Agalloch

Marrow of the Spirit

01. They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness
02. Into the Painted Grey
03. The Watcher’s Monolith
04. Black Lake Nidstång
05. Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires
06. To Drown

[Profound Lore | 11/23/10]

I like to think of myself as a fairly competent writer. I mean, I wouldn’t have started this website if I had many doubts on the matter. Obviously, I could use some work, but overall, I do pretty well for myself. However, when it comes to Agalloch‘s new album Marrow of the Spirit, I find it increasingly difficult with each listen to fully articulate my thoughts on the album. I’m also not all that well versed in black and folk metal, which sort of compounds my problem. I’m determined to finish a review before the album comes out, though, so I’m going to try my damnedest. After all, Agalloch are worth the effort.

What is everyone’s first impression of an album? Most of the time, our preconceptions and feelings of an album comes from the imagery attached to the music: the album’s cover. In many cases, the album art is an arbitrary part of packaging with no real bearing on the music other than advertisement fodder. However, on Marrow of the Spirit, the cover is an integral part the music. When Marrow of the Spirit begins with “They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness”, we’re treated to a soundscape featuring the bubbling sounds of a running river and somber cello playing. What you’re hearing is landscape on the album’s cover. This sort of interplay between the album’s sound and packaging is something that doesn’t happen that often in the area of metal often enough these days. Obviously, Agalloch show impeccable attention to detail, and they should be praised for their tenacity in achieving proper atmosphere.

The album’s gloomy art and opener set the tone and mood for the rest of the album, which ranges from gloomy and depressing to optimistic. Agalloch are the best at what they do, and they are masters at writing thought-provoking epics that convey emotion better than anticipated. In the grand scheme of things, Marrow of the Spirit plays like a classic book on tape, but instead of someone reading the book to you, they’re feeling the book at you.

Okay, so that doesn’t actually make all that much sense, but you get my point.

While I do enjoy some black metal, I actually dislike the drum tone and vocal style. This all boils down to my own personal taste and preference, so it bears little meaning. Fans of Agalloch and the genre as a whole should see no problem in the album’s sonic tonality, as things are on par for the course: raw, but clear enough to make out most everything in the mix. For the rest of us, the music is immersive enough to make it almost a non-issue. It definitely sounds better than some of their cohorts in the dark metal corner of the metal universe.

In all, Agalloch’s folk metal, black metal, progressive, and post-rock influences are blended seamlessly on Marrow of the Spirit. If you manage to avoid being bored by lengthy and slowly building songs, Marrow of the Spirit should treat you just fine. While not the greatest thing they’ve ever done, this is a damn good addition to their discography. If you’ve been meaning to get into this style of music, here’s your gateway.

Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit gets…

4.5/5

– JR

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