Not sure what’s happening with Agalloch, but I get that sinking feeling that I’m losing one of my favorite bands. I had a sneaking suspicion that member(s) of Ludicra might fuck things up somehow, though I can’t recall exactly why, as that band is nowhere near interesting enough to listen to twice. 2010’s Marrow of the Spirit was a solid record, not much of a departure from glorious past works, but nothing I reach for too often. And, alas, as bands begin to inch near the end of the creative rope, we get novelties like 20-minute song/EPs (at least we can be thankful this isn’t another meandering instrumental teaser). Initially, this obvious concept piece is cursed by an inhumanly annoying spoken narrative that wastes no time farting in my dinner. Spray fart. I’m not looking to peek into Ancient’s abandoned bag of tricks when I put on an Agalloch album. Musically things start out decent, if not ultimately remarkable. Thankfully Haughm’s patented Blackened snarl sounds as bleak and razor sharp as ever. Sadly, things don’t really get exciting until about 6:14, when the band embarks on a despondent journey melodically reminiscent of For Funerals to Come-era Katatonia. However, two minutes later this dissolves into nothingness and we’re again plagued by lines from a play no one is watching. From there the song explodes into full-speed Black Metal, the clean guitar melodies beautifully woven into blasting fury creating a brief but effective highlight. Wandering ensues as the drummer takes a breather, then at 14:50 the epic track settles in to a mid-tempo melancholic comfort zone, as the band showcase their melodic mastery for the remaining 6+ minutes — the final 40 seconds stained by the recurring fagspeak. For the most part this recording is rescued by the brilliance that is Agalloch, but one can’t help but think how perfect this could’ve been minus the intrusive narration and about 6-8 minutes of fat trimmed away. We’ll see where they go from here.
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