers and forests as far as  the eye can see. The beautifully invigorating sounds of the keyboards is what really makes “Heroes of Mighty Magic” work on multiple levels. There is a sense of wonderment, magic and dreams with each note being pressed. I sometimes feel lost in a magical wood filled with sprites, dryads, and sylvan folk of note when the keyboards are being played. There is an epic sense of adventure and when guitars, bass and drums are infused with the keyboards then it makes the moment all the more memorable and uplifting.

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The songs are consistent and have varying degrees of speed and aggression incorporated into the music. There are moments of pure calm and then moments of golden horns blazing and warriors charging into battle. “Heroes of Mighty Magic” is an album that needs to be listened to when you are feeling sad and despondent. After multiple listens it will put you into a state of mind filled with memories, nostalgia, and long hours into the night playing Dungeons and Dragons where your imagination can run free. There is a sense of confidence in the music of Twilight Force, when there are moments of cheese and eye-rolling you know that they make this music purely out of the joy of it and could care less about the opinions of others. This alone makes “Heroes of Mighty Magic” just an enjoyable listen.

The ability to get lost in a mesmerizing world of colors, magic and fantasy worlds is what this album offers. When you are feeling utterly depressed and hopeless spending an hour listening to this album in its entirety will put you into a better state of mind. When you thought your imagination was decimated because of the harshness of reality, Twilight Force delivers an album that brings back not only the magic of being a child again, but the ability to bring back your imagination from the realm of shadow. I can guarantee if you spent a long time not being able to feel those moments in life that this album brings that feeling back like a tidal wave. Let your mind wander free and immerse yourself in the godlike might and glory of the sapphire dragon as it flies back into your dreams.

Humble Regards,

The Dreaming Metal Muse

Rating 8/10

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Downfall of Nur: “Umbras de Barbagia”

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On this hot, humid uncomfortable night I am currently sitting down typing this review listening to one of the hidden gems of the ever expansive atmospheric black metal scene. The air is still but the images in my head as I am writing about Downfall of Nur’s new album “Umbras de Barbagia” are filled with the incredibly dark and somber kind. I stumbled upon “Umbras de Barbagia” by going through countless YouTube channels dedicated to black metal. The album cover interested me and I gave it a further listen and felt myself just blown away by the sheer black beauty found in the music.The amount of layers and ideas found in “Umbras de Barbagia” were numerous and unique and it felt new and fresh to me. Nowadays black metal albums come out and they are a dime a dozen they all have a similar sound and it grows rather boring after a time. Downfall of Nur has crafted something that is different and incredibly engaging.

The best word I can describe “Umbras de Barbagia” is expansive. Each track (except for the intro) is between 9 to 17 minutes long. There are so many different elements that blend into a an alchemy of darkness and emptiness in the music. The one thing that stood out most to me was the vocals, they were chilling and void-filled. I felt like I was getting drawn deeper and deeper into a wet abyss when Antonio Sanna screams and wails inhumanly. This was music of the blackest pitch with only dim light to be seen like a cave infested with glow worms and fungi. The guitars are incredibly hypnotic and unrelenting but crescendo like wind blowing snow off mountain tops. There was a strong sense of ancient history and nature in the music, and a dark and forbidden folklore to be found within the lyrics:

downfallofnur

Photo by: Nacho Lunadei

“In the eyes of the druid,
a sacred fire burns eternally.
He can see inside the woods,
the Golden Age over this land.
For over a thousand years
the Gods had protected us
our Mother gave animals
with forests and sacred rivers.” ~ II-The Golden Age”

The air of mystery found in “Umbras de Barbagia” is wonderful to hear. I think of lost civilizations, old pagan rituals and the creeping unknown with every guitar lead and drum beat. Sanna parallels themes of old Sardinian history and the fall of the ancient Nuragic civilization in the music and tone of Downfall of Nur. I think he managed to make a stunning album dedicated to his ancestors and birthright. What really stuns me is how this dark and foreboding music came from the mountains and woods of Argentina. It makes me want to visit Argentina at some point to see how the natural surrounding affected his art. The music of “Umbras de Barbagia” tells a story like none have been told before. You go through emotional highs and lows when listening to every note and lyric. The one thing it does consistently is put you into a reflective state of mind while it takes you deep into the depths of your subconscious. You think of memories beyond childhood and infancy, memories that occurred when your ancient ancestors walked the Earth. “Umbras de Barbagia” is simply an album that should have been played in the ancient world, it echoes back to those dark times of death and isolation into a piece of music that is darkly and brilliantly memorable.

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Photo by: Nacho Lunadei

Rating: 9/10

Bandcamp: http://downfallofnur.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JhanasNur

Website: http://downfallofnur.com/

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A Review of Nathanael Larochette’s album “Earth and Sky”

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Nathanael Larochette’s new masterpiece “Earth and Sky” will be released soon and I had the pleasure to hear the album early, and I am utterly blown away by the sheer beauty that encompasses the soundscapes. There is an honestly found in the music, and the music evokes incredible images when you carefully listen. There is a poetry found in the tones and chords of the guitar and ambiance. The artwork is stark, open and beautiful and fits the music incredibly well. I have heard his work in Musk Ox and I feel this is a natural progression to his art. The album will be released on July 29, 2016. Below are my own feelings and images I get when I hear each piece of music on “Earth and Sky”…

Awaken…Monument…Farewell…Oceanic…Invocation…Slumber…Sky

Awaken to the soft sounds of ocean at your door, listen to its music as it permeates the walls of your home. The softness is enduring, it brings calm to the stresses of life. Let it lift you from your slumber so you can experience the day in its splendor. Let the quiet moments in your mind flow with the music. Let it awaken you to the light of the day and the music of the sea.

Monuments of hill and cliff hang over the pastoral landscape. The blue of the sky meets the green of earth. The sun shines and glows over the shimmering waters. The sun blinds your eyes as it shines over the crystalline peaks. Pensively you look out to the vastness of the sea and the land. They seem to go on and on…infinite. You know in your mind’s eye that the time is coming to an end. You know the longing will become apparent, the longing for quiet and serenity. You dream away the monuments born from the embrace of the ocean, and the whipping winds of eternity.

Farewell to the voice of Nature, it dissipates into the finest grain. The feeling in your mind as you leave is one of utter sadness. For many years you lived among the natural surroundings, it beckoned you into feelings of creativity and emotion. The music spun in your head as birdsong, and as the echo of the waves. You remember the memories of that peace you found, you know you will leave that peace behind to return to the realms of chaos. You want to keep that peace of mind, forever, in your thoughts and dreams. Farewell to the ocean as the tides disperse away.

photojamiekronick

Photo by Jamie Kronick

Oceanic the emotions are as you depart the wild lands of old. There is a sense of sadness in the voice of the waves, and the gulls that fly high and alone. A land of unspoiled beauty an imprint of the DNA of Mother Nature. The calming motions of the sea as they hit rock, bring a cadence of serenity in the wind. The memories are vivid and real as you drive away with the ocean at your back. You can smell and see the mist as it hits your windshield. You remember sharing the vision of the ocean with the loved ones who departed to the next plane. Oceanic the memories were, a sadness in the firmament that doused your soul in grief. You remember plainly the images and yearn to experience that memory again.

Invocation of dreaded feelings engulf your senses as you drive away from that place of introspective silence. All the bad memories come flooding in, as you drive back to the places and people that wronged you. Your inner mind begs you to stay, yet you know the din of city life and the people await. Understand that those images and feelings you had by the sea will always remain. Close your eyes and envision it, and the stress will dissipate. Invoke the stillness in yourself let it takeover,block out the noise and anger. Let the sound of Nature keep you afloat.

Slumber the night away, dream of the places that bring you peace. Understand the night sky is always there looking down on you, let yourself transport to the closest star in sky, so you can see the ocean below. You will always be there, an imprint of thought, emotion and memory. Slumber with the sound of the ocean in your mind, take in the imagery, sounds and tastes. Brings yourself back on the ride of dreams.

Sky… infinite and vast, blue and serene. It envelops everything like a caretaker of a wonderful garden, that is the Earth. Every thought, emotion, memory and image is secured in the embrace of the wind and clouds. It stays there with everyone else, a library of shared memories and visions. It is unyielding and never-ending, and is outside the realm of humanity. The sky doesn’t judge, it likes everyone the same. It is the breath of Mother Nature as well as the tears. It is the voice of gods and the touch of peace. Sky will always be there, the sky is forever.

Rating: 10/10

Website: http://www.nathanaellarochette.bandcamp.com

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Shape of Despair’s “Monotony Fields”

 

Monotony Fields

“Staring through… The blank, dispassionate fire…”

A year to this day Shape of Despair came out with their newest masterpiece “Monotony Fields”. This album stands out to me as one of the best funeral doom albums to come out in some time. The emotions and feelings that tumble out of the music is enough to shiver the very depths of my bones. I have never heard such an album with such a thick, oppressive yet depressingly beautiful atmosphere. Through the utter blackness there are pinpoints of light that seem to filter through. This album has been getting repeated listens since it came out in 2015 and will always have a staunch place in my playlists in the foreseeable future.

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“Monotony Fields” is one of those albums that regardless of the day or hour still weighs heavily like an anchor in my heart. The music puts me into a state of mind that would be described as empty, introspective, and hopeless. Sometimes I need to feel these emotions to keep my sanity in check, it allows me to find the positive out of the incredibly negative. I believe funeral doom metal has this particular hold on me as well as others. Some do not understand why something so ugly and grim could be an instrument of solace. When you really dive deep into the dreamlike keyboards, the defeated growls and the angelic sopranos in the music then you will immediately understand why “Monotony Fields” is a must listen. Sometimes people do not have an outlet to the rage or sadness they feel inside, bands like Shape of Despair are needed to help others through these dark emotions, to find balance and eventually, hope. When music as good as this grips you it doesn’t let go because the music is telling you that you need to get through this journey and that you are not alone.

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I could break down this review song by song but I feel “Monotony Fields” needs to be heard as a whole. You need to take in the crushing depression in the music to understand it is actually helping you navigate the confusion and sadness that you may feel. It helps you get a better understanding of the internal struggles within. Shape of Despair is catharsis incarnate. It is poetry, music, images and intangibles that are sometimes hard to fathom and rationalize about. But it brilliantly puts that puzzle together in all its dark, despondent glory. The music is not just music, it is the psyche of every human being, regardless of background and upbringing…

“ Your name is written, with the language of longing…”

Rating: 10/10

https://shapeofdespair.bandcamp.com/

 

Agalloch Discography Review pt. II, 2010-2014

 

 

Here is the concluding reviews of Agalloch’s extensive discography. This time around Agalloch tried some really interesting things with their final albums. There are some amazing songs to be found but the magic that Agalloch was known for was waning in the later years. Though I can say with confidence that they went out with the same solid reputation they had when they first started. It was a heck of journey for Agalloch and they will forever be known as the metal band that always remained true to their vision and art.

Marrow of the Spirit, 8/10

In another four years Agalloch released “Marrow of the Spirit” when I first got a chance to hear this album I enjoyed it but felt like it was missing something. The more I listened the more I started to love it. The production was very different and really gave a dark, earthy feeling to the album throughout. While hearing the songs I could taste death in the air and felt the biting cold in my bones. What really first threw me off was how heavy the second track “Into the Painted Grey” was. When Aesop incredibly loud and fast snare work came into play I knew I was in for a heavier version of Agalloch. The more the song went the more interesting it got, and the moods were layered upon layered. It was a different feeling to me compared to the more zoned out wistfulness I felt in the earlier albums. The music felt more immediate and much, much darker. It was a feeling I had to get used to and by the time I did I regularly spun “Marrow of the Spirit”. I gave the album an eight because “The Watcher’s Monolith” and “To Drown” didn’t move me as much as the other tracks on the album did. Top three songs: Black Lake Nidstang, Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires, and Into the Painted Grey

Faustian Echoes, 10/10

When Agalloch announced they will be doing their longest song yet in the ‘Faustian Echoes” EP I was hyped to hear how it will sound. When I got my hands on the album I was immediately energized to hear that Agalloch went straight black metal for his album. The tremolo riffs were in abundance and vocals were as black metal as can be. I loved that they decided to go old school for this song. There was a sense of malice and evil all throughout the 21 minute running time. What makes this EP even more amazing is how Agalloch incorporated guitar leads and tones to even give the song a sense of hope and light. The running time blitzed by with “Faustian Echoes” when a song that long is able to make it feel quick, that tells you it will be a classic song…which it is.

The Serpent and the Sphere, 8/10

This is Agalloch’s last album and one that probably had the most mixed reviews I have seen in their discography. I was very enthused to hear this album when the band members describe it as one of their heaviest yet. What could go wrong with an even heavier Agalloch album? Well as the reviews came through there was a lot of negativity about “The Serpent and Sphere” some people describe it as exhausted and mediocre. When I started seeing these reviews I was becoming concerned that one of the greatest bands ever were losing the passion and drive they had before in earlier albums. As I finally got a chance to listen to it, I was actually really enjoying what I heard. The production was immense and the tones were deep, heavy and haunting like the outer rims of space. There was homage to the funeral doom genre in “The Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation” this is one of my favorite songs on it, I loved hearing Agalloch go slow and plodding and just oppressive. Then we are graced with some beautiful spacey acoustic passages by Musk Ox’s Nathanael Larochette. These quick snippets of classical guitar kind of brought the listener back to earth for a bit before being launched back into the Milky Way Galaxy. Then Agalloch creates 3 epic and awesome tunes back-to-back in “The Astral Dialogue”, “Dark Matter Gods”, and “Celestial Effigy” these are the finest three songs I have heard by Agalloch and “The Astral Dialogue” being one of their heaviest songs yet.

I was really digging this album and then what brought the rating down to an 8 was the last two songs “Vales Beyond Dimension” and “Plateau of the Ages” these songs didn’t wow me like the earlier tracks, they were not very interesting and had that dreaded “filler” feel to them. I was so used to consistent Agalloch for years and years, hearing these songs dampened my spirits a bit. The one positive I can say about “Plateau of the Ages” is it is a hell of a great instrumental but ended too soon, I was hoping for more “The Hawthrone Passage” and “Odal” feel to the song, but it ended too abruptly. I really enjoyed this album as it started but then it waned later which left me wanting more. The one thing that I really liked about “The Serpent and Sphere” is the sense of continuity when the album ends it seemingly begins again seamlessly which gives it an almost one song broken into separate parts feel to things. Top Three Songs: The Birth and Death of The Pillars of Creation, Dark Matter Gods, and The Astral Dialogue.

Agalloch Discography Review pt. I, 1999-2008

 

For over 20 years Agalloch has created an incredibly consistent discography, each album was unique and evoked different feelings and mindsets. One thing Agalloch strived for was to remain consistent when other bands started falling into tropedom. This is why they stand the test of time, because they always believed in their art and always believed in making every album progressively better. Below are going to be quick, one-paragraph reviews about each major album. I will also be focusing on the EPs “The White” and “Faustian Echoes” even though they have many wonderful EPs these are two that standout the most.

Pale Folklore, 10/10

One of Agalloch’s first forays into the metal world was writing this stellar, memorable album. “Pale Folklore” has always been one of my favorites, the album is incredibly consistent with haunting imagery abound. There is a real sense of foreboding and sadness in the lyrics and the music. Whenever winter hits New Hampshire this album gets repeated listens. There is so many nuances in this album that even to this day new things pop up when I listen. Not only did the music draw me in but the band photos too, to this day I have never seen a band make a deer skull look so evocative. This album shows that Agalloch were pioneers and were destined to make their mark on the metal world. Top three songs: She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, As Embers Dress the Sky and The Melancholy Spirit.

The Mantle, 10/10

“The Mantle” was my first Agalloch purchase, I remember reading an old metal forum that recommended this album. As I got immersed in the incredible sound of “The Mantle” there were so many different elements to each song that it was at first difficult to follow. The more I listened the more I started to love what I was hearing. There were so many different styles used in each of the tracks. But what really impressed me was the amount of unique instruments Agalloch used to give “The Mantle” a special kind of sound/imagery. This was the first time I heard an instrument called a “grim cymbal bell” and the first time I heard a deer skull as a percussion instrument. The innovation/creativity was incredible in this album and to this day there has never been an album like it since. Top three songs: In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, Odal, and You Were But a Ghost in My Arms.

Ashes Against the Grain, 9/10

I remember when I first heard rumblings about Agalloch working on their new album that I was incredibly eager to hear how it sounds. After four long years “Ashes Against the Grain” was complete. When I finally heard the preview song “Falling Snow” I knew this was going to be yet another strong output by the Oregonians. When the album finally came out I was just blown away about how good it was. The only knock I can give about this album is the last track “Our Fortress is Burning III…the Grain” it was a droning, disturbing soundscape that kind of felt like a weaker closing to such an epic album. I was hoping to hear something along the lines of “The Melancholy Spirit” but when thinking more about it, it ended up being a fitting closing to the album, it just was a bit underwhelming to me. Aside from that the album is completely consistent and the way Agalloch decided to produce it was also unique since the earlier albums were a bit more murky sounding to me. Everything was clear as a bell and even a bit over-produced but it still gave “Ashes Against the Grain” a unique identity that Agalloch continually strived for. Top three songs: Not Unlike the Waves, Limbs, and Our Fortress is Burning II…Bloodbirds.

The White EP, 10/10

I am a huge neo-folk fan and when Agalloch decided to do an EP going the neo-folk route I was just ecstatic. “The White” is easily one of Agalloch’s best albums in their discography. It was the perfect length and evoked so many different moods in my mind. To top it off to have sound clips from the classic movie “The Wicker Man” sprinkled throughout the album was amazing. I find most of Agalloch’s work to be very introspective and “The White” really gives images of silent introspection within in Nature. I have spun this album numerous times and it never gets old and once again I always feel a new emotion spring up when I hear it. When Agalloch re-released this album including Nest’s cover of “Haunting Birds” it immediately catapulted “The White” to a must buy and an immediate classic. Top three songs: Sowilo Rune, Pantheist, and Summerisle-Reprise