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Agalloch - The Mantle CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.13 | 350 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Missed Me By THAT Much

Agalloch should just nail me perfectly. Almost every element of their sound is something I love in music. Acoustic guitars on both lead and rhythm, low male harmonies, dark lyrics, sixteenth rhythms, lots of atmosphere. It seems like a recipe for a wonderful dish. THE MANTLE is consistently hailed as Agalloch's definitive album, so naturally I started here. While there are some great moments during this album, my overall impression is boredom. There's just not enough happening. And the emotion of the atmospheres is not quite enough to keep me going for 70 minutes and songs of up to 15. Yes, the band evokes a wintery day walking through a forest devoid of leaves. And in a few places we actually get to the point where it's like a battle through a head wind in a blizzard. But those spots are few. For the most part it's just plodding, bleak, not much danger, and certainly no excitement. I suppose it would appeal to teenage depression quite well. Stomp into your room, slam the door, and lay on your bed listening to THE MANTLE. I can remember that feeling, but I don't go there much anymore. Maybe that's the disconnect.

In line with this impression of the band, I must say that John Haughm's clean voice sounds very young. Both in tonality and ability, it just sounds underdeveloped. His gremlinish harsh vocals come from the black school, but the abrasiveness, to me, just doesn't go with the atmospherics at all. When he sings clean, he hits pitch but little else. There is a sameness to both styles that I assume improves on subsequent albums, as it just sounds inexperienced to my ear. Similarly, the guitar have a few nice lead moments, but they are way to far between.

My favorite song on the album is "I am the Wooden Doors" which is probably the closest to Black Metal on the album. Still a far cry from lo-fi Satan worshipping, the song relies on a sixteenth note rhythm, has a nice acoustic guitar solo, and in general just moves better than the rest of the album. The epic "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" has some pleasant surprises, including an electronic repeat effect that adds a great texture mid song, and an electric solo that opens with a metallic sweep. But there are too many long strummy parts with no lead element.

On of the defining parts of prog for me is music that rewards careful attention. This music actually works better in the background, at least for me. Another important aspect of prog, trying to either blend musical ideas or create new ones, is certainly achieved here. There are now a handful of bands doing this style of music (though still few) but at the time of this album's release, I think Agalloch really were venturing into some new territory. And for that I applaud them.

I've tried hard to like this album. I do enjoy it, and some days I think I'm just about to click with it. But it just hasn't ever completely happened. Good but non-essential describes quite well what I feel about it.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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