Rating:
8.0
Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain
8 August 2006


01. Limbs
02. Falling Snow
03. This White Mountain On Which You Will Die
04. Fire Above, Ice Below
05. Not Unlike The Waves
06. Our Fortress Is Burning... I
07. Our Fortress Is Burning... II - Bloodbirds
08. Our Fortress Is Burning... III - The Grain
09. Scars Of The Shattered Sky (Our Fortress Has Burned To The Ground) [Double LP Vinyl 1000 Copies Limited Edition bonus]


Agalloch's Ashes Against The Grain. Never have I found another release I love so much yet feel so unsatisfied by. There's so much here, yet it feels as if so much is missing. It's so spot on, but I just don't find it a flawless or even exemplary demonstration of the genre in question. I'd call it the perfect musical embodiment of a love/hate relationship. With that said, however, I must admit that I feel a far greater abundance of the former than the latter.

A little background: by all counts, Agalloch is one of my favorite bands ever. There's no getting around that. No supernatural entity knows the number of times I've lost myself to the beautiful, ethereal ebb and flow of The Mantle, a work which stands head and shoulders above 99.99% of all musical endeavors be they metal or otherwise. Other works such as Pale Folklore, The White EP, and Marrow Of The Spirit (yes, even that one) each ascended to varying but always comparable levels of enveloping grace, at least to my ears. Discounting the universally maligned and inherently worthless Grey EP and praising the nice Of Stone, Wind And Pillar, only one piece remains...

2006's Ashes Against The Grain, a release met with no small amount of fanfare, is the enigmatic black sheep of the Agallochian family. Largely abandoning the acoustic, folk-dominated leanings of The Mantle, Ashes takes on a primarily sleek and electric sound replete with post-rock and atmospheric black metal nuances. Luckily, the band's penchant for creating melancholic melodies and torrents of emotional power has not diminished in the transition. In fact, for roughly two-thirds of the dark proceedings included, Agalloch succeeded not only in the way of creating a poignant, highly entertaining album, but also in making a worthy successor to a record that's just about flawless in every way.

Unfortunately, lurking beyond the opening run of excellence is the anticlimactic, wandering mess of Our Fortress Is Burning, a multi-part lesson in excess concerning how not to write an epic anthem. For a twenty minute composition, it feels far too empty and far too short on ideas. Part 1 attempts to capture some of The Mantle's acoustic magic but ends up sounding like an uninspired, half-baked outtake of Odal or The Hawthorne Passage, and Part 3 presents a boring and overlong loop of distorted noise. Only Part 2 brings any quality to this bitter brew, albeit slightly with its pleasant, distinguishable melody. The sole vocal sequence is a good one, but feels manufactured as if deliberately created to provide an apparent emotional crest to the overall composition.

Apart from this interminable misstep, I can't help but feel that sometimes the album loses its focus midway through, lessening the memorable quality of its individual tracks. Fire Above, Ice Below is an example, starting out beautifully until it voyages into more expansive (but less interesting) pastures. Also, brief interlude This White Mountain On Which You Will Die seems to serve no better purpose than a filler for the track-listing.

Even with this cumbersome list of gripes, though, I do still love Ashes Against The Grain and think that it's a great album. My appreciation of it has actually raised from total disappointment and apathy to an acceptance of its flawed brilliance. After all, I would be remiss not to note that it includes some the band's best songs, including the harrowing opener Limbs, the resonant Falling Snow, and last but certainly not least, the simply incredible Not Unlike The Waves. I could go on for another six paragraphs simply describing how great that one song is, but I'll spare the (at this point) inevitably ailing readers; you've heard it all before. Furthermore, I can still bear to listen to the album front to back and enjoy it for a vast majority of the sixty minutes within, so that must count for something, right?

To cut a long story, well, long, I think this album's overrated; not extremely so, but considerably nonetheless. I can only hope that my review is seen as less of a contrarian, try-hard rant and more of a down-to-earth attempt to justify a belief that continues to reward me with harsh ridicule and antagonism, both on the internet and elsewhere:

Ashes Against The Grain is Agalloch's worst album.

There, I said it.

Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 9


Band profile: Agalloch
Album: Ashes Against The Grain


 


written by strade | 11.03.2012


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
Demonic Tutor

Rating:
8.9
In today's world of overplayed musical styles and boring sameness, a few bands stand out as innovators. Agalloch from Portland, Oregon is one of those bands. With their unique blend of Doom, Gothic and elements of Death metal, those musicians managed to break through the US scene with the highly-acclaimed album The Mantle back in 2002. The band witnessed the arrival of Chris Greene taking over drumming duties for John Haughm (who remains very busy with guitars and vocals) while the rest of the lineup is still rounded up by Jason William Walton (bass) and Don Anderson (guitars).

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published 20.06.2006 | Comments (43)



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Troy Killjoy - 11.03.2012 at 03:49  
Easily the longest review on Metal Storm, and in my opinion one that spends way too much time defending the score and not enough time just telling it how it is.

I'm not saying it because I disagree. I'm saying it because I'm reminded of that old review of Immortal's AtHoW.
strade - 11.03.2012 at 03:54  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 11.03.2012 at 03:49

Easily the longest review on Metal Storm, and in my opinion one that spends way too much time defending the score and not enough time just telling it how it is.

I'm not saying it because I disagree. I'm saying it because I'm reminded of that old review of Immortal's AtHoW.


I think a few of DerRozzengarten's Septicflesh reviews have a few words to say with you regarding the length.

Fair enough about the defense strategy, though. I figured people had already heard the most extreme praising and hating reviews of this album, and knew enough about the music already. So yeah, I sorta took a personal and defensive view, but I wouldn't change what I wrote.
Mr. Doctor - 11.03.2012 at 04:15  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 11.03.2012 at 03:49

Easily the most unnecessary long review on Metal Storm
I'm not saying it because I disagree. I'm saying it because I'm reminded of that old review of Immortal's AtHoW.

I took the time to re-write your first sentence, you are welcome.

Also, which Immortal review? I don't like either of them tbh Both failed to really talk about the music.

Shit, this was about Agalloch. Sorry... ehmmm, I kind of like them, I dunno... I never really payed that much attention to them specially because I never thought (and I still think) they can't pull off the harsh vocals. They sound so weak and out of place to me.
Troy Killjoy - 11.03.2012 at 04:20  
Written by Mr. Doctor on 11.03.2012 at 04:15
Also, which Immortal review?

I believe it was written by S666. The one where 90% of the review talks about how it's a thrash album more than a black metal album.

And then I think wormdrink wrote a "response" review to it as a result of all of us saying someone should write a "response" review and gave it like a 9.5 and just spent the whole time saying it was a classic black metal album.

Good times.

PS you should spend more time getting to know these guys, their dark folk influences are beautiful
Mr. Doctor - 11.03.2012 at 04:23  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 11.03.2012 at 04:20
PS you should spend more time getting to know these guys, their dark folk influences are beautiful


Apart of me keeps telling me I should listen to their discography (which is collecting virtual dust since forever in my computer) but I'm a lazy fella. But I'll do that when the time is right... just like you did with Murmuüre. hahahahahaha

PS. I wrote "either" instead of "neither". friggin typo.
Troy Killjoy - 11.03.2012 at 04:25  
Written by Mr. Doctor on 11.03.2012 at 04:23
...just like you did with Murmuüre.

So you're saying you're never going to check them out.
Mr. Doctor - 11.03.2012 at 04:27  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 11.03.2012 at 04:25

Written by Mr. Doctor on 11.03.2012 at 04:23
...just like you did with Murmuüre.

So you're saying you're never going to check them out.


Hey, last time I checked you did check Murmuüre out, it just took you the longest time to do it.

Unless you are a liar... and a big fat phony.
Troy Killjoy - 11.03.2012 at 04:30  
Written by Mr. Doctor on 11.03.2012 at 04:27
Unless you are a liar... and a big fat phony.

No I checked it. After... a year? I was just kind of exaggerating.

I like that we can use that as a sort of inside joke when referring to looking into something though.

But seriously. If you bother with Agalloch again, check this album and their White EP. Totally different stylistically but both amazing.
Kenos - 11.03.2012 at 04:34  
The trilogy of "Our Fortress Is Burning" is the most special thing here. Not the best, but the most special, because it perfectly closes the album and gives a meaning to what you've heard so far - "The Mantle" on the other hand doesn't close very effectively. The first part is an intro and it shouldn't be compared to any other song on "The Mantle": these two albums have totally different atmospheres; "The Mantle" is very poetic, melancholic, calm... "Ashes" is tragic. It's hopelessness, it's Void; and "Bloodbirds" is the very end of it all. What about "The Grain"? This song is an epilogue and as such it depicts a scenario of nothingness. A dreadful wall of sound that always manages to freeze my blood... There couldn't have been a better postludium.
Needless to say, "Ashes.." is among my favourite albums ever, not only concerning metal music. There will never be enough words for it.
strade - 11.03.2012 at 04:41  
Written by Guest on 11.03.2012 at 04:34

The trilogy of "Our Fortress Is Burning" is the most special thing here. Not the best, but the most special, because it perfectly closes the album and gives a meaning to what you've heard so far - "The Mantle" on the other hand doesn't close very effectively. The first part is an intro and it shouldn't be compared to any other song on "The Mantle": these two albums have totally different atmospheres; "The Mantle" is very poetic, melancholic, calm... "Ashes" is tragic. It's hopelessness, it's Void; and "Bloodbirds" is the very end of it all. What about "The Grain"? This song is an epilogue and as such it depicts a scenario of nothingness. A dreadful wall of sound that always manages to freeze my blood... There couldn't have been a better postludium.
Needless to say, "Ashes.." is among my favourite albums ever, not only concerning metal music. There will never be enough words for it.


Somehow I knew you'd disagree, Kenos. But that's okay. I see why people love it so much, I really do. It just didn't connect with me like The Mantle.

PS: Also, The Mantle didn't close effectively? What?! The closing duo of "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth"/"A Desolation Song" is one of the greatest and most moving one-two punches I've ever heard. :O
strade - 11.03.2012 at 04:42  
Written by Mr. Doctor on 11.03.2012 at 04:15

Written by Troy Killjoy on 11.03.2012 at 03:49

Easily the most unnecessary long review on Metal Storm
I'm not saying it because I disagree. I'm saying it because I'm reminded of that old review of Immortal's AtHoW.

I took the time to re-write your first sentence, you are welcome.

Also, which Immortal review? I don't like either of them tbh Both failed to really talk about the music.

Shit, this was about Agalloch. Sorry... ehmmm, I kind of like them, I dunno... I never really payed that much attention to them specially because I never thought (and I still think) they can't pull off the harsh vocals. They sound so weak and out of place to me.


Such a meanie, Mr. Doctor.
Kenos - 11.03.2012 at 04:47  
Written by strade on 11.03.2012 at 04:41

The closing duo of "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth"/"A Desolation Song" is one of the greatest and most moving one-two punches I've ever heard. :O


I half-agree with you: "... And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" would've been a perfect closer indeed; "A Desolation Song" is pleasant yet seems a bit out of place to me. :\ And that's one of the reasons I didn't give "The Mantle" a full 10. Anyway, it always remains a masterwork.
R'Vannith - 11.03.2012 at 04:55  
You should get more of these up on MS, you write a fine review
And I'll probably be crucified for saying this but I've never heard this album.
strade - 11.03.2012 at 05:35  
Written by R'Vannith on 11.03.2012 at 04:55

You should get more of these up on MS, you write a fine review
And I'll probably be crucified for saying this but I've never heard this album.


Get on the cross. Now. You should definitely listen to it, though. Surely you've heard The Mantle, right? Please tell me you have.

Thanks for the positive response! And a message to everyone: I'll try to shorten things up nest time.
R'Vannith - 11.03.2012 at 05:41  
Written by strade on 11.03.2012 at 05:35

Written by R'Vannith on 11.03.2012 at 04:55

You should get more of these up on MS, you write a fine review
And I'll probably be crucified for saying this but I've never heard this album.


Get on the cross. Now. You should definitely listen to it, though. Surely you've heard The Mantle, right? Please tell me you have.

Thanks for the positive response! And a message to everyone: I'll try to shorten things up nest time.


Yeah I have heard The Mantle, I'm not THAT much of a heretic haha.
Metal Archives reviews don't have an optimal length/cut off or anything I don't think and you've been writing there for a while so it just takes a little adjustment in methodology.
strade - 11.03.2012 at 05:49  
Written by R'Vannith on 11.03.2012 at 05:41

Yeah I have heard The Mantle, I'm not THAT much of a heretic haha.
Metal Archives reviews don't have an optimal length/cut off or anything I don't think and you've been writing there for a while so it just takes a little adjustment in methodology.


Yeah, I was actually struggling to keep it this short. I guess the 7-10 paragraph Crimson Glory/Pharaoh reviews have gotten to me. I actually have written a review here before, for that Omnium Gatherum album (also overrated) last year, but requested that it be removed on the grounds that it was stupid and badly executed. That's why it says 2 under the 'reviews written' section on my profile even though there's only this one, which will be sure to confuse the hell out of people in the future.
BlueMobius - 11.03.2012 at 05:54  
Nice review! Ashes Against the Grain is one of my favorite Agalloch album's. I like it slightly more than The Mantle and as much as Marrow of the Spirit.
Troy Killjoy - 11.03.2012 at 06:38  
Written by strade on 11.03.2012 at 05:49
That's why it says 2 under the 'reviews written' section on my profile even though there's only this one, which will be sure to confuse the hell out of people in the future.

If you recount your stats (option beneath your avatar and posting/thread numbers) it should go back to one.
strade - 11.03.2012 at 08:02  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 11.03.2012 at 06:38

Written by strade on 11.03.2012 at 05:49
That's why it says 2 under the 'reviews written' section on my profile even though there's only this one, which will be sure to confuse the hell out of people in the future.

If you recount your stats (option beneath your avatar and posting/thread numbers) it should go back to one.


Thanks! Embarrassingly enough, I was wondering what that was for.
INÆRIS - 11.03.2012 at 10:01  
Interesting perspective. It is my favorite Agalloch album because it helped me through a very dark point in my life, and it is absolutely beautiful. This release is incredibly special to me in my life. I'm sorry that you regard it as lesser than their other releases, but at the same time I'm happy that you aren't afraid to say what you think. Cheers.
Slayer666 - 11.03.2012 at 11:34  
^
Fuck you, Rod and Troy, all of my reviews own.

On-topic: Still loving this album. Yea, it is Agalloch's worst, but for a band like Agalloch, that doesn't mean it's bad.
Întunecatul - 11.03.2012 at 12:04  
Nice review, don't agree with it. I find Ashes to be their second best. From start to finish it is ecstatic and if you put in Scars of the shattered sky in there it just drags you into a bleak imagery. That's why I listen to their albums at night, it makes me more immersed into the music, not unlike daytime.
Unhealer - 11.03.2012 at 14:56  
Great review! Probably it could have been shortened a bit, but I went through it quickly; it didn't bother me at all.

I agree with everything you said. It's a great record, but there is a whole feeling to it I can't fully digest.
I like the post-rock influences in Agalloch's music, but they took them way too far in this release for my taste.
Dark Cornatus - 12.03.2012 at 04:17  
I liked the review. It sums up the album for me well. It has around 3 of my favourite tracks, yet around 3 of the most boring tracks. Those three tracks still make it possible my favourite album though, Pale Folklore is just behind. and The mantle not far off it.
SoulScarred - 28.04.2012 at 03:21  
Nice review, I still consider it my favorite album since it was the one that got me into the band, and it was unforgettable for the 100 first times I listened to it, I'm just in love with it..

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