"As wandering ghosts pass through the flames
A new age of rebirth lights the dawn"
These lines, taken from "The Watcher's Monolith," reflect my view on this chapter of Agalloch's career in a very interesting way. For, while there are many easily identifiable features (and possibly even an instance or two of self-plagiarism) from Agalloch's past endeavors on this album, the whole picture is seen in a slightly different light. Ghosts of Ashes Against the Grain and The Mantle pass through the flames of a more aggressive approach, filtered through a production not present on an Agalloch album since Pale Folklore. An almost retrospective work which is made to feel like something of a reawakening by the presence of a more pronounced black metal aspect than ever before.
Not sure if that bit will make sense to anyone besides the little voice reading it in my head, but hopefully you are able to catch my drift at least. My attempts to extract meaning from the phrase "it's the same, but different" always seem to end in a tangle of incoherent nonsense. Be that as it may, let's return to the subject at hand.
As with their prior albums, Marrow of the Spirit is woven from the three primary threads of black, doom and folk metal with myriad other influences for added color. Though, as I alluded to earlier, the use of black metal is far more predominant here than it ever has been before. Unlike previous albums which were exceedingly difficult to truly classify, Marrow of the Spirit plays out much more like an atmospheric black metal album than anything else. While other genres certainly remain in the mix, the overall presentation - from song structure and instrumentation to the production of the album - lends itself to a predominantly black metal album. Not to say that Agalloch have been formulaic in the past, but this seems to me to be a fairly noticeable change in direction for the band. Judging by reactions that I've heard, this album seems to have split the fanbase into two camps - based on the album's placement on the list, I think you know in which camp I've pitched my tent. As with all their releases to date, this album weaves a gorgeous tapestry of wintry landscapes and has the distinct ability to conjure a strong emotional response in the listener. With a perfect record coming into 2010, Agalloch have still yet to stumble and look to be affirming their position as one of the most influential and respected bands in the business today.