“Ashes Against The Grain” by Agalloch

Artist: Agalloch
Title: “Ashes Against The Grain”
Label: The End Records
Release Date: 8/8/2006
Genre: Progressive, Atmospheric, Experimental, Dark Metal
Rating: 4/5

When you look to play some cool Atmospheric Doom Metal and your mind starts to seek out the region where some of the better stuff is generated from, you would be hard pressed to come up with Portland Oregon as all that inspirational. Yet, oddly enough the guys in Agalloch hail from there and call it home on top of doling out some of the most dramatic and brooding music of this kind. There is a refreshing, yet Dark and ominous sound on “Ashes Against The Grain”, an album that takes elements of Black Metal and Folk to the mix as well over the haunting guitar riffs. The guitars are rich in echo and decay and they use two styles of vocals (Growls and Clean) which together make the overall vibe of this enthralling CD stretches the boundaries on how genres can mix and be used together. Heavy, but by no means a display a screaming Metal prowess the listener gets drawn in to tracks like “Falling Snow” which at points use power chords that are reminiscent of Type-O-Negative. The blending of the vocals works especially well for the release as you often only hear the two in blistering Black Metal. I felt this gives a positive spin on those who perform different genre styles and shows it’s acceptable to use them in this format as well.

The four member group has been together since 1996 and includes Don Anderson (guitar), John Haughm (vocals, guitar), Jason William Walton (bass) and Chris Green (drums); research has found that their name “is the fragrant resinous wood of the Agarwood”. The songs all clock at long times barring “This White Mountain”, which is more an interlude that much else. Epic in proportion would be the closing three-part “Our Fortress Is Burning”. There is a little of everything in this one, and it closes with the ambient and sonic sort of vibe that gets taken to extremes by bands like Sunn0))). I don’t recommend that you try to “get it” with only one listen, because this album took me a few spins as well and now I find it taking regular visits in my CD changer. Musically this is an intelligent and thought out release that touches upon the Melodic and Progressive angle as much as it does hold its handle on being Dark Metal of the highest quality. Check this out and be pleasantly surprised.

Song Listing:
1. Limbs
2. Falling Snow
3. This White mountain On Which You will Die
4. Fire Above, Ice Below
5. Not Unlike The Waves
6. Our Fortress Is Burning
7. II – Bloodbirds
8. III – The Grain

Official Web site: www.agalloch.org

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