Agalloch is always perfect this time of year in the northern hemisphere. It’s cold, dark, haunting, and really gives you a lot of time to reflect on things. Even if you enjoy the holiday season, most people are sick of the snow after new years comes and goes and there is the potential to deal with 3-4 more months of snow in the forecasts. While Agalloch is not just a winter seasonal band; they are a band that is synonymous with the season with some of their best material. Agalloch can be enjoyed any time of year as they are a very pagan/nature inspired band that really appreciates the earth, the moon and the stars. In this edition of Backwards Marathon, I wanna go over the 5 full LPs form the band and rank them from least favorite to most favorite to give you an idea of what this band is all about, especially if you are a newcomer to this Blackened, Folkish, Pagan Post Rock band that has influences so many bands since it’s inception and will continue to do so after their demise in 2016. While is a band where there is no wrong answer as to what is best or worst; I love the idea of talking about these albums and spreading the word of the music they left us.
1.) No EPs, cover albums, live albums, b-side albums, or best of/greatest hits collections. Just original studio LPs. Albums that have a cover or two on it are just fine.
2.) This is just my opinions on the albums in question. No outside influences other than my own and is far from a definitive world ranking. If you have a different ranking, AWESOME! Keep that up!
3.) The reason for doing this to help people get into a band/artist/etc and give ideas of what to expect if they decide to dive into the work.
4.) This is ranked from least favorite to favorite (countdown/TRL style). I will give a few words about every album as we go down the list.
5.) There will be a spotify playlist (where applicable) to go along with the list with a song off each album so you can get another idea of what to expect. The songs will either be my favorite song off the album or one that represents the album the best in my eyes. (if you are reading this on social media, click the official link to get the playlist)
6.) Have fun and spread the word....SPREAD IT!
5.) The Serpent & The Sphere (2014)
I normally see this one listed as the worst work from the band, though I’m torn on that statement. It’s not one of the legacy albums that put their name into the history books, but it does have fantastic songs from beginning to end and the greatest production they ever had the fortune to use. Rather than nature as the biggest inspiration, the songs are much more focused on the stars and the dialog that it can bring to the world. The music has more hints of their black metal side while keeping the rest in check. I’d say as a final album from a band, it feels like a letdown because it would have been great to see one big finale to this entity known as Agalloch and really have stamp down their legacy, but as the final album we received; I think it’s a great gateway for newcomers to the band that love the more sinister and black metal styles of music. It fits quite well.
4.) Pale Folklore (1999)
In all honesty, it’s a complete toss up between this and next album to be talked about as to their ranking order for me. Sometimes Pale Folklore is better to me, sometimes it’s vice versa. But this debut LP is something of haunting wonder. The production has that great balance between clean and raw. The clean tones on this album simply gives you chills every time you hear them, and you really hear the band get a footing of what they want to accomplish. While you don’t hear so much of the doom style going forward; you do hear the beginnings of the post rock elements that will fill the band’s sound till the very end. This has that great black metal vibe as well in it’s guitar tones and structure that really makes this an album that truly stands on it’s own. A fantastic album that I simply can’t believe turns 21 this year (it can finally buy tobacco and beer now).
3.) Ashes Against The Grain (2006)
4 years after what might be considered their masterwork; Agalloch, instead of just recreating the same album twice, created an album that just makes my jaw drop every time I hear it. Between phenomenal production, hauntingly beautiful song structures and instrumentation, and of course some of the best songs of the band’s discography; Ashes Against the Grain is an album that is a standard definition of what Agalloch is about in all facets. Everything that you loved about the band before and everything you will love with the 2 albums to follow it is shown off here in strides. Plus, how great of an opener is Limbs...SERIOUSLY? This is Agalloch at their most...Agalloch!
2.) Marrow of the Spirit (2011)
As you may have realized by this point, Agalloch took their time when it came to writing and recording. It wasn’t just between day jobs and other projects; it was because they wanted to create the best music they possibly could and didn’t want to release anything until it was what they wanted the world to hear. It has been stated by John Haughm that the band’s previous album, Ashes Against the Grain was “Too Polished” and “The worst album” in the band’s catalog (I couldn’t disagree with what more); the band went for almost the entirely opposite direction for Marrow of the Spirit. Instead of clean and polished production, they went as raw as they could while still being audible. Instead of making the songs clean and pretty, the songs have the darkest and most black metal elements the band ever had in one album. And by gum, they knocked it out of the park. While this was my introduction into the band, don’t mistake that for blind love of the band; this album is one of the best albums of the 2010s and I can’t think of much that can possibly rival it. It has the dark, sinister, scary moments that the band can hone in on and make it work miraculously. Even the very post rock sounding Ghost of Midwinter Fires has is great example of the band in their most winter inspired both instrumentally and lyrically. The heaviest Agalloch album bar none.
1.) The Mantle (2006)
Honestly, how could it be ANYTHING other than The Mantle? It is the perfect album from start to finish. Every single note matters, every single word is haunting, the music is something of pure wonder, it is the perfect representation of the band’s winter vibes...seriously, every time it snows here, I think of this album. The production is the perfect blend between clear and raw really giving you chills you may never feel outside of listening to this album. Another thing that really sets this album apart from others is the use of sound clips and actually making the album half instrumental. Agalloch knows when to add lyrics to a song and when not to add lyrics. A song such as The Hawthorne Passage has just as much emotional power as a song like You Were But A Ghost In My Arms. Basically, if you are reading this as it is posted, this is the perfect album to listen to this time of year. And if you live in the Midwest; a big ol snowstorm is coming for us today and if this isn’t your soundtrack to the blizzard, you’re doing life wrong.
And there you go (Pale Folklore)s my ranking of the 5 Agalloch LPs from 5 to 1. If you are new to the band I hope that this list helps you discover your new obsession. If you are new to the band, feel free to tell me how wrong I am with this ranking. And of course check my Spotify playlist with a 5 track sampler of Agalloch with a track off each album talked about above. Till next time, this is That Drummer Guy saying...SEE YA!
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)