Sea Of Tranquility

The Web Source for Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal & Jazz-Fusion
  Search   in       
Main Menu

Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain

Agalloch's third full length release called Ashes Against The Grain is a superb and eclectic collection which sports a myriad of different influences which will satisfy the needs of even the most demanding music lover. This enigmatic quartet which hails from the Pacific Northwest (Portland Oregon) play a unique style of music that blends all the best elements of Prog, black metal, gothic and ambient soundscapes just to name a few.

From the majestic almost Robert Fripp like opening notes of the very first track "Limbs" it quickly became apparent that Ashes Against The Grain was going to be a very satisfying listen. The songs layered guitars build in tension before an ever so brief acoustic interlude takes over. A few more tempo changes occur until approximately the 6 minute mark when vocalist / guitarist John Haughm's scratchy vocals make their first appearance. This track and the next, "Falling Snow" are absolutely epic in scope, both clocking in at almost 10 minutes each. The short instrumental "This White Mountain On Which You Will Die" provides a brief respite before the mellow opening strains of "Fire Above, Ice Below" begin. Haughm provides some great clean, brooding vocals here overtop the haunting musical accompaniment. Then just as things start to build and the layered guitars take over again, the band reels it all back in with a great, slow middle section. If I had to pick out one thing which really stands out on Ashes Against The Grain, in addition to the incredible musicianship these guys possess, it would have to be the many moments of tension and release in the music itself. These moments kept me on the edge, always wondering what direction the music would take next. "Not Unlike The Waves" features more great melodies and some tasty soloing from guitarist Don Anderson. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the fabulous contributions of the rhythm section of Jason William Walton on bass and Chris Greene on drums throughout. The disc closes with the 3 part "Our Fortress Is Burning" which clocks in at almost 20 minutes and the last section "The Grain" sounds like nothing else on the whole CD. The music and performances on Ashes Against The Grain are absolutely captivating and I found myself discovering something new every time I played it, which is surprising after the first dozen spins. There is a simple reason to explain why it took four years between the bands last release and this one, and that's because masterpieces are not created overnight. Order this one immediately!

Track 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…I
7) Our Fortress Is Burning (II): Bloodbirds
8) Our Fortress Is Burning (III): The Grain

Added: November 10th 2006
Reviewer: Ryan Sparks
Related Link: The End Records
Hits: 4706
Language: english

[ Printer Friendly Page Printer Friendly Page ]
[ Send to a Friend Send to a Friend ]


[ Back to the Reviews Index | Post Comment ]

» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-11-10 08:02:33
My Score:

Ashes Against the Grain is one of those releases that kind of escaped me all year, and now with a little over a month to go in 2006 I've discovered what everyone is talking about. Agalloch have created somewhat of a masterpiece here, a bubbling cauldron of progressive and metal styles that is filled with drama and multiple textures that allows you to uncover plenty of hidden secrets upon each listen. Drawing from Norwegian black metal, ambient, prog rock, doom, folk, and gothic influences, Ashes Against the Grain is a virtual cornocopia of combating styles, but it miraculously works. This constant tension and shifting from one style to the next is never jarring, always morphing quite seamlessly from one mood to the next. Just when a mesmerizing ambient section has your senses sort of floating through the clouds, harsh black metal screams come raging into the mix along with pulversizing and jagged guitar riffs, warning you that ultimately you'll need to stay on your toes here. As much as the instrumentation is top notch throughout the CD, the varied vocal attack also needs to be commended, as things fluctuate between melodic clean passages, chilling black metal screams, and growling moments of death and doom. The ending three part suite "Our Fortress Is Burning" is a marvelous piece of music, extremely progressive in every sense of the term, and shows just how experimental this band can get.

Agalloch have created their crowning achievement here. As with Arcturus, it's great to see bands that lean more towards the black metal style dipping into progressive and avant-garde elements, ultimately offering up product that a larger audience other than just the extreme metal fan can enjoy. Highly recommended stuff for any lover of progressive music!

Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-10-27 05:56:41
My Score:

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.

© 2004 Sea Of Tranquility
For information regarding where to send CD promos and advertising, please see our FAQ page.
If you have questions or comments, please Contact Us.
Please see our Policies Page for Site Usage, Privacy, and Copyright Policies.

All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all other content © Sea of Tranquility

SoT is Hosted by