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Agalloch - The Mantle CD (album) cover

THE MANTLE

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.07 | 275 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Agalloch: The Mantle [2002]

Rating: 10/10

With The Mantle, Agalloch achieve something truly special. This is a difficult album to write about for several reasons. It doesn't fittingly conform to any genre; this music features elements of folk, black-metal, doom-metal, and post-rock, but none of these labels come close to properly describing the final product. Calling this a metal album would be a criminal oversimplification. Calling this a folk album, or even a folk-metal album, would be equally understated. Every second of The Mantle is an interminable journey though some sort of apocalyptic snow-covered forest. This is an intensely atmospheric LP, but unlike many other albums that forego developed compositions in the name of atmosphere, Agalloch create soundscapes though intricate arrangements, complex songwriting, and gorgeous instrumentation.

"A Celebration for the Death of Man" is a short acoustic intro. The riff here is simple yet powerful, and the Mellotron adds another layer of intense atmosphere. The indescribably epic "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" is a pastoral quest that slowly builds upon folk strumming and whispered vocals to create a expansive masterpiece of sound. "Odal" is a minimalistic instrumental that holds the enormous honor of being the most beautiful track on this album. Its majesty cannot be put into words. "I Am the Wooden Doors" is the only track on this album that fully references the extreme metal Agalloch focused on with their debut LP. The juxtaposition between the black-metal influenced passages and the folk interludes works wonderfully, as always. "The Lodge" is a gorgeous folk instrumental with ethereal and unorthodox percussion. "You Were But a Ghost in My Arms" is a sprawling track with wondrous guitar interplay. Some of Haugm's best clean vocals can be found here. "The Hawthone Passage" is an epic instrumental that actually displays a strong classic-prog influence. The bluesy guitar solo is a highlight of the entire album. "?And the Great Cold Death of the Earth" is a yet another grand piece; the atmosphere truly lives up to the title. The album closes with "A Desolation Song", a harrowingly depressing epilogue that evokes images of a lonely cabin deep within a dark forest.

Any progressive music fan unfamiliar with The Mantle is obligated to rectify this ignorance promptly. Everything about the album is perfect. It's compositionally, atmospherically, lyrically, and structurally brilliant. Countless experimental metal bands have tried to recreate Agalloch's achievements here, and none have thus far come close to succeeding. As with many great albums, it's difficult to linguistically quantify what makes The Mantle so great. I cannot guarantee that everyone will feel the same things I feel when I listen to it, but I can be sure that anybody who even slightly appreciates emotional and creative music will at least be able to develop an appreciation for this moving masterpiece. Nothing else like it exists.

Anthony H. | 5/5 |

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