AGALLOCH — The Serpent & the Sphere

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AGALLOCH - The Serpent & the Sphere cover
3.70 | 19 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2014

Tracklist

1. Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation (10:30)
2. (Serpens Caput) (3:08)
3. The Astral Dialogue (5:13)
4. Dark Matter Gods (8:38)
5. Celestial Effigy (6:59)
6. Cor Serpentis (The Sphere) (3:00)
7. Vales Beyond Dimension (6:50)
8. Plateau of the Ages (12:28)
9. (Serpens Cauda) (3:12)

Total Time 59:58

Line-up/Musicians


- Don Anderson / Guitars, Piano, Backing Vocals
- John Haughm / Guitars, Vocals, Drums
- Jason William Walton / Bass
- Aesop Dekker / Drums

Guest/Session:
- Nathanaël Larochette / Acoustic Interludes
- Billy Anderson / Backing Vocals (#1), Piano (#8)

About this release

Release date: May 13th, 2014
Label: Profound Lore Records

Recorded by Billy Anderson at Cloud City Studios in Portland, Oregon.
Mixed by Billy Anderson likewise at Everything Hz.
Acoustic interludes written and performed by Nathanaël Larochette of Canadian neo-folk band Musk Ox.
Release dates: May 13 in U.S.A., May 19 in Europe (Eisenwald Tonschmiede) and Japan (Daymare Recordings)

CD version available as deluxe digipak with die-cut first panel

Thanks to diamondblack for the addition and UMUR, adg211288 for the updates

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AGALLOCH THE SERPENT & THE SPHERE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
AGALLOCH pretty much dominated the American metal scene for the first decade of the 2000’s as they cranked out not only one or two but four outstanding classics that showcased their idiosyncratic visionary fusion of black and doom metal with dark neofolk, post rock and ritual ambient music. Add to that, several EPs distinct from their full-length canon and numerous tours that took them around the world. And not only did they deliver the goods on each of their albums, but they steadily ratcheted up new aspects of their sound which made them quite popular by the time their fourth album “Marrow Of The Spirit” hit the world in 2010. It seemed the band would continue the trend forever. Not so fast.

Following the single tracked EP “Faustian Echoes” which not only displayed AGALLOCH’s longest track of their career but also their heaviest that utilized the fullest effects of black metal riffing only intermittently punctuated by dark folk interludes to provide a soft canvass for the poetic prose to be recited. Two years later the band would release their fifth and final album as fate would have it. THE SERPENT & THE SPHERE offered another slice of the dramatic melding of the folk and metal that fans had come to expect so well. The band continues the same lineup as “Marrow” with Aesop Dekkecontinuing his drumming duties but this one contains a guest appearance of Nathanaël Larochetter who plays acoustic guitar.

THE SERPENT & THE SPHERE pretty much continues the AGALLOCH signature sound however for once in their career, this one seems to have lost all inspiration and as a result sound like an AGALLOCH by-the-numbers type of album. It contains nine tracks with two extending past the ten minute mark however where previously albums soared and took you on left turns after building up crescendoes of folk and metal glory, SERPENT seems to slither down a one way path. Once again the band builds long repetitive riffs that continue to grow in speed and volume utilizing the raspy shrieked vocal effect and distorted guitar atmospheric layering that offers the desired doom and gloom and all that. But something is seriously missing here.

Firstly, the riffs and melodies are rather flat. There is not one track on here that keeps my attention and not one that demands my returned listening. This happened upon first listen but in order to review this i’ve spun it numerous times and unlike the other four albums that made me want to listen to them over and over, this one makes wanna take it out and put in, you got it, one of the other four albums! This one seems to completely lack that magical mojo and spirit that made AGALLOCH albums so great. It seems the magic wasn’t isn’t the riffing, the post-rock build-ups, the black metal outbursts or any of the describable ingredients. It was in the epic compositional constructs that cleverly tied it all together.

It really seems AGALLOCH lost the passion and burned out and apparently that’s exactly what happened since the band broke up two years later. There is nothing bad about this one per se but in all honesty, there is nothing great either and since it’s AGALLOCH, well, ok doesn’t cut the mustard. This is by far their worst album in my world. I’m glad they called it quits having realized the game is over and pumping out mediocrity for time immemorial would only tarnish their past glories. After the breakup, John Haughm would form a new band called Pillorian, Don Anderson, Jason William Walton and Aesop Dekker would begin Khôrada. While it’s never a glad day when a legendary band calls it quits, personally i’d much rather see a band do so than litter the market with bland lifeless locust shells of their past.
bartosso
Spiritual Oregano

Hello and welcome to my first Agalloch review. Open your eyes, raise your arms and behold the beauty of the universe... You may wonder what's the reason for such a theatrical introduction, so I hasten to explain that primo, Agalloch has never started an album with a more exalted track than "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" (oh come on, really?). Secundo, the whole album is incredibly solemn. So, I just had to keep pace with the band, you see! The Serpent and the Sphere is the fifth LP from Agalloch, preceded by bleak and raw Marrow of the Spirit. This one on the other hand is much more accessible. And here's why...

Before I tell you why, one more thing. Don't think I'm belittling the concept behind this album. If only for how consistent every Agalloch album is, the band should be praised. As usual music, artwork and lyrics complete each other and create a stunningly atmospheric whole. Still, even though the sound production fits the music on The Serpent and the Sphere pretty well, I can't help but miss the raw black metal sound of the previous record. Agalloch's music relies on atmospheric layers rather than composition complexity and doesn't really need such a polished sound production. It just seems more genuine with a rawer one. Songwriting itself is strong as ever, even if I got a deja vu more than once. While Agalloch don't necessarily get stale, the polished sound would allow of more experimental approach. What we got instead is an atmospheric doom/black metal album that sounds a tad less post-metal. Neo-folk influences, on the other hand seem to have gained more ground. I may not like all the changes in direction but, despite all that, it's a very enjoyable and catchy record. Just another proof that Agalloch's got the magic, no matter what!

Every so often I catch myself turning a blind eye to anything that, in my humble opinion, Agalloch does wrong. Songwriting is sometimes rough, and pathos sometimes too abundant. Yet still this music is so honest and genuine that I can't help but get carried away with it. Even though a little less bold than before, Agalloch still stands out as one of the more original extreme metal acts. All fans of atmospheric metal should give this album a go, especially newcomers, as The Serpent and the Sphere is their most accessible release to date.

..::Originally written for: shrineofllyria.blogspot.com ::..
UMUR
"The Serpent & the Sphere" is the 5th full-length studio album by US doom/black metal act Agalloch. The album was released through Profound Lore Records in May 2014. It´s been 4 years since the release of "Marrow of the Spirit (2010)", but looking down over their discography that seems to be their regular release cycle for studio albums. Agalloch have however released the "Whitedivisiongrey (2011)" compilation and the "Faustian Echoes (2012)" EP to bridge the gap between the two studio albums.

The music on "The Serpent & the Sphere" pretty much continues down the atmospheric and epic doom/black metal path that the band also tread on "Marrow of the Spirit (2010)". It´s a music style that´s actually a bit hard to describe correctly as it also features elements of folk, goth, post rock, and progressive rock. The only "real" black metal trait in the music is the raspy and raw vocals, which are occasionally whispering instead. Otherwise this is predominantly heavy, atmospheric and epic extreme metal. It´s very dynamic music with both grand massive sections and beautiful mellow acoustic moments.

The album features 9 tracks and a full playing time of 59:58 minutes. There´re everything from 3 to 5 minutes long tracks to tracks like "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" (which features an opening that screams My Dying Bride) and "Plateau of the Ages", that both exceed the 10 minutes mark. As something extraordinary Canadian neo-folk musician Nathanaël Larochette has written and performs some acoustic guitar pieces, that work as little breathers between the more metal oriented tracks.

"The Serpent & the Sphere" is a well produced album featuring a warm, heavy and organic sound, which suits the music well and overall it´s another high quality release by Agalloch. It´s not their most creative release but it´s still adventurous and well played and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.
The Angry Scotsman
The masters of atmospheric metal are back with their latest release.

"The Serpent & the Sphere" feels like a continuation of "Ashes Against the Grain" in that Agalloch continues to drift from their black metal tendencies, (even if they were always tempered with folk and prog) with more focus on black metal aesthetics, atmosphere and song writing. While Haughm's classic raw, gravely rasps remain, there are very few blast beats to be found, and indeed the overall album has a less intense pace and feel to it. The songs are mid paced and far more subdued than their last album, "Marrow of the Spirit". In fact, I'd say "The Serpent & the Sphere" is more subdued than their overall body of work, which has never been a stranger to tremolo picked guitar work, or bludgeoning. Not to say these aspects are absent, (there's even some good ol double bass chain drumming) but there just seems to be "less" of everything, if that makes sense. A more sparse, less heavy feel to the music. Certainly less intensity, and even more acoustic/light guitar. The balance between light, melodic passages and heavy, raw passages seems to have tipped definitively towards the former.

The tone of the music itself is cleaner and lighter than "Marrow of the Spirit", which admittedly took a bit of adjustment..I am used to Agalloch loud, buzzing, fuzzy guitar noise. My natural inclination upon first hearing this is "flat" or "lacking power" but of course it just is different sounding. I personally applaud the band for the lighter style.

This is perhaps not unexpected, as Agalloch was moving progressively in this direction until they released Marrow. So maybe the style is what we should have expected, is it successful?

Of course.

The songwriting as solid as ever. Textured, layered guitar work with riffs and melodies to die for, (even if they are lesser on this album than previous) and songs that move like a river, drifting but not without direction. There are a few other minor changes, such as more prominent bass, and a smidge "more" to the drumming than is typical. The songs are shorter than usual, and this album has a continuous flow to it, with segue pieces to connect the songs elegantly.

So overall, another solid, (if unspectacular) output from Agalloch, and as we know solid from them is better than most other bands could hope for. I will be sure to give this album many listens over the near future, and like all their other albums I'm sure this album will grow on me more and more.

Three and a Half Stars

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