Take a look at the picture of the album cover artwork over to the left there. That picture pretty much sums up what to expect from Marrow of the Spirit by Agalloch. It’s dark, wintery, foreboding, and overflowing with a viscous atmosphere. As you immerse yourself in this album you will take a harrowing walk through the haunted forest that Agalloch has grown and when you finally escape its chilling grasp it will stick with you for a long time to come as you constantly cough up chunks of that viscid air that you were inhaling throughout your journey, and it couldn’t be a more rewarding experience.

The style of music Agalloch creates is a strange beast to describe. It’s soul is rooted from black metal(raspy vocals, tremolo picking) but past where their roots are their sounds branches out into something rather unique as they incorporate various vocal and instrument styles and textured song building akin to prog and post-metal bands(think Isis). All the songs on Marrow of the Spirit have a very earthen sound to them and the lo-fi production really hammers home the organic feel to this record. That organic, earthen feel is what really makes this band, and record, something special.

As you start up the album the sounds of a babbling brook come into focus along the chirping of various birds in the trees which then gets layered by the somber music of a cello brandishing its lost soul. Then the album just bursts and smacks you into confusion with the heaviest and fastest section on the whole record and then evens itself out and gives you an opportunity to regain your focus and from there they let you loose to get lost and explore the dusky winter forest and its various moods and textures. Throughout your journey you will stumble upon a darkened lake that is known as “Black Lake Niðstång”, and here you will, at the same time, meet true beauty and terror and you will not be able to pull yourself away from its dark and beguiling sorcery. Some time after this encounter you will find you way out of the entrapment of the woods, but not unscathed, and the haunted woods will beckon for you to return to discover all they have to show you, and you will oblige…

Like spring and summer flaunts its charm, so does autumn and winter. The color of the fall leaves, the taste of the fresh, cool air, the way snow reflects the moonlight to brighten you path, the proud yet barren trees, those seasons have their own captivating spells and Agalloch really knows how to capture them musically like none other that I’ve heard. While they may focus on the dark sides of the spectrum the light often shines through and makes Marrow of the Spirit a truly breathtaking spectacle to behold.

And bonus points for the artistic designer on the album packaging. There is some wonderful photography and I loved how the band logo and song titles were placed on with the raised clear ink(can’t be seen in any scan, but it’s there and it’s pretty damn cool). I hope this trend of excellent album packaging continues.

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