Agalloch – The Serpent and The Sphere – 7.5/10
– This grade comes as a surprise to me, because Agalloch had released 4 of my favorite albums of all time in a row and were on their way to becoming my favorite album of all time. Also, a lot of people are really enjoying this album and are grading it much higher than I am. Maybe it’s because I had such high expectations for it that it fell flat, but I personally feel it is because of the change of musical direction. What they chose to do here is let the music do the talking more so than the vocals. In theory this can be a good idea. But in Agalloch’s case, John is one of (if not) my favorite black metal style singers. I was really upset that they chose not to include any of their clean vocals, which I always look forward to. The album contains three acoustic instrumental pieces which I feel somewhat break the flow. They also start and end the album with long instrumental, almost drone like passages, which make the beginning and the end the most tedious parts of the album. Similarly, some songs in the middle like “Celestial Effigy” contain the most changes in terms of dynamics and tempos, making the middle the most progressive. Perhaps it is the uneven flow of the album which caused me to not give it too many listens. Despite all the complaints, there are impressive moments on this album which may be much better in a live setting, and it contains a lot of Agalloch doing what they do best, which is being one of the best black/progressive/folk/shoegaze metal bands on the planet.