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Portland, OR black metal troupe Agalloch have always been oppressively heavy, but they've gotten a whole lot heavier on its latest eight-track offering, resulting in ASHES AGAINST THE GRAIN being the band's most exhilarating release to date. While the remnants of their acoustic alchemy from albums such as THE MANTLE are still very much apparent throughout the course of the disc, a bulk of the material is electric guitar driven, and heavy-handedly at that, showcasing the vibes usually set aside for acts like Katatonia and Daylight Dies. Tracks like the fist-pumping anthemic feel of "Not Unlike the Waves" glimmer with lead guitar brilliance, as the glistening "Fire Above, Ice Below" clock in at over 10 minutes and is laden with some of the most moving melancholic musical passages heard from a metal band, while the quartet's somberly-charged vitriol kicks in on "Limbs" and "Falling Snow", evoking a one-two punch that those on suicide watch should steer clear from. Raising the bar for black metal across the globe, this gem is a must have for adventurous avant-garde metal fans everywhere.
- Mike SOS