Most of what I’ve got to say about Agalloch’s forthcoming The Serpent & The Sphere I said in our Premature Evaluation of the album. It’s not an easy album to condense into a paragraph — it’s a massive, ambitious, singular work from a band whose career consists of nothing less. It’s also the follow-up to 2010’s Marrow Of The Spirit, which may be the best metal album of this millennium.
There’s no single quote that I can pull from that Premature Evaluation to sum up my feelings about The Serpent & The Sphere, but I can say I think it’s a remarkable, triumphant album, and offer up the first paragraph of my review, in hopes that it will coax you to pursue the album further (assuming you need such coaxing in the first place):
The fifth full-length album from Portland, OR-based black-ish metal band Agalloch, The Serpent & The Sphere, opens with a 10-and-a-half-minute track called “Birth And Death Of The Pillars Of Creation,” and it is a mindfuck. The song spends some three and a half minutes laboriously building from near-total silence, and upon finally hitting its groove, it proceeds for the next seven goddamn minutes at like 56BPM — a rhythm you might describe as “adagio” or “deliberate” or “glacial.” Frontman John Haughm’s lead vocals are mostly whispered, his rhythm guitar track is entirely acoustic; there’s some portentous plainsong chanting, and at numerous points, components of the already spare instrumentation peel away, leaving only one or two pieces in play, as if the song is buckling under its own enormous weight. It reminds me a lot of the elegant and deeply depressive funeral doom made by Australia’s Mournful Congregation (or Agalloch’s Profound Lore labelmates Loss, from Nashville), although it doesn’t attempt to wring quite the same powerful drama from those sonic elements. It’s not a difficult song, exactly — it’s rather refined and beautiful-sounding, in fact — but on first blush, as an opening track and inaugural statement, it makes no fucking sense.
Anyway, The Serpent & The Sphere is streaming now at NPR, and you should absolutely go there and listen to the thing.
The Serpent & The Sphere is out 5/13 via Profound Lore.