Portland folk-metal conjurers Agalloch are among the best of a growing sect of earthy, naturalistic metal bands. The band's 2010 full-length marathon, Marrow of the Spirit, is an hour-long journey that intertwines black-metal caterwaul with acoustic guitar flourishes, low-end piano stabs, and sublime cello arrangements. This approach is similar to Washington terra-metal practitioners Wolves in the Throne Room, who share Agalloch's particular mode of Pacific Northwest tranquility. Though many of these acoustic additions take the fore while obvious doom-metal signifiers are heard in the mix, there are passages of Marrow of the Spirit that could be mistaken for post-rock codas or disembodied ambient environments. Of course, there are plenty of forlorn guitar leads, double-kick pummels, and vocal shrieks, but Agalloch make a unique statement within the black-metal vocabulary. The band is among several innovators on the Canadian avant-metal label Profound Lore, which also houses the dazzling structural finesse of Krallice and the forbidding sludge of Yob. Agalloch set themselves apart through delicate subversion of genre expectations: They do not fall prey to the predictable rise-fall dynamics of lesser post-rock nor the cloddish theatrics of overcooked epic metal. Hearing their barren atmospherics and structural poise raises the metal bar a whole foot closer to the forest's canopy.
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