An album release from Agalloch is like an ivory billed woodpecker to a bird watcher. A rare glimpse of it before it disappears into the vast woodland is usually a rewarding experience for any devout feather freak.
With plenty of satisfying and perpetually eclectic EP releases to tease their cult following, last full release Ashes Against The Grain was another masterpiece from the Portland band. Their fourth full-length Marrow Of The Spirit doesn’t disrupt their consistency in delivering another spectacular record.
For any sceptics who think originality and artistic invention is extinct in the world of music, consider these guys. Unlike their previous attempt in the studio, Agalloch are more willing to embrace some intense blast beat structures with new drummer Aesop Dekker. However, it doesn’t mean in any way that they’re simply seeking black metal roots.
The blast beating begins immediately in Into The Painted Grey after some lovely violin and cello introduces the album in They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness. But distanced from traditional black metal, Agalloch load the song with some melodic seasoning, host the subtle gutturals of John Haughm, and have a contingence of shoegazey guitar making its presence known every so often.
Their transcendent nature isn’t proudly paraded but instead modestly handled in a delicate way, making Marrow Of The Spirit an unforced and flowing effort. Black Lake Nidstang might weigh over 17 minutes but succeeds in avoiding the bog of bore prevalent in plenty of other attempted epics of its proportion. Touching on ambient noises and doom metal, the mammoth-track is as impressive as it is ambitious.
They may have a strange name, but it’s not only one to remember, but one that makes sense. The name ‘Agalloch’ is based on a type of resinous and valuable wood that grows specifically from the Aquilaria tree when it becomes diseased with mould. Forget the woodpecker, Agalloch reflect their title, being a long-standing, beautiful infection that returns stronger again – transforming any potentially parasitic inactivity into a marvellously innovative organism.