Like a frost giant warming itself by the fire, Portland quartet Agalloch keeps one boot in balmy progressive folk and the other in frigid black metal. The band's fifth LP pushes extremes further than ever, with some of its prettiest, most haunted acoustic textures and heaviest, raspiest roars. "Plateau of the Ages," "Vales Beyond Dimension," and "Dark Matter Gods" wrap sludge-ripping crunch and throat-caressing shimmer together so sensually that pleasure and pain become indistinguishable. Boasting enough insidious imagination to evolve beyond easy metallic labels, Agalloch transports The Serpent and the Sphere into its own phantasmagoric astral plane.
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