Agalloch
The Serpent and the Sphere


4.5
superb

Review

by Simon Harris (SCREAM!) USER (57 Reviews)
July 5th, 2014 | 29 replies


Release Date: 05/13/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Although it does its best to hide it, The Serpent and the Sphere may be Agalloch's most powerful and grandiose album to date.

If I had to choose a mere three words to describe Agalloch’s newest full length album, The Serpent and the Sphere, I’d probably have to go with: layered, brooding, and most of all monolithic. It isn’t an album that gives itself away on a first, second or even third listen. Much like a person, it requires patience, perseverance, and attentiveness in order to decrypt the outer layers and get to what lies within, a daunting task perhaps, but one that can reap immeasurable rewards when done for the right person (or in this case the right band). With classic releases such as The Mantle and Ashes Against the Grain under their belt and still not a bad album in sight, Agalloch are a band that has certainly earned the effort.

The Serpent and the Sphere may very well be the band’s most forceful output yet but it hides itself behind a wall of sound sort of production. Once the soft opening notes of “Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation” finish their soft greeting, the electric guitars immediately come crashing in with a thickness that has never yet been seen on an Agalloch record. This very loudness is what makes the album so daunting yet so rewarding all at once. Picking out the minute details that make an Agalloch album the beautiful journey it is becomes a challenge that will not appeal to any listener. Listen after listen, however, the album reveals itself layer by layer, be it an accompanying melody that was being played softly below the loud distortion or a pinch harmonic thrown in as an exclamation after a particularly powerful passage, such as in “Plateau of the Ages” as it brings the album to a resounding climax. As each layer is gently peeled off and the heart and life of the album is revealed, the initial intimidation of the loud production turns into a comfort of sorts. Having trekked a path to the center of the sound, the loudness now serves as a layer holding the outside world at bay while the listener finds himself engrossed in the experience that is The Serpent and the Sphere.

Having bridged this gap, the album is not all that different from past Agalloch opuses although done with its own unique blend of the traditional Agalloch flavour (a combination of folk, black metal and post-rock/metal). If anything, it is especially comparable to their 2006 release, Ashes Against the Grain. Much like that album, Serpent’s most prominent genre in the Agalloch melting pot is post-metal as it relies mainly on the use of electric guitars, both clean and distorted, to create long, epic tracks that often feature many emotional peaks interspersed with moments of calm. The band adds to these moments of respite with the help of Musk Ox’s Nathanaël Larochette who delivers three beautiful, short interludes played on the classical guitar. Given the imposing nature of the album, these interludes are positioned well throughout the album, giving the listener a short breather before the band moves on to the next section. Although, the flow of some songs seems a little questionable at times (especially apparent during some of “Celestial Effigy”’s transitions), the album generally seems to have been meticulously planned to carry the desired brooding and reflective emotions. An odd sounding climax-less build, such as found on Dark Matter Gods, is quickly explained by an explosion of sound shortly after that utilizes one missed buildup as a reinforcement for the next.

Coming after the foray into black metal presented on Marrow of the Spirit and Faustian Echoes, The Serpent and the Sphere is an unexpected tug in a new direction. This jarring change of pace, coupled with the album’s general loudness makes for a challenging adjustment that may not seem worth the effort to every listener. However, in time, the album reveals itself as a deep, powerful, and emotional voyage much like the albums that preceded it. Agalloch have gone through a metamorphosis once again and shown us why they are such a respected act in metal today. Their ability to retain their best features while reworking their sound on every album is unmatched and once again the band have come up with an exciting new addition to their ever consistent catalogue of material.



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user ratings (366)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SCREAM!
July 5th 2014


10399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

More like a 4.25. Went for the 4.5 since there was already a 4 review and I found this reads closer to
a 4.5 anyway

Digging: Svartidau?i - Flesh Cathedral

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


6584 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review so pos'd but I disagree with almost all year points. To me this album was just dull and boring above all else but you did an excellent job explaining yourself.

Digging: Radiohead - In Rainbows

BMDrummer
July 5th 2014


10099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Very good review man, although certain spots could use more punctuation, but that's just me. Still have yet to hear this, looking forward to it though after this review.

MO
July 5th 2014


19086 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

fuck yes a scream review, nicely written man. gotta relisten to this more

SCREAM!
July 5th 2014


10399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks guys

@MO When I heard that half their set on Thursday was going to be new stuff I figured I'd get more familiar with the album and it started growing on me like crazy. The new songs sounded really powerful live too

DrGonzo1937
July 5th 2014


6925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pos.

Great review scream

Digging: Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


20166 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn dude this review is excellent! I don't recall reading your stuff before, but you definitely should write more often! Hope this review helps convince more people to give it another shot and glad it got another positive write-up

Digging: Johann Sebastian Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050

CaptainDooRight
July 5th 2014


30373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Pos'd and agreed hard

Digging: Henryk Gorecki - Symphony No. 3, Op. 36

SCREAM!
July 5th 2014


10399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice rating captn!

CaptainDooRight
July 5th 2014


30373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah bro rules hard, don't know so many nigs were hating on this

VermTheNedSlayer
July 5th 2014


291 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album is legit

SCREAM!
July 5th 2014


10399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah those 2/2.5 reviews and that avg rating smh

I know I was leaning towards a 3-3.5 on my first couple of listens but with a few more this grew on me like crazy

CaptainDooRight
July 5th 2014


30373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

smh [2]

Artuma
July 5th 2014


16287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i actually think this would have a 3.8 or 3.9 avg if those 2/2.5 reviews didn't exist

Digging: Nux Vomica - Nux Vomica

Gyromania
July 5th 2014


16127 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

excellent review. i feel the same way for the most part. unsurprising that a lot of people on sputnik don't like this a whole lot

Amphoteric
July 5th 2014


2014 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The only song on this I would really want to hear live would be The Astral Dialogue. Other than that, I'd much rather hear their older stuff.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 6th 2014


31634 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

Nice work dude. I'd love to hear this album with some halfway decent production. Riffs are meat, but this mix is soup

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

dimsim3478
July 6th 2014


5439 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

don't you like meat soup dev?

Digging: Hard Girls - A Thousand Surfaces

Wizard
July 6th 2014


19649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Love the review dude. Agreed hard with the rating!

Digging: Horseback and Locrian - New Dominions

Wizard
July 6th 2014


19649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Stupid double post.



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