Agalloch – “Celestial Effigy”

By Michael Nelson / March 18, 2014

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.