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Review: Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain
Ashes Against The Grain

Label: The End Records
Year released: 2006
Duration: 59:49
Tracks: 8
Genre: Folk Metal

Rating: 4.25/5

Review online: August 7, 2006
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Ashes Against The Grain

Rated 3.6/5 (72%) (45 Votes)

Well, by the time you read this, it will be only a few more days until the official release of Agalloch's loooong awaited third album. Yes, after 4 years of splits and EPs and demos and everything they could throw out to keep people interested, they have finally graced us with a new disc, and what a piece of work it is. After how completely blown away I was by The Mantle – me and pretty much everyone else – expectations were ridiculously high for this album. The amazing thing is that Agalloch come within an ass whisker of meeting them, they just lost it a bit in the details.

If you know what Agalloch sound like, then you know what to expect here, and if you don't, I'm not going to tie myself in knots trying to describe them. Suffice to say this is more of the moody, melancholy genius that we expect from this band. Overall Ashes Against The Grain is a bit more upbeat and accessible than past works, with the almost too-catchy "Falling Snow" as the poster child for this. But if that's the only song you've heard, then don't get too worked up, there are still the real masterpieces of this album, the haunting "Fire Above, Ice Below" followed by the dark, heavy "Not Unlike The Waves." This is every inch an Agalloch album, pretty much exactly what everyone wanted.

So why am I not rating this perfect? Frankly, because it doesn't quite deserve it. Good as the good stuff here is, there is not a tune to match the magnificence of "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion", or the beauty of "…And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth". A lot of this album sounds a bit too similar to past masterpieces. I also have to call bullshit on the minute-and-a-half instrumental "This White Mountain On Which You Will Die", which is pretty much pointless, as well as the final track of the 'trilogy' that closes out the album. A short ambient track to finish out this album would not seem out of place. But the grandiosely titled "Our Fortress Is Burning III…The Grain" is over seven minutes of feedback noises and ambient effects – not a riff nor a note to be heard. It's a space-wasting piece of crap is what it is. Be aware that despite the tracklist, there are only six actual songs here.

Some are calling this the best album Agalloch has ever done, but that's obviously the new talking. The Mantle is their great work, and I don't really think they'll ever top it, but despite some flaws, Ashes is a strong album with some breathtakingly beautiful moments. At their best, Agalloch have to power to take you away to another world of ice and fire and sorrow, and that transformative power is what we look for in real music. A worthy album from a strange and brilliant band.

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