It’s been four years since Agalloch released Marrow of the Spirit, an album that exposed the progressive doom/black-metal quartet to a much wider audience. The Serpent & The Sphere is a different beast from Marrow, however. It’s less of a neat package of an album, encompassing the entire breadth of what Agalloch is capable of. Maybe more in line with 2002’s The Mantle, it’s an intense, beautiful LP.
“Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation” is an album opener that might catch you off guard. It’s almost five minutes in before we hear the hiss of John Haughm’s vocals, preceded by a slow acoustic guitar-led introduction. The dynamic shifts in “Birth and Death…” are prelude to an album that surprises expectations constantly, moving from quiet acoustic moments to raucous, melodic tracks like “The Astral Dialogue.” The album looks both backward and forward, continuing the band’s unique brand of folk-influenced black-metal.