Some call it black metal, others call it melodic death metal, Agalloch has no musical category and this album defies description in terms that we have at our disposal. Sure it has elements of both of those genres but their approach is more of a musical spectacle where the focus is on generating so much more than just a listening experience. Agalloch has confronted us with a new art form that transcends what we would call music. It is more of a soundtrack for sensory overload as the mind, body and spirit is all affected by what you are about to experience.
The sounds of a flowing stream are the first thing that you hear. A lone cello then sets a melancholy mood which allows you to become fully engulfed in nature and the beauty of it as the occasional bird chirping lulls you into the picturesque serenity depicted in "They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness". As in life itself there are moments like this but far too often they are interrupted by the darker side of life.
Agalloch then rips us from that peacefulness and transports us to a world filled with that darkness, fantasy and gothic terror. The next five offerings on the disc are really tales that explore realms where dark gods reign. Prepare to enter a place where the soul is a tortured element always but is given the opportunity to see the lighter side occasionally. This is some powerful stuff! If this album doesn't infiltrate your dreams than something is terribly wrong. The music has a spirituality to it that is firmly rooted in Paganism and its strong ties to nature and the belief in balance and harmony. The music of Agalloch tries to maintain that balance. Both light and dark, quiet and loud, they give you so much to think about in the multi-layers of each piece it can be overwhelming.
When the fury at the beginning of "Into The Painted Grey" starts to subside and a more melodic sound comes out it is just a brief foray until John Haughm growling vocals take you down to a place where even the gods have despair. While there is gloominess to the work it is more like a swirling fog where you know that there is sunlight just past where you can see. The music wraps you in this blanket that surrounds your thoughts and permeates to an area that only few musicians have the talent to penetrate.
I cannot say enough about the good things that this release offers. From start to the glorious "To Drown" which closes it out there is more said through the instruments of these guys than the lyrical ability of most. They can create an atmosphere that is bleak, melancholy or even somewhat hopeful without uttering a word. The best part about it is that these musical canvases are laying there just waiting for the listeners mind to paint the picture. Indeed they will too!
This is an album that takes hold and does not let go. It is a mind blowing experience from start to finish. Suddenly that stream that you pass by everyday sounds completely different. The quite in your back yard is now as loud as can be as you have been attuned to the language of nature. Then, when the nocturnal creatures stir and you are reminded that some beings dwell in the darkness, you will remember the lessons taught to you by Agalloch.
1. They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness
2. Into The Painted Grey
3. The Watcher's Monolith
4. Black Lake Nidstång
5. Ghost Of The Midwinter Fires
6. To Drown