Album Review: The Serpent and the Sphere by Agalloch
Posted by RiffRaff
If there’s one thing Agalloch is synonymous with, it’s nature. Each of their releases has the band exploring haunted, snow-capped forests and reveling in the majesty of vast and intimidating mountain and valley landscapes. If you pop on any Agalloch record, you are going to be transported into a neo-folk cum black metal whirlwind of mysticism, intrigue, and Earthen beauty. For their latest release, The Serpent and the Sphere, we get to listen to the black metal shamans take their well established sound one step further. But, how could they go beyond their already perfect interpretations of Mother Earth in all her natural beauty? Well, by tackling something more astral.
While still remaining rooted to their terrestrial sound, Agalloch find themselves floating up to the sidereal void to converse with gods and bring meaning to their home on the ground. Each track produces their biggest, most vast sound to date, yet not even once do they leave you feel untethered to your home as you dance around those glittering celestial bodies. Mixes of ominous acoustic guitars, thunderous tremolos, soul-shattering leads and solo work, John Haughm’s wildly unique sometimes wispy sometimes raspy always ethereal vocal style, and hypnotic rhythms all work together to create a metal (or any genre for that mater) album unlike any I’ve ever heard.
In addition to the stellar musicianship of the core members of Agalloch, guest acoustic guitarist Nathanaël Larochett (who does some outstanding spoken word/acoustic music as well as performing in the neo-folk band Musk Ox) appears to lend his talent to the chill interludes on the LP and, to quote my personal hero, ‘really ties the room together’. While Agalloch takes you to the stars, Mr. Larochett keeps you reminded of the beauty of Earth creating cycle of diving out into the stars and at the same time feel a bit homesick reminisce of the majesty back home. You get the best of both worlds and being able to bask in the overwhelming beauty of them both is almost crushing at times (in a good way).
For long time fans, you will find elements of the whole catalog of Agalloch’s work here. Ranging from the heavy neo-folk style of The Mantle to the aggression of Marrow of the Spirit. On The Serpent the Sphere all of their best sides are shown, though I would have liked just a tad more of that chilling clean singing heavily heard on The Mantle to be present here. For newcomers, if you are even slightly intrigued by anything I’ve said, I implore you to jump on the bandwagon and discover one of the most truly unique bands of the modern generation.
The Serpent and the Sphere is a record I highly recommend and gives either the casual listener something immediate to enjoy from moment to moment and the deep cut listener lots to chew on through repeated listens (I myself have probably listened to it 15 times over the past week and I’m just as engaged as I was during my first spin, more-so even). Peace Love and Metal! 5 out of 5
The Serpent and the Sphere is out now through Profound Lore Records. You can listen/buy the album through the Bandcamp widget below, or buy the gorgeous physical copy from the label (linked in the previous sentence, and trust me, it’s worth it.) And be a chap and give the band a ‘like’ on the Facebook.