Agalloch
The Serpent and the Sphere


2.5
average

Review

by FuneralMarch USER (25 Reviews)
August 2nd, 2014 | 26 replies


Release Date: 05/13/2014 | Tracklist


Generally speaking, the first three albums of Agalloch career (“Pale Folklore”, “The Mantle”, “Ashes Against the Grain”) are considered masterpieces by what seems everybody. The fourth effort “Marrow of the Spirit” has a bit more of a mixed reputation. Some people see it also as another great album while others see it as a sign of a band losing their artistic ground. While I do think “Marrow…” (Before “The Serpent…” came out anyway) was theoretically the worst album by the band up to that point, it wasn’t a bad album on its own, in my opinion. Although the opinion that the band had begun to falter artistically did hold some merit. However if “Marrow…” wasn’t the band’s main career dip, than “The Serpent and the Sphere” certainly is. At least to this point. More specifically, the songwriting feels uninspired, the performance comes off as lazy and a certain emotion and passion is clearly lacking.

Contrary to previous efforts, “Serpent…” lacks a lot of inventiveness that has been present on the band’s other releases, as song structure follows a surprisingly simple approach. The songs lack most any technical creativity, with the instrumentation mostly just plodding along without much substance. Riffs go nowhere nor do anything interesting and acoustics pop in from time to time, but they feel like they were just thrown in. But in general, a lot of songs are absent of any really passion, creativity, complexity or generally intriguing material. The song structure does suffer from this quite a bit, as most songs feel like they’re building up to something but never ever get to where it sounds like their going. It’s incredibly underwhelming to listen to. I think the song that’s the most guilty of this is the opener, “The Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation”. This one is a lumbering mammoth that goes on for close to eleven minutes but lacks any real soul. Artistically, technically, sonically it lacks any real substance and justification for its length and almost gives off the impression of an intro track rather than an actual song.

The vocals also sound much less interesting and less than varied. I’ve never been a fan of his whispered rasps honestly and that’s the majority of what he does here. They always have sound awkward and forced, like he doesn’t have the right throat for it. His cleans on the other hand always sounded really great to me, but the clean singing rarely pop up and usually only for a brief period such as an introduction to a song or a background sample. I am unhappy with this route for not only the personal reason of disliking how it sounds, but also because it comes off as really one dimensional. Something I would typically associate with Agalloch.

A lot of these with the technical side of things are made worse by the album’s really muddy production. Instruments are constantly overlapping each other, the bass just sounds like a bunch of rumbling, the guitars are pretty thin and often buried under the drum work which even themselves sound pretty weak on their own. Even the vocals have a tendency to be buried in the mix.

But the main thing that hinders this album for me is the general lack of emotion and passion it has. The atmosphere and emotion feels very shallow and at times even synthetic. There is this strong vibe coming off the music that members really didn’t care about what they were doing, or at the very least didn’t bother trying very hard. It feels very safe, very thoughtless and very passionless. If I had to theorize, I’d think the reason why is mainly because they’ve had four major successes and maybe got a little lazy as a result.

Bottom line, I’d have to say that this is a major disappointment. I’m reluctant to say the band lost their creative edge and they just don’t have anything left to create, but I will say that this record is undoubtedly their laziest, least thought provoking and emotionally void record to date. It’s not the worst album I’ve heard, but compared to Agalloch’s previous efforts, it just falls flat on almost everything.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Confucius
August 2nd 2014


191 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I disagree but good review

TheSpirit
August 2nd 2014


17988 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Although the opinion that the band had begun to falter artistically did hold some merit.


...

This review is full of clumsy sentences like this. Also you're a bit redundant. Sorry, but neg.

Digging: Volahn - Aq Ab Al

17WordHaiku
August 2nd 2014


165 Comments


Guess I'm one of the few that enjoyed this. Lots of 2.5's.

Gyromania
August 2nd 2014


15967 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ugh

I dislike agalloch fans

AnimalsAsSummit
August 2nd 2014


919 Comments


doesn't even come close to touching mantle, pale, or ashes. but just about ties with marrow. still not totally adjusted to this. atmospherically its hinting at something it'd really like to do (surely something consistent and interesting) but instead just toys with the idea of getting there in a pretty watered down space. could be a grower tho

Digging: Ott - Skylon

beefshoes
August 3rd 2014


4311 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't feel like this really needed another 2.5 review in all honesty. You didn't add anything
new or propose any arguments that haven't already been thrown out there in other Agalloch threads;
that, and you did a lackluster job at defending your reasons for seeing this as a 2.5.
With that being said, it's not a terrible review. A rule of thumb that I'd try to follow is unless you
have a different take on a particular album that you want to formally discuss, just stick with a
soundoff (especially if you prefer writing in the first person).

Digging: Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel

R6Rider
August 3rd 2014


4714 Comments


^this

I keep going back to this.

Digging: Thou - The Sacrifice

DrGonzo1937
August 3rd 2014


6477 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

na m8

Artuma
August 3rd 2014


15400 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"...was theoretically the worst album by the band..."

stopped reading ugh

Digging: Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket - Den sorgligaste musiken i varlden

adr
August 3rd 2014


3296 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

theoretically lol

Digging: Full Of Hell & Merzbow - Full Of Hell & Merzbow

Tyrael
August 3rd 2014


20945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'I dislike agalloch fans '

hey!

Digging: Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
August 3rd 2014


8937 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"in my opinion" is kind of redundant in a review

in fact most of the sentences in this review are redundant

Veldin
August 3rd 2014


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nope brobrah, agalloch is /m

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
August 3rd 2014


8937 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

agalloch can be amazing

not here, however

Hawks
August 3rd 2014


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah not amazing at all. I still think it's solid though.

Easily their weakest effort, but I think we all know that.

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
August 3rd 2014


8937 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

maybe one day this'll click but there isn't a single track here i like from start to finish, every time i think i'm getting into it something terrible happens and pulls me out of it

that awful "MY WORK HAS BEGUN" vocal line, "DAAAARK MATTER GOOOODS, A QUANTUM CREVASSE (what the fuck is a quantum crevasse)", "MY ALLEGIANCE IS WITH THE INNER SEELLFFFFFFF" like ugh, come on

BMDrummer
August 3rd 2014


9426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

noctus i can tell you're an Agalloch fanboy though, so this is bound to click sometime. i find it to be solid, but nowhere near the other stuff i've heard from them

Digging: Fugazi - First Demo

Hawks
August 3rd 2014


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah that's pretty much what it is. Weak by Agalloch standards, but I can still enjoy it.

BMDrummer
August 3rd 2014


9426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

yeah basically

Amphoteric
August 3rd 2014


2011 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Astral Dialogue is still pretty awesome.



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