Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.
A Special Album
The Serpent & the Sphere would sadly end up being the last studio album for the very varied metal band Agalloch from Portland. Oregon released in 2014. But think of this album as being a hybrid of bands such as The Gathering, Opeth. In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity. One needs to ask the question of why the United States can’t have more metal bands like Agalloch instead of the various heavy metalcore bands such as Lamb of God and Hatebreed.
Give These Guys a Chance When You Listen to This Album
There comes a time where a varied metal music listener gets tired of that massively heavy music that isn’t quite creative enough to stir your senses and leave you in a state of impressive awe. Agalloch was one of those more impressive and better American metal bands not belonging in the standard heavy metal or thrash metal genre that had time changes, melody, and various intricate musical parts which is the reason why they should be given consideration for review and analysis even though they broke up in 2016. Especially this final studio album from these Oregonians doesn’t sound heavy to overwhelm your senses in the wrong way. It is like a death metal album that calms the senses and relaxes you in some ways even if such a statement is funny.
It seems like the avid music listener doesn’t really find this album that the album finds them. The album starts with the very long song called “Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation.” The song has this sort of early Theatre of Tragedy feel to it along with a touch of progressive style lead guitar work. But then comes a very sensually beautiful instrumental song called “Serpens Caput.” However in the beginning part that has a combination of acoustic guitar plus the slow riff, that can remind us of The Gathering influence there. It is wonderful to see that a non-European metal band immerses itself in this kind of instrumental work. For a band that originally began as a studio project, Agalloch reached their peak with this release and what a way to exit the music scene!
Some Additional Perspective
Kim Kelly of Spin Magazine tries to sum up this final effort by Agalloch by saying: “Agalloch have never sounded so rich, so full.” The sound on this last album is something to be impressed by and you can even briefly hear the bass as well. The fullness of the album is felt because this is more than just doom metal and growling vocals. It has the influence of the Swedish metal scene on top of it adding to the fullness and richness of the songs.
Analysis of the Songs The Astral Dialogue and Dark Matter Gods
The richness of this last Agalloch studio release is shown with the heavily black metal influenced song “The Astral Dialogue” which sounds like the band Catamenia not just because of the guitar style but the way that the drums sound. There are references made to the astral plane and the flaws of human nature in this song. “Dark Matter Gods” is a song that lives up to its title because of the sheer dark sound of the song as it sounds like a melodic death metal song with the bass being clearly heard and this might remind some of you of the Dark Tranquillity influence in here. Obviously these guys can’t be on the same level as those Swedish melodic death metal legends but just the fact that they were able to construct a song like this speaks to their talent.
"Plateau of the Ages"
Cor Serpentis the 2nd Instrumental Song
“Cor Serpentis (The Sphere)" is the 2nd of four instrumental songs on this album and these guys have a tendency to include multiple instrumental songs on their albums but if it works, why mess with the formula? This second instrumental song has guitar influences that will more than likely remind you of Sweden’s In Flames.
Final Thoughts About The Serpent & the Sphere
“Vales Beyond Dimension” is a song that speaks of there being so much more than what we see as humans in this 3rd dimensional reality. As the song simply states, “the past is a mirror.” It can be seen as a mirror reflecting to us our past thoughts and beliefs. “Serpens Cauda” the 4th instrumental song ends this album as Agalloch would disband in 2016 and finish with a flourish! This last song with the wind blowing in the background sets the stage for a strong finish as this is no doubt the best album in the career of Agalloch.
Rate the Album The Serpent & the Sphere by Agalloch
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© 2021 Ara Vahanian