The first two Agalloch
full-lengths gave me the feeling of an ever encumbering blanket of autumn's
forest floor. "Ashes Against the Grain," the third chapter, is
absolutely no different. In fact, this album has a blacker sound than "Pale
Folklore" I believe. The albums' first track, Limbs, slowly progresses
from a sorta 5-minute introduction to a very doom-laden melancholy with
those whisper-raspy vocals. Then you have the very memorable "Falling
Snow," which is much more in that black metal vein and features some
of the best riffs on the album. Some of the rhythms are extremely repetitive,
but serve their purpose well without boring the hell out of you. Funny,
Agalloch always seem to have those riffs perfectly placed and use them just
enough to stay lodged in your head. There are a few ambient pieces on the
album that land between the more metallic ones. The first one is called
"This White Mountain On Which You Will Die" and has an eerily
haunted feel that leeks into the next track. The fourth track, "Fire
Above, Ice Below," is very much like what could be heard on their previous
release (The Mantle) as with the more folk-influence. The album then evolves
into black territories again on "Not Unlike The Waves". A minor
resemblance to Opeth or Novembre, but more folk-based with some awesome
Burzum / Bethlehem style shrieks. Not to mention, heavier and some double-kicks.
Now are the last three songs known as the "Our Fortress Is Burning..."
trilogy. The first, is an ambient / acoustic folk rock type of track that
seems to give the listener a picture of extreme distress. Second track known
as "Bloodbird" carefully accompanies the previous track with a
tranquil acoustic medley. It slowly (almost wouldn't notice) progresses
into a great doom/death piece much like the final track on "Pale Folklore,"
but just a tad shorter. The final track in the sequence of trilogy and the
album, in general, is a song I believe should have been left off. "The
Grain", which in its title is important, but this particular ambient
piece just goes on-and-on-and-on for way too long. This is probably the
only setback for the album. There are 8 tracks total with an hour playing
time. Other than that, the disc booklet and the production of the album
have been very nicely handled. Basically... "Ashes Against the Grain"
is a slightly more rock-based album with less mysticism, but totally Agalloch
in structure. Definitely more black / doom structure (in my opinion) that
sounds closer to "Pale Folklore" in that sense. I've seen some
very poor reviews out there that I can't quite understand in many aspects
(including lyrical, musical lacking and whatnot), but I suppose that means
that you can't please everyone. Agalloch is still one of the most innovative
acts from the states and for me, will remain so for a long time to come...
Reviewed By: Thomas Mitchell