Agalloch Ashes Against the Grain

Ashes Against the Grain begins with a slow progression of piercing sustained tones, but after its first few seconds the album takes a more understated approach, inching forward in lulling waves that obscure the ebb and flow of a larger pattern. The first Agalloch album in four years, and only the third full-length since the band’s 1999 debut, Ashes Against the Grain is both a departure and an extension, weaving through familiar ground on its way to new territory. The songs tend to move with restraint, as Agalloch’s characteristic threads of black metal, folk and ambient sounds weave together with more doom and art rock — sometimes slowly plodding, at others meandering with subtle purpose, or pressing on with an insistent, droning pulse. The usual breathy blackened growl and clean singing accompany long passages of instrumental speculation. The long, drawn out songs are more journey than instant pay-off, an enveloping soundtrack of reflection and contemplation that seeps deeper into the cortex with each listen. (The End)