Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain (The End Records) - Back
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...

Rating:
91

Reviewed By: Thomas Mitchell