The Mantle

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Band Name Agalloch
Album Name The Mantle
Type Album
Released date 13 August 2002
Music StyleDark Metal
Members owning this album273


1. A Celebration for the Death of Man... 02:24
2. In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion 14:44
3. Odal 07:38
4. I Am the Wooden Doors 06:10
5. The Lodge 04:39
6. You Were But a Ghost in My Arms 09:13
7. The Hawthorne Passage 11:17
8. ...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth 07:13
9. A Desolation Song 05:07
Total playing time 1:08:25

Review @ Satanicarchangel

26 April 2013

Very good but I wouldn't call it their best

Before I start this review I’d first like to make a few points clear. If you’re looking for loud, energetic metal that you can head bang to then this album isn’t for you, there is no effort made to be heavy or brutal, Agalloch aren’t trying to fit into any stereotypes associated with Black/Death/Doom/Thrash Metal. If that is the kind of thing that bothers you then this album is not for you, however if you are unfazed by that then by all means keep reading. Now onto the review:

Strangely (for some people at least) as my love for the more extreme variants of metal went up so did my love for this band. Agalloch has something that most extreme metal bands lack (excluding Black and Doom Metal) and that’s atmosphere. Atmosphere is something that seems to be in short supply in the metal scene at the moment, and Agalloch really help fill the void. The Mantle has this great forest like feeling that matches up to the works of the early Norwegian scene. I really admire how Agalloch can capture different moods so perfectly within one album, whether that is longing, sorrow or much darker feelings Agalloch have managed to perfectly emulate them on The Mantle. The amount of emotion dripping from The Mantle is insane and it’s that which really makes it one of the most beautiful metal albums (from any sub genre) I’ve ever listened to.

Some of the negative comments I’ve seen leveled at this album really disappoint me, to me it feels that these people have completely misunderstood the point of this album. This album isn’t meant to be abrasive or intense, it’s not meant to make you want to start a mosh pit, the whole point of The Mantle (well from my opinion anyway) is to create beautiful atmospheric soundscapes, entrance the listener and to capture their emotions. Of course many people are going to brush this off as boring (like I’ve seen with Opeth) and artistic crap (Opeth again) but this is one album that you simply cannot treat like an album from Cannibal Corpse or any other band that likes to focus on heaviness. If you go in with the mindset that it’ll bore you, then you’re going to get bored, The Mantle is an album that requires the full attention of the listener for it to be effective, it’s not something you put on in the background whilst you’re doing something else, you have to experience The Mantle for it to take effect.
The End Records catalogue/website spared me the trouble from describing the sound of this album by writing a blurb about it “The Mantle is a grand multi-dimensional opus of 70 minutes featuring their melancholic metal with post rock and neo-folk elements. References range from Pink Floyd, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sol Invictus, Ulver, Dissection, Fields Of The Nephilim and more.” I’m not too sure what a multi dimensional opus is but the list of influences seems accurate enough although the Dissection reference seems a bit random. To tag The Mantle into one genre seems impossible due to them crossing over into so many styles such as Atmospheric Black Metal, Post-Rock, Neo-folk and even some Doom Metal. I think the term Dark Metal seems apt fitting, despite originally being used to describe the deranged, twisted music of Bethlehem.

The tracks on this album can easily be categorized into three distinct groups; Black Metal, Folk and Post-Rock. The folk tracks are the most dominant with six out of nine tracks belonging to this group. I am the wooden doors and You were but a ghost in my arms fit perfectly into Atmospheric Black Metal and Odal is a great Post-Rock instrumental. The sheer variety of this album is enough to keep me hooked throughout the duration of the album. The variety also shows how talented Agalloch are for blending so many styles perfectly together to create a breathtakingly beautiful album.

The folk tracks are the most numerous so it seems fitting that I talk about them first. The acoustic guitar dominates these tracks creating some really entrancing melodies that are easy to get lost within. This isn’t Folk Metal in the vain of Eluveitie or Finntroll where a whole host of traditional folk instruments work in unison with the rest of the music, Agalloch seem content to focus much more exclusively on the acoustic guitar that most other folk metal bands, I guess this is because they lean to neo-folk rather than traditional folk. Out of their 4 albums the acoustic work on The Mantle is the most impressive (it’s still not my favorite from these guys though; Pale Folklore is).

Agalloch are brilliant during their folk moments but to me they really show their true colors during the Black Metal tracks which for me are easily the best tracks on the album. I am the wooden doors starts off with double kick drumming and tremolo picking and then leads onto the seething rasps of John Haugm. You were but a ghost in my arms is without a doubt my favorite Agalloch track of all time and incidentally was the song that got me into them. It mixes beautiful atmosphere with some vicious (well as vicious as this band gets) Black Metal and amazing vocal work courtesy of John Haugm. The lyrics are also incredibly well written and definitely worth reading; they fit perfectly in unison with the dark, emotive music. This is the albums highlight due to it being a culmination of all styles present on this release.

Odal is a great Post-Rock interlude that bridges the gap between the beautiful folk song In the shadow of our pale companion and the metallic crash of I am the wooden doors. My only problem being that this is the only track where the Post-Rock influence rears its head. Everything else on this album is either Folk or Black Metal dominant. Despite not being much of a hindrance I would’ve liked to have seen the Post-Rock element expanded upon further, they have expanded upon it but on their next album, Ashes Against the Grain which is a good demonstration of how well they can pull it off.

If there is one complaint to be made on the album is that things take a turn for the worst on the track The Hawthorne Passage. Despite starting off good, the second half doesn’t capture me as much as the rest of the album, this track starts to stagnate after a while and I found my attention wavering during it. The next track is a definite improvement over The Hawthorne Passage, it basically follows off where track 1 left off and has some really good acoustic passages. But it still lacks something that made the first six tracks so special; nothing really leaps out to me as much on this one, like the last track it does begin to wear thin near the end especially after hearing that same melody being played for a while. Unfortunately the final track A Desolation Song isn’t much of an improvement; in fact it’s hardly an improvement at all. The beginning of it feels somewhat lifeless, especially when put into contrast with the first six tracks. It’s such a shame that this album ends on a poor note because the first six tracks would easily warrant a perfect rating from me.

The Mantle is a good album, it’s probably my least favorite from their entire discography though despite containing the best track they ever released (You were but a ghost in my arms), it’s still an essential listen however it does begin to wear thin at the end.
Overall rating-17/20

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