AGALLOCH — The Serpent & the Sphere (review)

AGALLOCH — The Serpent & the Sphere album cover Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
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.
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