Agalloch - The Serpent & The Sphere

In the December 2013 installment of our metal column, the Black Market, I spent several paragraphs gleefully anticipating the forthcoming fifth longplayer from the great Pacific Northwest dark metal band Agalloch. I’m not alone here — Agalloch’s then-untitled LP5 came in at No. 7 on our list of the 100 Most Anticipated Albums Of 2014. As I’ve said before, in my opinion, Agalloch’s last full-length, 2010′s Marrow Of The Spirit, is the best metal album released so far this millennium. But by limiting the scope of the conversation to Marrow, I’m actually forcing the band’s career into a reductive frame. Here’s the bigger picture: Since 1999, Agalloch have released four LPs, and a large number of EPs and splits, and that catalog is not only nearly flawless, but peerless among its class — the body of work produced by Agalloch over the last decade and a half stands alongside the body of work produced by any artist in any genre over that same timeframe, and it stands a great deal taller than most. Anyway, since December, the details of Agalloch’s fifth LP have emerged: The album will be titled The Serpent & The Sphere; it was produced, recorded, and mixed by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Sleep, and a million other things including Agalloch’s last release, the 2012 EP Faustian Echoes); and it will be released on May 13. I got an advance of the album a few weeks ago and have been pretty deeply immersed in it ever since. And I’ve got a lot to say about it! But I’ll save all that for a time when we can do so more formally, and ideally when you guys have heard it, too, so we can discuss it together. Today, though, we can at least share together in a taste of the album, via “Celestial Effigy”: the first song from The Serpent & The Sphere to be made available to the public, track No. 5 of 9, and presumably the first song on the vinyl’s second side. It’s a labyrinthine epic that slowly unspools to reveal massive, magical details, many drawn from the ridiculous guitar work of Don Anderson, who is operating on a whole new level throughout The Serpent & The Sphere. But that’s all I’ll say about the album for the moment. For now, listen to “Celestial Effigy” and let me know what you think.

The Serpent & The Sphere is out 5/3 via Profound Lore.

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Comments (9)
  1. I mean, it’s Agalloch, so this is a “duh” comment, but: KILLER.

  2. This is extraordinary. Everything you could hope for.
    I guess there is not much suspense regarding the list topper for this month’s Black Market eh?

    (Remember all that year end talk about how no way 2014 could be as good as 2013? It is already better)

    • Frankly, it could just as easily be Thou or Triptykon at the top of this month’s list. I agree with you, Jim: I got the new Tombs album yesterday, and as I was listening to it — while also having Triptykon, Thou, and Agalloch in steady rotation — it kinda dawned on me that the bar is being raised this year.

  3. How did you “get” the new Tombs album? It’s not out and it hasn’t leaked.

    • I got an advance for review. Perks, man. I gotta sit with it for a while — it’s not out till June I think? — but my first few impressions were: it’s a crusher, and a huge step forward. Garrett from Flourishing/Wetnurse (two godlike bands, IMO) is their second guitarist now, and he’s added entirely new layers to an already core-deep sound.

  4. Already reminding me of Ashes Against The Grain in the best way possible. Sounds massive.

  5. Dumb wolf question: Is Heavy Rotation meant to promote albums pre-release? upon release? or both? OWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  6. Vocals are too soft when the music gets complex—I dislike having to strain for lyrics. Otherwise really good.

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