Ashes Against the Grain
Portland OR’s Agalloch are a great American metal band. One of the best. In fact, they’re so good they should probably move to Europe where they’d be wined and dined by the crowned heads of all metal-loving nations. When was the last time Glen Benton was given the key to a city? Where’s my Chuck Schuldiner commemorative postage stamp?! This country has so much to answer for.
Anyway, all you need to know is this: If you have never heard Agalloch, run as fast as your spindly metal-fan legs will carry you and pick up their 1999 debut full-length, Pale Folklore. That’s the album that had jaws dropping ’round the globe. Proceed to their second effort, The Mantle, just as strong in its way. Finish up with the brand spanking new disc, the four-years-in-the-making and equally as great Ashes Against the Grain. Dude, you will flip. This is a band that combines nothing but the best elements of black metal, doom metal, dark folk, and semi-classical acoustic genres, heavy indie rock à la Mogwai and Godspeed, and titans of melancholy such as Katatonia, My Dying Bride and Opeth, bringing it all together in fresh, surprising ways. They own that shit.
Plus, it’s so unbelievably beautiful and addictive. Agalloch records will make you feel like you’re 16 again and are going to live forever. And if you are 16 they will make you feel like you are the ruthless lord of an intergalactic prison planet staffed by four-breasted alien sex slaves. Hell, make that six-breasted! Great metal is like a great drug and Agalloch is like extra-strong heroin laced with even MORE heroin. Whereas bands like Mogwai and Mono often demand that you eat your vegetables before you get any dessert (“Hey, Mr. Mono, are we there yet?” “Yes, we have almost reached top of Godspeed Mountain, and when we get there we will play supersonic psychedelic guitar freakout!” “Yeah, we know. It’s the same every song.” “What, you don’t like supersonic psychedelic guitar freakout?!” “Yeah, yeah, whatever, my feet are killing me.”), and even gods like Neurosis make you walk on glass before letting you peak on the mushrooms they’re doling out at their desert boot camp, Agalloch’s nine- and 10-minute songs are smooth and seamless; the whole ride is never anything less than puuuuuure pleasure. As Jesus is my mistress, I swear to you, this is fucking heaven on a stick, my friends. Fucking heaven on a stick.—Scott Seward