[FOLK METAL] When Portland's folk-metal quartet Agalloch released its new single, "Celestial Effigy," the website MetalSucks wrote, "I've yet to meet a person who says, 'Nah, I don't really like Agalloch.'" And you know what? It's completely true. Agalloch has released consistently breathtaking albums that are somehow both gorgeous and abrasive, and it's impossible not to become entranced.

The band's fifth full-length, The Serpent & the Sphere, further proves this point. From the first haunting notes of opener "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" to the utterly epic, nearly 13-minute track "Plateau of the Ages" to the very last acoustic guitar squeak of the outro, the album absolutely soars. There is an air of triumph to the record that doesn't let up—even in the acoustic moments, which are damn near an approximation of black-metal flamenco.

The Serpent & the Sphere was engineered by the respected Billy Anderson at Portland's Cloud City Sound recording studio, which is undoubtedly why the beautiful complexity of this album is so clear, straightforward and perfectly mixed. If you've never listened to Agalloch, this album makes a great introduction.

SEE IT: Agalloch plays Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with Lasher Keen and Sedan, on Friday, May 16. 9 pm. $12. All ages.