Agalloch Discography Review pt. II, 2010-2014



Here is the concluding reviews of Agalloch’s extensive discography. This time around Agalloch tried some really interesting things with their final albums. There are some amazing songs to be found but the magic that Agalloch was known for was waning in the later years. Though I can say with confidence that they went out with the same solid reputation they had when they first started. It was a heck of journey for Agalloch and they will forever be known as the metal band that always remained true to their vision and art.

Marrow of the Spirit, 8/10

In another four years Agalloch released “Marrow of the Spirit” when I first got a chance to hear this album I enjoyed it but felt like it was missing something. The more I listened the more I started to love it. The production was very different and really gave a dark, earthy feeling to the album throughout. While hearing the songs I could taste death in the air and felt the biting cold in my bones. What really first threw me off was how heavy the second track “Into the Painted Grey” was. When Aesop incredibly loud and fast snare work came into play I knew I was in for a heavier version of Agalloch. The more the song went the more interesting it got, and the moods were layered upon layered. It was a different feeling to me compared to the more zoned out wistfulness I felt in the earlier albums. The music felt more immediate and much, much darker. It was a feeling I had to get used to and by the time I did I regularly spun “Marrow of the Spirit”. I gave the album an eight because “The Watcher’s Monolith” and “To Drown” didn’t move me as much as the other tracks on the album did. Top three songs: Black Lake Nidstang, Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires, and Into the Painted Grey

Faustian Echoes, 10/10

When Agalloch announced they will be doing their longest song yet in the ‘Faustian Echoes” EP I was hyped to hear how it will sound. When I got my hands on the album I was immediately energized to hear that Agalloch went straight black metal for his album. The tremolo riffs were in abundance and vocals were as black metal as can be. I loved that they decided to go old school for this song. There was a sense of malice and evil all throughout the 21 minute running time. What makes this EP even more amazing is how Agalloch incorporated guitar leads and tones to even give the song a sense of hope and light. The running time blitzed by with “Faustian Echoes” when a song that long is able to make it feel quick, that tells you it will be a classic song…which it is.

The Serpent and the Sphere, 8/10

This is Agalloch’s last album and one that probably had the most mixed reviews I have seen in their discography. I was very enthused to hear this album when the band members describe it as one of their heaviest yet. What could go wrong with an even heavier Agalloch album? Well as the reviews came through there was a lot of negativity about “The Serpent and Sphere” some people describe it as exhausted and mediocre. When I started seeing these reviews I was becoming concerned that one of the greatest bands ever were losing the passion and drive they had before in earlier albums. As I finally got a chance to listen to it, I was actually really enjoying what I heard. The production was immense and the tones were deep, heavy and haunting like the outer rims of space. There was homage to the funeral doom genre in “The Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation” this is one of my favorite songs on it, I loved hearing Agalloch go slow and plodding and just oppressive. Then we are graced with some beautiful spacey acoustic passages by Musk Ox’s Nathanael Larochette. These quick snippets of classical guitar kind of brought the listener back to earth for a bit before being launched back into the Milky Way Galaxy. Then Agalloch creates 3 epic and awesome tunes back-to-back in “The Astral Dialogue”, “Dark Matter Gods”, and “Celestial Effigy” these are the finest three songs I have heard by Agalloch and “The Astral Dialogue” being one of their heaviest songs yet.

I was really digging this album and then what brought the rating down to an 8 was the last two songs “Vales Beyond Dimension” and “Plateau of the Ages” these songs didn’t wow me like the earlier tracks, they were not very interesting and had that dreaded “filler” feel to them. I was so used to consistent Agalloch for years and years, hearing these songs dampened my spirits a bit. The one positive I can say about “Plateau of the Ages” is it is a hell of a great instrumental but ended too soon, I was hoping for more “The Hawthrone Passage” and “Odal” feel to the song, but it ended too abruptly. I really enjoyed this album as it started but then it waned later which left me wanting more. The one thing that I really liked about “The Serpent and Sphere” is the sense of continuity when the album ends it seemingly begins again seamlessly which gives it an almost one song broken into separate parts feel to things. Top Three Songs: The Birth and Death of The Pillars of Creation, Dark Matter Gods, and The Astral Dialogue.

Agalloch Discography Review pt. I, 1999-2008


For over 20 years Agalloch has created an incredibly consistent discography, each album was unique and evoked different feelings and mindsets. One thing Agalloch strived for was to remain consistent when other bands started falling into tropedom. This is why they stand the test of time, because they always believed in their art and always believed in making every album progressively better. Below are going to be quick, one-paragraph reviews about each major album. I will also be focusing on the EPs “The White” and “Faustian Echoes” even though they have many wonderful EPs these are two that standout the most.

Pale Folklore, 10/10

One of Agalloch’s first forays into the metal world was writing this stellar, memorable album. “Pale Folklore” has always been one of my favorites, the album is incredibly consistent with haunting imagery abound. There is a real sense of foreboding and sadness in the lyrics and the music. Whenever winter hits New Hampshire this album gets repeated listens. There is so many nuances in this album that even to this day new things pop up when I listen. Not only did the music draw me in but the band photos too, to this day I have never seen a band make a deer skull look so evocative. This album shows that Agalloch were pioneers and were destined to make their mark on the metal world. Top three songs: She Painted Fire Across the Skyline, As Embers Dress the Sky and The Melancholy Spirit.

The Mantle, 10/10

“The Mantle” was my first Agalloch purchase, I remember reading an old metal forum that recommended this album. As I got immersed in the incredible sound of “The Mantle” there were so many different elements to each song that it was at first difficult to follow. The more I listened the more I started to love what I was hearing. There were so many different styles used in each of the tracks. But what really impressed me was the amount of unique instruments Agalloch used to give “The Mantle” a special kind of sound/imagery. This was the first time I heard an instrument called a “grim cymbal bell” and the first time I heard a deer skull as a percussion instrument. The innovation/creativity was incredible in this album and to this day there has never been an album like it since. Top three songs: In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, Odal, and You Were But a Ghost in My Arms.

Ashes Against the Grain, 9/10

I remember when I first heard rumblings about Agalloch working on their new album that I was incredibly eager to hear how it sounds. After four long years “Ashes Against the Grain” was complete. When I finally heard the preview song “Falling Snow” I knew this was going to be yet another strong output by the Oregonians. When the album finally came out I was just blown away about how good it was. The only knock I can give about this album is the last track “Our Fortress is Burning III…the Grain” it was a droning, disturbing soundscape that kind of felt like a weaker closing to such an epic album. I was hoping to hear something along the lines of “The Melancholy Spirit” but when thinking more about it, it ended up being a fitting closing to the album, it just was a bit underwhelming to me. Aside from that the album is completely consistent and the way Agalloch decided to produce it was also unique since the earlier albums were a bit more murky sounding to me. Everything was clear as a bell and even a bit over-produced but it still gave “Ashes Against the Grain” a unique identity that Agalloch continually strived for. Top three songs: Not Unlike the Waves, Limbs, and Our Fortress is Burning II…Bloodbirds.

The White EP, 10/10

I am a huge neo-folk fan and when Agalloch decided to do an EP going the neo-folk route I was just ecstatic. “The White” is easily one of Agalloch’s best albums in their discography. It was the perfect length and evoked so many different moods in my mind. To top it off to have sound clips from the classic movie “The Wicker Man” sprinkled throughout the album was amazing. I find most of Agalloch’s work to be very introspective and “The White” really gives images of silent introspection within in Nature. I have spun this album numerous times and it never gets old and once again I always feel a new emotion spring up when I hear it. When Agalloch re-released this album including Nest’s cover of “Haunting Birds” it immediately catapulted “The White” to a must buy and an immediate classic. Top three songs: Sowilo Rune, Pantheist, and Summerisle-Reprise

Agalloch and Identity, 1995-2016


“Since that day a thousand veiled birds have taken flight

And the melancholy rain still pours forever on.”

Agalloch, “The Melancholy Spirit”


It was a hot, humid summer day at my house in 2002. I was playing basketball listening to “The Mantle” while shooting hoops. There was a moment on that day, when I heard something in the album that moved me and forever changed my outlook on life. Since that moment of sudden illumination the band Agalloch have been parallel to my life and the trials and tribulations I experienced throughout the years. There was something honest, and true about their music that not only made them one of the best bands ever but also moved thousands if not millions of people across the world who were dealing with their own personal struggles. Agalloch let me know I wasn’t alone in regards to the sometimes painful moments and memories I experienced. Then I heard on Friday, May 13th 2016 that Agalloch decided to call it quits I was stunned but knew that sometimes good things have to come to an end. Now after mulling over what had happened I feel incredibly melancholic about the loss of one of the greats in the metal world. It is going to be surreal not hearing another Agalloch album or seeing them live again, they are irreplaceable.

Over the years I had a chance to talk with Don, Jason, Aesop and John numerous times. They are some of the most stand up guys I know who just live and breathe their art. I would never have been hooked into the neo-folk scene without the amazing recommendations from them. I would have not been introduced to the post rock genre without first learning from them which bands to check out. All the music that I consistently play on my long commutes, Agalloch had an influence in. When I finally graduated college I reached out to Don to learn more about working in a college-setting and years later I now work in higher education. I even decided to move on a whim to Portland, OR because their music evoked such beautiful imagery of their home state. I wanted to see what it was all about and got to experience it for over a year and I still go back when I can. In essence Agalloch have been there for me since that hot, summer day of 2002.

Now as sad as I am about not having Agalloch in the world, I am optimistic about what the future will hold with the members. They are four musicians who are incredibly talented and I am eager to see what they will come up with for future projects. Sometimes when things die it makes room for growth and renewal. What follows are new perspectives and life experiences. I am hopeful that we will hear many more amazing albums to experience as the years go by from Don Anderson, Jason Walton, Aesop Dekker and John Haughm. There is no way I can see them just disappearing from the metal world and this gives me something to be excited about for the future.

Thank you Agalloch for being there for me. For over 14 years you helped me through some of the darkest moments in my life, I am forever in your debt…

“Fall away from me to that citadel at the end of time
Where death sleeps and dreams of your buried pain
There has never been a silence like this before
There will never be an ode like this again”

An Interview with Sylvaine


Coming from Oslo, Norway the multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine ( conceived an album that is of stunning beauty. The new album “Wistful” came out on May 13th, and Sylvaine created an excellent slab of blackgaze for the masses to hear. In the interview below she goes into more detail about the Sylvaine concept as well as the motivation behind writing “Wistful”. She is a very interesting and unique person and has taken the time out of her busy day creating music to chat with me.

What was your inspiration for the Sylvaine moniker?

 Always having had a strong connection to nature, I really wanted this to be present in the title of my new project. I was thinking of the world “sylvan”, but figured it might be a bit too generic, so mixing it with another word, to create something new and more personal for the title, seemed like an interesting idea. As poetry always inspired me a lot for writing lyrics and music, I thought maybe the project name should reflect that as well. So I choose “Verlaine” for that. In other words; “Sylvaine” is basically a mash-up of those two words. Later I also discovered it is a type of butterfly, haha…. Guess it could be worse!

What ideas helped you conceptualize “Wistful”?

Wistful” is an album that holds extremely personal moments to me, conveying a heightened state of alienation, frustration, resignation and restriction, showcasing a more aggressive and darker approach to the Sylvaine universe than on my first album “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart” from 2014. Along with being in a completely new environment when moving to Paris during the writing process of this album, where everything known was far away, making me feel more lost than before and with elevated emotions, one of the ideas that brought “Wistful” to life would be that our soul doesn’t come from this planet, but is only placed here for a certain amount of time, inside a “car”, which takes shape as our human bodies. This new vessel restricts the soul, causing the connection between our human world and the spiritual world to be more or less broken. This makes for a feeling of being trapped, of being restrained; the feeling of not belonging to this place. It also causes a primal longing for something, without our human mind understanding exactly what or where we are longing for. You could also say it would be the idea of belonging to a different time I suppose. This is something I spoke a lot about on “Wistful” and that shaped big parts of the album.

Describe your writing process, are you more spontaneous or methodical?

Definitely more spontaneous than methodical. I tend to write music in a spontaneous way, trying to always write in a purely emotional way, not over-thinking my process too much, but just doing and making choices intuitively. The only important part is that the music expresses something real, something I think is most easily achieved by just letting your mind flow and work with whatever comes out at the time. That being said, I of course have some habits or systems that I tend to follow, as it seems to be the natural way to do things for me. In general though, there are no rules when it comes to writing music and each album seems to take shape in a different way.

Do you feel the Norwegian black metal scene helped influence your music?

I think you can feel a slight presence of this scene in my music, yes, especially when it comes to the atmosphere and certain elements, such as the screaming vocals, tremolo guitars, but also the sound choices of the different instruments. I really like a lot of the bands from this scene, so it’s natural that it has inspired me somewhat for my own project.

What are some of your non-metal influences?

I adore the whole shoegaze/dreampop scene, as well as the darkwave scene, the post-punk scene, and the more modern post-rock and post-metal scenes. I also draw inspiration from classical music, with minimalism being one of my favorite directions. I was always very fascinated by the concept of taking the smallest pieces and evolving them slowly over time into something else. This is something I try to do in my music, to really create those hypnotic, meditative patterns that lull the listeners into some sort of trance.

What types of books and movies do you tend to like? Do you think they play a part in Sylvaine’s  music?

Both movies and books definitely inspire me a lot. For my first album, I drew a lot of direct inspiration from books, more specifically poetry, by artist such as Baudelaire and Verlaine. I wanted to pay some sort of tribute to them, as they have inspired me for many years before this record too. On “Wistful”, I was inspired by literature in a more indirect way. Movies inspired me a lot to write lyrics actually. Sometimes I will be sitting with my notepad while watching one and just writing throughout the whole film. Any movie or book that has an interesting story or a meaningful story, with good characters can be of interest to me. Lately, I’ve been in a horror movie phase for some reason, which is not exactly the best genre for interesting, deep stories, haha…. You still have some gems though, and the rest is usually good for some light entertainment.

What other interests do you have?

Music is pretty much what dominates my life most of the time, and it has been like that since I was about 14, but I also enjoy spending time in nature, taking long walks, watching movies, playing games (boards games and retro video games mostly), cooking, doing small arts and crafts projects, reading, traveling, hanging out with friends and family and so on.

What are some ideas you have for future albums?

I don’t really have any precise ideas at this moment actually, as my music tends to be more a direct result of whatever is going on with me at the time the song is written. The only thing I can tell you for sure, is that I am pushing myself to make better and better songs and to make more of them, so for my third album, I will be able to choose the absolute cream of the crop. I think the sound will be in the same vain as “Wistful”, but at the moment, I only have about 4 songs ready for the third album, so nothing is set in stone yet. We’ll see what happens I suppose! I would like to make some more energetic tracks in the future, like “Earthbound” from my last album.

What was the story behind working with Neige of Alcest?

I first discovered Alcest in 2011/2012 and immediately fell in love and connected to their music. In 2012 I had the pleasure of seeing them play live a couple of times and I ended up meeting them one night. After that, I stayed in touch with Neige, we became friends and I started to show him stuff I was doing with Sylvaine. He was very positive to the music and basically became a supporter of the project. This eventually led to the tour I did with them in South America in September 2014, and after that, Neige playing drums on “Wistful”. I really like his style of drumming and his attentiveness as a drummer, so we both felt it could fit really well with the music in Sylvaine. After that we basically tried to play thru the songs and both agreed it sounded amazing! I know Neige was in the mood of getting back into playing drums again at that period too, so it was a golden opportunity for me to take advantage of that, haha. It was a huge pleasure to work with such talented musicians for “Wistful”, including Neige, and I really feel it added another dimension to the music on the record.

And finally do you plan to tour the United States at all?

I would absolutely love to tour the US in the future! Hopefully, it won’t be too far off in the future either. We’ll see if we have any opportunities coming our way for next year. Being an American citizen, it would be very easy for me to do a tour, but of course the rest of my band will have to deal with the standard visa procedure, so its always a bit more of a hassle than playing in Europe. Either way, we’ll be coming over at some point for sure, as the US is a great and diverse territory that we would like to be present in!

Sylvaine “Wistful” Review


I first stumbled upon Sylvaine’s album “Wistful” through Alcest’s Facebook page. Neige mentioned that he contributed some drums to this album. This peaked my interest since Alcest is one of my all time favorite bands. As soon as I heard one of the songs off the album I was slowly getting more and more excited to hear what the full album will be like. Then months later I had an aha moment and looked for Sylvaine’s BandCamp page to see if the album is now out. To my surprise it was and I immediately bought the album and downloaded it. I can say it was one of the best decisions I had made for only $10 bucks. This is an amazing album full of warmth, melancholy and introspection.

When the first sorrowfully soft voices started to come out of the mist for the first song “Delusions” I felt like I was transported back to the time of Odysseus. Though I didn’t want to block my ears with wax, I wanted to hear the sirens sing over the rocks and waves of the ocean. The voice of Sylvaine did not foretell my doom, it reintroduced memories of the past and a nostalgia I haven’t felt since hearing Alcest’s “Ecailles de Lune” all those years ago. I knew as those sweeping vocals came out of the ether that I was going to be gifted with another brilliant album coming from the newly developed blackgaze genre. When the warm guitar tones started to drift in, the wall of sound was something I could not avoid. I could feel the emotion in every guitar riff and drum beat and in the end I was transported to the hidden world of Sylvaine.

I find myself meandering down misty forest paths and babbling brooks of crystal clear water. I come to a clearing and see a shade in a copse of trees. The shade has a guitar and starts playing an eerily cold riff that could have come from the Norwegian fjords in the early 90s. It was hypnotic, cold but warm at the same time. Then as the guitars played the shade screamed in pain about being tied to the earth without a chance of redemption. This imagery is what came to mind when I heard the second song “Earthbound”. This song sounds like something out of an old Burzum record, but the rules were broken. Instead of cold, darkness and hate there is instead a feeling of sadness/loss with a chance of redemption. Sylvaine’s screams are incredibly haunting and definite homage to her Norwegian black metal peers. And it was a breath of fresh air to hear that vocal style all these years later.

As the journey continues I came across a meadow of sorts with wild flowers of varying hues of blue and purple, the breeze can be heard among the tall grass. In the distance I see a circle of monoliths and the stars are numerous and bright in the sky. I see the shade again though it is now gray not black. It starts strumming a melancholic tune in apathy. It sings about being trapped and that there is no way out. It sees the flowers and the stars with longing. It knows freedom is at hand, it just needs to get out of its head long enough to break free. The music/lyrics of both “A Ghost Trapped in Limbo” and “Saudade” paint this bleak picture but in the end you know the shade will be free of the looming, ancient stone prison.

Then all of the sudden, the shade looks above and screams for freedom and redemption. Slowly the shade rises from the ground and is floating closer to the stars above. Then with sudden clarity I find myself flying up with it. I am in the cosmos I see the billion points of light of distant galaxies. Then the shade glows brighter and brighter, like a rocket ship its guitars erupt and its screams can be heard across millennia. This is the final rallying cry of the shade, it is free of its bonds. This feeling of sudden illumination resonates in the track “In the Wake of Moments Passed By”. As the shade is flying free it drifts towards the Sun, it floats without being burnt, it sees the warm light and its life force comes back. The song “Like a Moth to a Flame” is the fitting second to last chapter of this journey.

The final chapter of this shade’s journey is to find a way back home. With lifeforce anew and perceptions changed the shade goes home. With a sense of wonderment and introspection and a new lease on life the shade is full and happy. There is a quiet cadence to its voice as it sings. There is quiet reflection in the guitar tones. And out of nowhere the warm sound of chamber music is being played on the wind, the shade turns Northward and drifts to the music. The shade comes to find that it is not alone that there are others like it. And it rests its head on the mossy ground and then becomes human, she sleeps and all that is left are the stars above. Then the song “Wistful” comes to an end and I stir awake with a new mindset, free of worry and regret…

Rating: 9/10

Sylvaine BandCamp: