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Serpent & The Sphere Import

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Product details

  • Audio CD (13 May 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Profound Lore/Revolver
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,031 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Johan Klovsjö on 18 Jun. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Just when you think Agalloch is going to turn things up and go hard and heavy, they do the opposite. And HOW they do it...

Serpent & Sphere is a clear line drawn against the band's previous full length, Marrow of the Spirit, which seems to have been a bit of a one-off in terms of the hard and heavy. And however much I enjoyed MotS, Agalloch does the mellower stuff better. That is not to say that Serpent & Sphere does not ROCK, not at all!

It is perhaps the band's ability to combine the rocking beats of doom metal with the mellow folk melodies that defines them. Powerful metal drums and over it an eerie guitar melody that turns your belly into a knot. Metal themes threading towards epic climaxes. And each track is strong and essential to the album.

I love all Agalloch's albums, but to me Serpent & Sphere is their strongest effort yet.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Olly Johnson on 30 Sept. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Pains me to give Agalloch anything less than full marks. It just hasn't hooked me like the others, maybe it's a 4/5 but for me the vocals bore me senseless. No variation at all.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. J. Cheyne on 13 Jun. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Now this is 3 stars because it is decent. Not Agalloch decent though, for Agalloch this is slightly poor. it really saddens me to say this as to me they have never done anything bad before and im a huge fan. It seems to be missing some level of epicness that you get from all there other work. on all the other albums i could lay down with my eyes closed in a dark room and i would feel high. this one though doesnt even come close to the previous though. it is missing a massive spark that i cant quite put my finger on it. Many people will most likely enjoy this album but i think this is there worst work yet. i have been waiting for this for 4 years as well so you could imagine my dissapointment. Also another let down is the production. it sounds like it was recorded in a garage and should be there first album.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Agalloch's Fifth Masterpiece 13 May 2014
By J. Hill - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you're anything like me, you think the release of a new Agalloch album should be a national holiday. New full-lengths don't come too often, and when they do, they're pretty much genius. If any of their albums got a less-than-overwhelming response, it was the last one, "Marrow of the Spirit." That one had a more metal approach than any of their material since 1997's "From Which of This Oak," with more frequent black metal vocals and even blast beats, which was new for Agalloch. The folk and alt-rock sections also seemed more basic in places, not quite as lush as on the previous albums. I personally love "Marrow" as much as anything the band has done, but it took longer than usual for some to fully embrace it. This new album, I believe, will instantly please anyone who's ever been an Agalloch fan. "The Serpent and the Sphere" combines elements of all four of their previous albums, but mostly the first three. Many times throughout the CD, I hear parts that remind me of "Pale Folklore" and "The Mantle," but probably more so than the other two, "Ashes Against the Grain."

Every song here is broad and sweeping in scope, presenting beautifully crisp alt-rock guitar licks intertwined with folk and various styles of metal, with the exception of the three enchanting, elegant acoustic pieces sprinkled into the mix. "Serpent" offers some of the most fun Agalloch songs to listen to in many years, bringing a fair amount of the rocking-out from the first two albums back into their sound, with plenty of brooding doom metal to up the ante. They even play some of the melodic black metal akin to their earliest material on "The Astral Dialogue" and in a few other spots. So far, my favorite track on the album is "Dark Matter Gods," an eight-plus minute amazing journey through all of Agalloch's diverse array of talents. The only element missing from the old days is Haughm's clean vocals, but he does still do the droning, chant-like vocal melodies, with a lot more whispering than before. For me, it's all good where the vocals are concerned. The music on this track is enthralling. The songs are all conceptually tied together through celestial references and imagery (the word "celestial" even makes its way into one of the song titles). It's an interesting route for a band known for its focus on all things nature, but a logical extension seeing how they've thoroughly covered earthbound nature over the course of four albums and numerous EP's.

Needless to say, I've been anxiously awaiting this one for a few years, with only the "Faustian Echoes" EP to whet my appetite for more Agalloch. Clocking in at just under an hour and with songs that are already making their way onto my favorite list for this band, I couldn't be much happier with "The Serpent and the Sphere."

Since Amazon doesn't have one, here's a track list:

1. Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation (10:27)
2. (Serpens Caput) (3:06)
3. The Astral Dialogue (5:11)
4. Dark Matter Gods (8:35)
5. Celestial Effigy (6:58)
6. Cor Serpentis (The Sphere) (2:58)
7. Vales Beyond Dimension (6:47)
8. Plateau of the Ages (12:25)
9. (Serpens Cauda) (3:11)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Partly brilliant, partly not so, but clearly Agalloch throughout ... 12 Sept. 2014
By Ralf M. Leonhardt - Published on
Format: Audio CD
With every Agalloch album I am again astonished how much potential this band has. John Haughm has one of the most character-laden, remarkable voices in the Black Metal genre. Musically, the band plays enormously atmospheric and a song can easily span an entire arc from calmly clean melodic harmonies to powerful metal chords and back. And yet they manage to never sound mainstream.

So far so good. On the downside, like all their albums before, unfortunately, also this release suffers a little bit from the fact that the band really does not exactly have the most excellent musicians. Little technical mistakes here and there, though never catastrophic, are many enough in number to become annoying for a musically apt listener. This might not matter much if you prefer Darkthrone-like LoFi Black Metal, but I feel Agalloch have always held themselves to a different standard with a more brilliant sound and try to play the genre at a different level. Another reviewer praised the "perfectionism" of this release. My biggest problem with it is the absence thereof.

Another point is that I feel many songs have substantial and unnecessary overlength. Perhaps this results from the band liking a certain part so much that they decide to play it in a loop of 100 times where 16 times would have been enough. When jamming this is not a problem and even live this might work, but it is suboptimal on an album. Take track 2 (serpens caput) as example: A wonderful beautiful melody! But where does it go? It plays for almost 3 minutes without any significant development as a repetetive loop, and with every repetition the theme gets a little bit less exciting. Sad because the melody is really nice and could have flourished if presented in an appropriate context instead of standing by itself. (standing literally)

However, I do not want to sound too negative. There are definitely some really awesome songs on this CD that demonstrate all the potential and talent that Agalloch has. My most favorite tracks are The Astral Dialogue (a little bit Paradise Lost-like) and Dark Matter Gods. Here the band is at its best. I wish the entire album were as convincing. And also here I disagree with another reviewer who stated this CD has no tracks that stand out. Above tracks do stand out in my opinion.

Overall, if you like melodic, charismatic, unconventional Black Metal and you are willing to overlook some smaller technical details, this is the right buy for you. If you liked the past releases of Agalloch already, you cannot go wrong with this CD anyway.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Terrific, mindblowing! 7 July 2014
By Murat Batmaz - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Agalloch is one of the few bands who have never released a disappointing album; although there is no general consensus among their fans as to what is their high-water mark, if asked to choose, most of them might pick their first two albums, the Scandinavian folk-inspired atmospheric black metal disc Pale Folklore; and the more daring and experimental The Mantle. I, too, consider these albums the finest Agalloch releases, but everything else, including their EPs, comes pretty close, as they bring forth stylistic and musical changes.

The Serpent & the Sphere marks yet another change in the sound and evolution of Agalloch. Strangely, though, while this is quite a departure from the band's earthy, autumn-inspired sound explorations, I found it easier to get into than its predecessor, Marrow of the Spirit, which was more of a lo-fi, colder, and primal release harkening back to their black metal roots while retaining the more atmospheric sounds of their recent output. The arrangements were more protracted, melodies took longer to form and develop, and, therefore, the album didn't take hold and sink in right away. On this album, the songs are more focused with more linear harmonic development, and the melodies are easier to identify, despite the more elaborate sound configuration. Also, there is a more intense rhythmic tension, not only because of the drumming, but because there is a greater sense of space and time between the notes and chord progressions. This allows Jason William Walton to assume a more crucial role in the sound of this disc. He employs sprawling bass lines and spreads them across the whole tonal spectrum. Most of the tracks rely on his low, droney bass figures, sticking to merely a few measures during pivotal sections and enhancing the compositions. The bass on "Dark Matter Gods" is possibly the best bass sound they've mined yet, especially given how it interacts with the other instruments. The bass is beautifully harmonized, surrounded by clean-toned guitar chords, sparse, ethnically influenced drum beats, Haughm's haunting whispers, and ambient, nihilistic moments.

Musk Ox guitarist plays three brief instrumental pieces to lend the album cohesion and unity. I've read comments criticizing Agalloch for bringing in an outsider to play these sections rather than handling the passages themselves, which I cannot agree with. For starters, Nathanael Larochette's playing style is very different than both Haughm and Anderson's; his playing is informed with cleaner chord progressions, where his notes shine and sparkle while still adding a welcome neo-folk vibe to the album. Larochette also has a much different sense of sonic development; there is always a subtle urgency in his playing. Secondly, I can't see what's so wrong about getting outside contribution if it actually serves a pupose, and, here, it certainly does. Besides, the acoustic passages, while sticking to a central music thread and an underlying sonic structure, also display nuanced variations on the theme: the bright sound cosmos of the first one is vastly different from the darker and engaging second piece while the album finale, supplemented by ominous keys, is testament to the work of an obsessively focused writer and performer.

Haughm's vocals are restricted to his easily recognizable style, alternating between whispered singing and feral screaming. Clean vocals are completely absent, but he does utilize his harsher vocal stylings in more varied ways. The first track "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" not only introduces the new sound of the album but also features his raspy and demented screams, at one point breaking into Bethlehem-like desperation, ever so briefly. (You need to listen to Dictius Te Necare if you want to hear an entire album with such vocals.) He sounds truly deranged and psychotic and gives the song the resolution it needs, given it starts with a slow, gradually evolving acoustic piece that stretches into over four minutes to ensure the listener is completely engaged and absorbed.

One thing that needs mentioning is that very few of the pieces on this album can be discerned individually. While this can particularly happen with most post-rock, shoegaze, and experimental albums, this has never happened to me with Agalloch songs on prior discs. I can still readily recognize and identify the band; only 10 seconds would suffice, but the songs are harder to pick apart with a few exceptions. The reason for this may be attributed to the "cosmic sound" this album is based on, which characterizes the whole record (think Fates Warning's A Pleasant Shade of Gray as a reference point). Still, there are a few individual tracks that stand out: "The Astral Dialogue" is sublime with its thunderous, rumbling bass, Ulverian tremelo picking (which finds them performing a musical ritual), doom-laden passages with periodic lapses into pure ambient soundscapes, and shifting rhythmic textures; it's not as epic and grandiose as Pale Folklore because if it were it would seem out of place. The drumming on "Celestial Effigy" sounds like something off of My Arms, Your Hearse if Mike Mendez had played as he did on Damnation. Haughm's whispers are obscured by the guitar sound, which builds with increasing density before resolving with a fantastic theme that takes over and doesn't let go until the final moment. I'm not quite convinced the 12-minute instrumental "Plateau of the Ages" is entirely successful. It blends the band's love of post-rock with wonderful acoustic guitars and soaring melodies, but the riffs seem a tad repetitive and I feel it could have been shorter to have a more lasting effect.

I also have a small issue with the packaging of the album. I've never been a fan of digipaks to begin with, but the fact that the front of the CD is cut out to give it the shape of a serpent with the enigmatic booklet cover peeking through it was a poor choice on the part of the band and/or Profound Lore Records. The 'original' cover of the booklet in a standard jewel case would have been much better, in my opinion.

Bottom line, The Serpent & the Sphere is one of 2014's finest releases. It took me months to fully absorb Marrow of the Spirit, which I'd currently rank higher than their latest output, but I've only been listening to this one for a month, so who knows how it will rank in their discography in the long run.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
From the forest to the distant stars... 22 May 2014
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
THE SERPENT AND THE SPHERE is another superb album from Agalloch, with disparate sections interwoven to create a progressive sonic tapestry that is greater than the sum of its parts.

John Haughm's lyrics turn here from the dark forest, which has been the central image through all Agalloch's music until now, to the Cosmos. More specifically, to the Cosmos as Macrosphere and the spirit within as the Microsphere which is the Cosmos in miniature.

As expressed in "Vales Beyond Dimension":

"I have peeled away layers of my humanity
No longer a being, the core of entity
For each layer reveals the key to the gates of the multiverse.

Through the doorway of a shaman's reality
A universe within the skull."

Haughm's harsh vocals are more restrained than in the past, a whispering rasp, but no croaking. There are no clean vocals. Nathaniel Larochette composed three solo classical guitar pieces which he performs, and they serve as segues between the six long, electric songs performed by the band, one instrumental, providing a medieval feel.

THE SERPENT AND THE SPHERE sounds more like Marrow of the Spirit than any other Agalloch album, but it is more restrained, less sprawling, and more meticulously constructed. While excellent, I hope Haughm doesn't stray for too long from his concern for the forest and for the Earth.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Album! 30 Jun. 2014
By Chris H - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I cannot find anything wrong with this album. It is definitely one of Agalloch's greatest works. The transitions are flawless and keep all of the songs interesting. Agalloch is a brilliant band, and this album conveys the members' talent, spirit, and perfectionism. I look forward to what the band will do next!
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