Agalloch
Marrow of the Spirit


4.5
superb

Review

by i want to mort. USER (12 Reviews)
February 6th, 2015 | 68 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A different kind of beast for Agalloch, yet far from being the misstep many perceive it to be.

Although Ashes Against the Grain saw the American four-piece “dark metal” band Agalloch further cement their position as one of the most critically acclaimed metal bands in the world, it cannot be ignored what the band’s frontman John Haughm himself thought about the album. Considering the fact that Ashes was such a massive success, it is rather odd to hear Haughm publicly panning the album, mostly for its polished sound and melody-centered approach. Even though it would be silly to call it poppy, it is pretty safe to say that Ashes was and still is the most accessible album Agalloch has released and that doesn’t appeal to Haughm in the slightest. This is what brings us to its follow-up, Marrow of the Spirit: a clear step towards what Haughm wants Agalloch to do.

As it turns out in the pretreatment, Marrow is a completely different beast than Ashes. The band’s fourth full-length sees Agalloch returning to their black metal roots, amping up the atmosphere to the detriment of the melodies and darkening the overall tone. The second track of the album (and the first actual song), “Into the Painted Grey” already shows that Marrow isn’t going to be even nearly as accessible as their previous efforts. The song is constantly shifting pace, providing an intriguing mix of the band’s sound at its most evil and their sense of beautiful atmospheres.

Even though “Into the Painted Grey” might be the song that best represents what Marrow is all about, the album’s undeniable centerpiece is the 17-minute mammoth called “Black Lake Niðstång.” It is probably the most experimental song Agalloch have ever written, as well as one of their most ingenious compositions ever. The long and droning intro is followed by Haughm’s whispered vocals over a repetitive yet beautiful melody until he bursts out crying the lyrics in a way he has never done before. It is not the only thing that makes “Black Lake Niðstång” such an amazing track. After returning to the droning soundscapes the softly layered guitars bring a build-up leading to the climax of the song and the whole album. “Black Lake Niðstång” is epic, bombastic, glorious and terrifyingly dark; simply a masterpiece.

However, Marrow isn’t all that different from Ashes. Both “The Watcher’s Monolith” and “Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires” are fueled with driving riffs and catchiness, the latter even recalling the 1999’s Pale Folklore. Although obviously neither of them is as remarkable or successful as “Into the Painted Grey” and “Black Lake Niðstång,” they both earn their place on the album. Especially “The Watcher’s Monolith” provides numerous slower, more atmospheric sections that well succeed in keeping the song focused, balanced and eerily beautiful. Simply put, everything on the album makes total sense. The four aforementioned tracks are wrapped between the intro and outro track. “They Escaped the Weight of Darkness” sets the album’s bleak overall tone and “To Drown” ends it up in the same way, although the latter far overstays its welcome. Repetition isn’t always a bad thing but “To Drown” quickly becomes a tedious listen and thus gives Marrow its only real con.

Marrow of the Spirit is gloomier and more black metal influenced than anything the band had done in over a decade but outside of “Black Lake Niðstång” it would be far-fetched to call the album challenging. Agalloch’s trademark acoustic melodies, hard-hitting riffs and nature-worshipping atmosphere are still there but this time around Haughm & Co. aren’t as joyful. Although the album has faced criticism for being disjointed and full of bland melodies, it truly sounds the opposite of that to me. Marrow has a more raw sound yet it is highly enjoyable and sensible in every way, exactly as Haughm planned it to be.



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user ratings (1304)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • AngelofDeath EMERITUS (4)
    Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue....

    Kyle Ward EMERITUS (2.5)
    Marrow Of The Spirit seems like a failed retreat for Agalloch; an introverted back-trackin...

    Thronewolf (4)
    Cold, bleak, and moody. On the surface some may find it too long-winded and pretentious wi...

    DeadBeat (3.5)
    "An album filled with change and progression. At the same time being disturbing and beauti...

  • johnnydeking29 (3.5)
    Agalloch reinvent their sound again to create an album that takes a while to sink in...

    psite45 (4)
    Retaining some of the bands heaviest moments to date while still holding true to the vast ...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Artuma
February 6th 2015


29926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

not the best review but i really wanted to say things about this album

trackbytrackreviews
February 6th 2015


3369 Comments


harsh

Artuma
February 6th 2015


29926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

harsh negs

adr
February 6th 2015


12000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i enjoyed reading this, good review, pos.

emester
February 6th 2015


8249 Comments


really dont know what to think of this record. some days its a 3 and others its a 3.5. Pretty much how i feel about the new one as well.

Nice review btw, even if our opinions differ

adr
February 6th 2015


12000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it's closer to a 4 than a 3 for me, but ehhhhhhhhhhhh

MO
February 6th 2015


22457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

that summary reads really weird

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2015


17866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Pos'd

Artuma
February 6th 2015


29926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is so much better than the new one

Artuma
February 6th 2015


29926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"that summary reads really weird"



how would you change it? i don't see anything wrong with that

MO
February 6th 2015


22457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"yet far from being the misstep it has been declared to be."



this bit. mainly the declared to be. it could just be me but yea it just sounds funny

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2015


23933 Comments


Far from being the misstep many perceive it to be might read better idk

Totengott
February 6th 2015


4222 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Weird summary indeed as pointed out, but I enjoyed reading the rest of the review, so have a pos.

Digging: Intronaut - The Direction of Last Things

Artuma
February 6th 2015


29926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i'll change that summary. i'm not an english native so i didn't notice any weirdness in that

Totengott
February 6th 2015


4222 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's fine.

Keyblade
February 6th 2015


26324 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm with you on this Art, pos'd

Gyromania
February 6th 2015


26136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

good review. agree that this is better than the new one.



a lot of agalloch fans have said they can't get into this because of the production (which i'm fine with), but a lot of those people love nattens madrigal by ulver, so i find their criticisms a little confusing.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2015


23933 Comments


I honestly didn't think the summary was that weird haha was just trying to be helpful. Gonna read the entire review in a bit I'm curious to read your throughts

SCREAM!
February 6th 2015


15754 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"this is so much better than the new one"



Nah, it isn't.



You did a good job explaining yourself in this review though and I agree with a lot of it although maybe to a lesser extent than you (hence the 4)

Artuma
February 6th 2015


29926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks ppl



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