Ashes Against The Grain
Extremely diverse both within individual songs
Finland has Moonsorrow. In Ireland, it’s Primordial. One could even make the case for Summoning in Austria. These bands and others like them combine epic metal with varying degrees of folk influence in a highly personalized nature that makes them extremely unique in both their genre and their countries. Bands of this sort do not necessarily sound like each other, but they do tend to invoke emotions in a similar fashion. In the United States, no one does this better than Agalloch. The Oregon-based group manages to combine doom and black metal tinged with atmospheric and folk influences on an epic level on their third full-length effort, “Ashes Against the Grain.”
One of the reasons “Ashes Against The Grain” is such a good album is because Agalloch manage to be extremely diverse both within individual songs and from track to track. Changes in tempo and pace as well as transitions from electric to acoustic are pulled off brilliantly. As a result, the listener is going to constantly be captivated by the ever changing soundscape of songs such as “Limbs” and “Not Unlike The Waves,” which exemplify this characteristic more than others. Guitarists John Haughm and Don Anderson also do a brilliant job of establishing strong lead melodies in certain situations while maintaining a quality atmospheric sound. For example, during the introduction to “Falling Snow,” a brilliant melody is established that persists throughout the song, setting the tone for a slightly faster-paced song. At the same time, however, the song never loses the atmospheric sense that is kept up largely by the rhythm guitar and is seemingly essential to Agalloch’s unique sound. Haughm, who also takes care of vocal duties, has a subtle blackened rasp that fits in perfectly with the pace of Agalloch’s music. Here and there on the album, such as during sections on “Not Unlike The Waves,” some clean vocals make an appearance.
This album is not only emotional and thought-provoking; it is also one of the best releases by an American band in 2006. The level of care with which the members of Agalloch seem to have written and developed this album with is evident. The level of emotional intensity during certain parts or sections of this band’s music is, in a sense, unprecedented for an American band, at least those that I’ve heard. Fans of groups like Primordial, Daylight Dies, and Opeth will surely appreciate Agalloch for their musical style. With that said, every fan of metal in general should give these guys a shot.