Ashes Against the Grain

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Ashes Against the Grain
Studio album by Agalloch
Released August 8, 2006
Recorded December 10, 2005–January 2006
Genre Doom metal, black metal, folk metal, post-metal, dark ambient
Length 59:49
Label The End
Agalloch chronology
Split with Nest (EP)
(2004)
Ashes Against the Grain
(2006)
The White
(2008)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [1]
AbsolutePunk (91%) [2]
Chronicles of Chaos 9/10[3]
Exclaim! favorable[4]
PopMatters 9/10 stars[5]
Pitchfork Media (8.0/10)[6]
Sputnikmusic 5/5 stars[7]

Ashes Against the Grain is the third full-length album by American metal band Agalloch, released by The End Records four years after the critically acclaimed The Mantle.

Production[edit]

Following the release of The Mantle, Agalloch performed their first live shows. Due to the number of instruments and effects used on that album, the band had to make some changes to the arrangements of the songs so they could be more easily replicated when performed live. When it came time to record their next album, the band decided that a more stripped down approach was necessary, as they wanted to emulate the feeling of performing live on the new songs. Ashes Against The Grain focused more on electric guitars and metal elements, and had less of the neofolk influence that was prominent on The Mantle.

John Haughm stated in an interview on the Silence of Forgotten Landscapes DVD that the album was recorded during a time when he had renewed his liking for metal, after taking a break from it and focusing on other musical influences during the Mantle sessions. Lyrically, Haughm took a more simplistic and abstract approach in contrast to earlier albums.

Haughm had played drums on the previous albums, but for Ashes Against the Grain, Haughm wanted to concentrate more on his songwriting and guitar parts, and drummer Chris Greene was brought in. Greene had joined the band when they began playing live in 2003, and played drums on all the tracks except for "Falling Snow" and "Not Unlike the Waves." Greene parted ways with Agalloch following their 2006 European tour, as the band felt that he was not developing well as a live drummer. He was replaced by Ludicra drummer Aesop Dekker.[8]

The recording process was described by the band as "hell from start to finish." A number of production problems were encountered, including a computer glitch which resulted in the Wave files being lost.[9] Many of the songs ended up being re-worked from the original demos; in particular "Fire Above, Ice Below," which Haughm said that "something got lost in the transition from the demo recording to the album recording."[10]

Despite the band's intention of Ashes being a more stripped down album, Haughm has since stated that the album sounds "too polished"[11] and that he prefers the more raw sound of their later album, Marrow of the Spirit. He has said that Ashes Against the Grain is "definitely the worst album we have made."[12]

"Not Unlike the Waves" music video[edit]

A music video was recorded for the fifth track on the album, "Not Unlike the Waves". It was filmed in the woods near Portland[10] by cinematographer Juan Mosqueda.

Haughm has stated that he is not happy at all with the final version of the video, which was very different from the original sketch filmed by Mosqueda. Mosqueda's sketch featured smooth transitions between shots and what John Haughm described as "glacial imagery," and the band was very happy with this footage. However, the record company insisted on using an abridged version of the song despite strong opposition from the band, and the final version of the video was heavily edited. "Frankly I do not consider the video to be finished and I hope we will get to make the full version…with a different editor," Haughm said. "All of the gorgeous, epic slow panning stuff was cut to hell. We wanted a cinematic video and the editor instead made something which he perceived as 'hip' and 'cool.'"[10]

Mosqueda's original sketch for the video was included as a bonus feature on Agalloch's 2009 DVD, The Silence of Forgotten Landscapes, with an introduction by Mosqueda and Haughm.

Parting ways with The End Records[edit]

Ashes Against the Grain was the final Agalloch album released on The End Records. The band opted not to renew their contract, and chose Profound Lore Records to release their following album, Marrow of the Spirit. In a 2010 interview, Haughm said that conflicts with The End founder Andreas Katsambas (possibly having to do with the treatment of the "Not Unlike the Waves" video) led to their decision not to renew their contract, though he stated that he had nothing personal against Katsambas.[13]

Dedication[edit]

The album was dedicated in memory of Christoph Florian Rehse (of Escape the Day), who committed suicide in 2005.

Release[edit]

Before the release, the track "Falling Snow" was made available in its entirety on the label's website and on the band's MySpace page.

A pre-release review in the July 2006 issue of Toronto-based Exclaim! magazine described the new album as a "departure and an extension" from the band's previous work:

The songs tend to move with restraint, as Agalloch's characteristic threads of black metal, folk and ambient sounds coalesce with more doom and art rock.

Three versions of the album were released: a slipcase edition, a deluxe wooden box version (limited to 500 copies) and a vinyl version (limited to 1000 copies).

The vinyl version was released on March 2, 2007 on The End Records' Infinite Vinyl Series. It was pressed in three different colors:

  • A clear/orange splatter edition limited to 200 copies.
  • A black edition limited to 400 copies.
  • A clear orange edition limited to 400 copies.

All three vinyl editions included an exclusive bonus track, Scars of the Shattered Sky (Our Fortress Has Burned to the Ground). Artworks are by Aslak Tolonen.[14]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Limbs"   9:50
2. "Falling Snow"   9:38
3. "This White Mountain on Which You Will Die" (Instrumental) 1:39
4. "Fire Above, Ice Below"   10:28
5. "Not Unlike the Waves"   9:15
6. "Our Fortress Is Burning... I" (Instrumental) 5:25
7. "Our Fortress Is Burning... II - Bloodbirds"   6:20
8. "Our Fortress Is Burning... III - The Grain" (Instrumental) 7:09
9. "Scars of the Shattered Sky (Our Fortress Has Burned to the Ground)" (Limited edition bonus track, Instrumental) 19:38
Total length:
79:27

Personnel[edit]

  • John Haughm - vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, drums (on "Not Unlike the Waves" and "Falling Snow")
  • Don Anderson - acoustic & electric guitars
  • Jason William Walton - bass
  • Chris Greene - drums (all tracks except "Not Unlike the Waves" and "Falling Snow")
  • Ronn Chick - E-Bow on "Fire Above, Ice Below", piano on "Limbs" and "Our Fortress Is Burning... I", production, mixing, engineering, editing

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]