Marrow Of The Spirit review by Agalloch

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  • Released: Nov 23, 2010
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (26 votes)
Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit
3

Sound — 9
Portland's very own Agalloch is for those who don't know yet, a metal band that incorporates influences from black metal, folk and post-rock into a vision that encompasses pagan and naturalist ideologies. Agalloch are known for creating beautiful single entities with every album they put out which certainly has set and kept the bar very high for the quality of music they put out and the expectations of their fan base. Marrow of the Spirit is yet again another journey with its very own distinct qualities that separate it from the previous releases, focusing on a darker and colder spectrum that can be instantly recognized from the fantastic album cover. Marrow of the Spirit is an album that sounds great, it was recorded with only analog equipment which sets a different sound than anything else out there, it sounds less compressed, more organic, and slightly quieter. The different instruments present in the music besides the guitar, bass, drums and vocals include cello, violin, vibraphone, glockenspiel and believe it or not, "Petrified bone, glass and metal sheet percussion" all creating mesmerizing atmospheres and intricate soundscapes. Sometimes there are so many layers built in the music that it starts to fuzz a bit together like on Into The Painted Grey, but this does not take away from the experience at all, instead creating walls of noise that may or may not be appreciated by the listener with thunderous riffs, exceptional leads and loud effective drum playing in the heavier parts. The guitar work is exceptional as always as is the bass. The new drummer, Aesop Dekker, is constantly beating up and down his set as loud and lucid as he can, composing effective crashes and earthly booms over complexity. The sound as a whole is different than anything else I've personally ever heard but is excellent and effectively contributes to the emotional connection created between the listener and the music. One of the best features which this album holds is its flow from song to song, with a dazzling intro piece "They Escaped the Weight of Darkness" introducing the album with the sound of a stream flowing, birds chirping, and a wailing cello. The second song, Into The Painted Grey, is arguably Agalloch's heaviest song ever the heaviest song in the album incorporating blast beats, tremoloed riffs and John Haughm's signature high pitched screams, slowing down and then speeding back up again. This is where the main sound of the album is introduced, the rhythmic acoustic guitar playing along with a heavily distorted guitar and a lead on top of it. The listener can then relax a tad as The Watcher's Monolith comes in, a slower song with singing from the whole band and guitar leads reminiscent of Ashes Against the Grain, bouncing with grooving rock rhythms into yet another epic faster black metal influenced part. The song ends with more and more great leads from Don Anderson into forest sounds and a piano track that is very foreboding and almost too soothing. Black Lake Nistng is the next track, a beauty of a monster at 17 minutes of length incorporating layers and layers of guitars meddling into noise and drone, an acoustic solo, doom riffs and Haughm's whispers, all creating a magnificent and stunning ambiance and atmosphere. What comes after cannot simply be described in human language but includes Haughm's best performance as a vocalist in Agalloch history, screaming a la Weakling, spawning a crescendo of enchantment and despair, melancholy and spiritual exaltation, despair and euphoric rapture. Ghost of the Midwinter Fires breathes onto the listener's ears and flows into more exceptional leads and folk metal riffs until the finale is reached, To Drown. Cascading violin and cello with acoustic guitar and layers and layers of distorted guitars until John and Don go completely at it guitar to guitar, wailing as passionately as ever, until they cannot go any possibly higher, a heavenly moment and celestial offering finalized on melancholy of Haughm's final words and waves beating against a shore and sounds of metal scraping against each other, a very fitting end to a long journey indeed.

Lyrics — 10
All of the lyrics in the album were written whilst Haughm was on a trip in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains in March of 2010, all of them which fit the music perfectly and admirably, narrating tales of pagan gods, burning forests, lost spirits, eternal despair and physical suicide. My personal favorite would have to be the last lyrics of the album found on To Drown: "They escaped the weight of darkness, to forge a path into the marrow of the spirit, they chose to drown, in a deeper vacancy, an emptiness that quells the null, a pool for the forgotten". Into the Painted Grey, which narrates the thoughts of a dying Pagan god include the likes of "For I am not an ageless god, no, I am imprisoned by time, these ancient palms shall once again be mine. Hands...hands that lift the oceans to vertical depths above the stars, for when I die, the universe will die with me." Black Lake Nistng includes a dialogue between the deceased and the actual Nistng (a Nistng is a nithing pole used to cast curse and death upon someone in Germanic Pagan tradition) : "(voice of the dead) We are the faces below the ripples, a deep sorrow traveled through the woods and found a home in our humble grave" -"(voice of the Nistng) I am the silence inside the tomb, you created the stars and gave birth to the heavens; the darkness of space and time, so go to the nightside end below". These lyrics form a formidable compliance between the effect that the music has on the listener and the artistic vision created by Agalloch in Marrow of the Spirit.

Overall Impression — 9
Although a clearly fantastic piece of music, Marrow of the Spirit takes time to sink in. There are so many things going on at once at you that it is hard to take it all in at first, it's easy to become confused at what exactly is happening and lose attention span. My personal recommendation would be to take a walk during the winter at a nearby forest, and walk along listening through the entire album. Another complaint I would have is the album would have benefited from acoustic centered pieces rather than constant acoustic layers in the rhythm layers of the music. Marrow of the Spirit is a very solid entry in the Agalloch discography, certainly not inferior to previous Agalloch achievements and formulates an epic and long exhausting journey containing musical and lyrical imagery of despair and melancholy and narration of occurrences in the spirit realm. Buy this album and see this band live if you can, they certainly deserve your money's worth.

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

    krvolok
    Firstly Team review = comparatively good User review(illuminatiano) = better Well,Agalloch,it's hard to be indifferent towards them. Forgotten Tomb does it better.
    EpiExplorer
    Disturbdkornkid wrote: EpiExplorer wrote: Escalating nicely and I did nothing, YAY. This is weird, normally you are the one that starts the flame war by stating your opinion, Epi. I don't like change!
    Lulz, its always when UG does a new BM release... suddenly the hermits come out from the caves.
    The Wildchild
    Obviously you haven't listened to an entire Hellhammer release. Also, you don't know a thing about d-beats. Snare hits are always on the up beat. Lern2music dude.
    The Wildchild
    I don't see how those links relate to the topic. You just posted some tripe about d-beats, so I don't think I'll trust anything that you have to say about d-beats. Hellhammer basically nullify your point that Katatonia, along with certain unidentified English bands, originated the slow black/death element.
    eazy-c
    Mate, you're actually so wrong it hurts. Please be quiet. Nice reviews, it's certainly a grower of an album so i can understand why you had so much trouble writing it.
    Disturbdkornkid
    EpiExplorer wrote: Escalating nicely and I did nothing, YAY.
    This is weird, normally you are the one that starts the flame war by stating your opinion, Epi. I don't like change!
    Amuro Jay
    Hermits being the metal regs. Talk about that other stuff in the forums, yall. Checked.
    BlackSymphony6
    Apart from the 17 minutes of my life I wasted listening to that snoozefest black lake nidstang, this is pretty damn good.
    Lion_Slicer
    Dude this one totally snuck in under my radar... I'm relatively new to Agalloch so I had no idea they had this coming out. Beautiful ****ing music. I play Agalloch constantly during the mornings I'm at work... for some reason they strike me as a great morning band. Especially with the metric ****ton of snow we just got. I agree with illuminatiano that the album cover is fantastic... it's very evocative, and that scores points with me. Good reviews too.
    krvolok
    EpiExplorer wrote: Escalating nicely and I did nothing, YAY.
    Well somebody has to do it. D-beats,D-beats,where would we be with out discharge... A d-beat is a varying eight note measure created by playing alternately the bass drum and snare(bass-snare-bass-snare-bass-snare-bass-snare with the cymbals over the measure).Granted I played drums only for a lowly harcore band but if you take a look at any GP tab or drum tab you will see that for the most part the d-beat is played that way.
    Emenius Sleepus
    the album left me cold, to be honest; in their attempt to intensify the sound, they lost in pure breathing atmospherics, and contemplative nature of their music has dissipated somewhat. i'm going to give it a few more listens, but so far - eh.
    krvolok
    I fail to see how the hell is Hellhammer slow black/death when they play at Motorhead tempos,where as Paradise Lost' self-titled is at low tempos and has guttural vocals. Punk D-beat C-x--x--x--x-| S-x--x--x--x-| B-o--o--o--o-| Motorhead D-beat c-x-x-x-x-x-x-| ---x--x--x--x-| b-0--0--0--0-0| I nverse c-x-x-x-x-x-x-| s-x--x--x--x--| b--0--0--0--0-|
    The Wildchild
    What the hell is an inverse d-beat? I meant that Hellhammer were doing the slow black/death thing way before those unidentified English bands you're referring to.
    Deplorable
    This album rocks, though I haven't listened to it since I went on my 30 plays in a row after it leaked, waiting for my copy now.
    krvolok
    And I didn't even say that they are the same.But both are a part of a loose wave of bands heavily influenced by Dance of December Souls.If you look at it that way Forgotten tomb is better.
    illuminatiano
    Why is that Carvin guitar review more important than this ? Ah well. Great review duncang, there are one or two grammar/spelling mistakes in mine which I should have found but I guess I can excuse myself by saying english is my second language haha. There are a few things I wished I could have talked about a little bit more including a few flaws with the albums and the album's concepts and underlying themes present with the lyrics.
    The Wildchild
    krvolok wrote: Firstly Team review = comparatively good User review(illuminatiano) = better Well,Agalloch,it's hard to be indifferent towards them. Forgotten Tomb does it better.
    Forgotten Tomb is a whole different band.
    EpiExplorer
    The soft stuff is nice and using analog is the 'natural' way to do things. The rest has been done before though its not bad in any way, really.. except having like no vocals? where did all the really good bits go?
    krvolok
    The Wildchild wrote: krvolok wrote: Firstly Team review = comparatively good User review(illuminatiano) = better Well,Agalloch,it's hard to be indifferent towards them. Forgotten Tomb does it better. Forgotten Tomb is a whole different band.
    Yes,but it's Black/Doom coupled with rock,they also occasionally use heavy reverb,both are quite depressive,both are the bastard children of early Katatonia,Agalloch has the folksy approach but Forgotten Tomb just does it better.
    The Wildchild
    So? Are they the same in the way they compose their music? Absolutely not. Even the atmospheres they evoke are radically different. Their messages and themes are also different.
    The Wildchild
    The fact that you compared them means that you think they're the same, in one way or another. Who are you to say that they're both influenced by Katatonia's debut? Also, while I do prefer Forgotten Tomb over Agalloch, care to tell me how Forgotten Tomb are better?
    krvolok
    Yeah,Hellhammer,the band that pioneered the inverse D-beat,lol
    The Wildchild wrote: You said they originated it along with English bands, all of which were predated by Hellhammer.
    krvolok
    The closer to Katatonia(who originated the whole black and death at low tempo and gave the atmosphere,along with the English bands) the better.However I'm don't talking abut just playing diminished arpeggios,it's the big picture.Again they are very similar due to Katatonia.
    illuminatiano
    EpiExplorer wrote: The rest has been done before though its not bad in any way, really.. except having like no vocals? where did all the really good bits go?
    dude wat
    The Wildchild
    krvolok wrote: The closer to Katatonia(who originated the whole black and death at low tempo and gave the atmosphere,along with the English bands) the better.However I'm don't talking abut just playing diminished arpeggios,it's the big picture.Again they are very similar due to Katatonia.
    Katatonia weren't the first band who did the whole slow black/death sound. Who said anything about diminished arpeggios? Please explain (in detail) how Forgotten Tomb are better than Agalloch.
    krvolok
    No they were not the first,that's why I said along with the English bands .Details,no,because we will again filibuster the review and I will spend another weekend recovering from post-seizure tremors.
    progbass
    you seem to have a bit of trouble expressing your points krvolok. I recommend visiting the Constructive Music Analysis thread in the metal forum. also, @ Illum - you seriously want me to exercise when listening to music? for 65 minutes at that? I dunno man...
    illuminatiano
    progbass wrote: also, @ Illum - you seriously want me to exercise when listening to music? for 65 minutes at that? I dunno man...
    Oh yes, walking through a forest and listening to agalloch is completely physically agonizing I'm sure.
    Mike_Atherton
    My personal favourite album of 2010 I've listened to it nearly everyday since I got it a couple weeks ago