Agalloch
The Serpent and the Sphere


4.0
excellent

Review

by Aaron Arneson CONTRIBUTOR (108 Reviews)
May 10th, 2014 | 131 replies | 7,356 views


Release Date: 05/13/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's a different kind of Agalloch album, but an excellent addition to their discography nonetheless

In my eyes, the first forty minutes of The Serpent and The Sphere is a fine representation of what Agalloch are capable of accomplishing within their music. It isn’t until the album's final breaths that it really starts to lose some steam. Nevertheless, those final moments act as a sort of intermission for the listener following the sonic induced trance brought on by the first 6 tracks. They make up, quite simply, the most mesmerizing batch of songs I’ve heard in quite some time. However, it took me a a great deal of patience to reach this conclusion.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of The Serpent and The Sphere. The 10-minute opener ‘Birth and Death of The Pillars of Creation’ seemed a little restrained by Agalloch’s standards, never quite evolving into anything extraordinary. However, the more you hear the song, the less this sentiment seems to have any truth. It becomes clear that Agalloch are just taking their time, and perhaps more so than ever before. Each time you hear the track, it seems to reveal something to the listener they may not have grasped before. Ironically, the song’s lack of repetition is what keeps it from standing out at first. That’s not to say they never repeat the same note, but the song never stays in the same place for too long before wandering into different territory.

There are several instrumental pieces throughout the album such as ‘(Serpens Caput)’ which is sandwiched between the opening track and the aggressive nature of ‘The Astral Dialogue.’ These interludes do a fantastic job of connecting very different sounding tracks, but also add a good deal of magic to the album. '(Serpens Caput)’ is one of the most gorgeous moments to be found, as Nathanael Larochette (Musk Ox) hones in on his skills as a musician to create sounds of crashing waves and crickets chirping behind the intricate guitar-work. What follows is what can best be described as the most in-your-face song on the entire album. ‘The Astral Dialogue’ is made complete with raspy snarls, exceptional drumming, and some of the heavier riffs I’ve heard on an Agalloch release. It’s rightfully earned its place as one of the most jaw-dropping moments on the album and is sure to be a fan favorite with some of the more intimidating growls that have ever escaped John Haughm’s mouth.

The rest of The Serpent and The Sphere follows a similar path as the first three songs, always seeming to take its time, and the result is an absolute beast of an album. I may still be having a difficult time trying to digest and understand the last two tracks, but they’re in no way bad. Unlike previous songs, however, ‘Plateau of The Ages’ does feel a bit more tedious at times as it actually follows a similar song structure throughout. Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly a well constructed tune that doesn’t hinder the overall experience too much. The Serpent and the Sphere then comes to an end with the fitting ‘(Serphens Cauda)’ which offers a gentle, yet eerie conclusion to a satisfyingly complex album.

It’s too early to say where The Serpent and The Sphere stands in Agalloch’s impressive discography, but it’s certainly another excellent effort from the Portland, OR metal veterans. It might seem trivial to label the album as a “grower” but it really seems to be the case in the band’s latest affair. The first time I heard “The Mantle” I was instantly hooked, and even though the same can’t be said about The Serpent and The Sphere, it promises to have just as much lasting appeal as some of the band’s best work. It may not be their most immediate album, but something about it keeps you coming back for more.



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user ratings (265)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SnakeDelilah
May 10th 2014



5439 Comments


ROLF

Digging: Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



19475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

couldn't think of a summary lol. wasn't really planning on reviewing this but I've been listening nonstop so it just kinda came to me. I seem to be enjoying it a lot more than some people here so figured it could use a positive review too.

Digging: The Who - Tommy

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



19475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what snake

Amebix
May 10th 2014



240 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

nice review.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



20655 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ROLF


http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101125041640/ed_/images/7/77/Rolf.JPG

Digging: Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails

SnakeDelilah
May 10th 2014



5439 Comments


sorry inside joke

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



20655 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It isn’t until the album’s final breaths that it really starts to lose some steam.


agreed with this. plateau is the only song i find wholly boring. sweet review

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



15802 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

found this thing a bit boring really, formulaic riffs, predictable chord changes, just sent me to
sleep

Digging: Synaesthesia (UK) - Synaesthesia

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



19475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks amebix and ins. Wish I could think of a summary but i suppose it doesn't really matter

Verm
May 10th 2014



1004 Comments


Album is not at the same level of the mantle or pale folklore, but is pretty decent, deserves at least a 3,8

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



15802 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"following the sonic induced trance brought on by the first 6 tracks"

think there's a line between when something goes from repetitive and boring to trance inducing and it's different depending on the listener, maybe it's to do with how your brain waves synch with the rhythms

Verm
May 10th 2014



1004 Comments


vales beyond is a jam

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



19475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol mena

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



15802 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

haha, i was actually trying to be serious there, there is sposed to be something in that ya know

Gyromania
May 10th 2014



15202 Comments


excellent work here; this is the review i was waiting to read.

album is far better than people say it is

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



19475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cheers gyro, glad you liked it

laughingman22
May 10th 2014



1364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah a positive review

Digging: Funkadelic - One Nation Under a Groove

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2014



4921 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Cool review, Atari! Thank fucking god that first review isn't flagged anymore.

Digging: Integrity - Those Who Fear Tomorrow

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2014



16264 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

if anything this has gotten worse the more i listen to it, it is utterly lifless aside from the astral dialogue

the instrumentals weren't even written by the band, they were written and performed by the guy from musk ox

Digging: Ulver - Bergtatt

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2014



18068 Comments


lol those were the only semi-decent parts of the album

Digging: Huerco S - Colonial Patterns



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