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Agalloch - The Mantle CD (album) cover

THE MANTLE

Agalloch

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.15 | 359 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars If this music is what you call prog... Then prog is not dead.

Following an excellent debut album is always incredibly hard, because, considering the amount of fans, the group always has to offer something new, fresh and yet not disappoint the average conservative fan. After the flawless Pale Folklore, a masterpiece on its own grounds, Agalloch was also under pressure during the time of this release. What came from the minds of the musicians was an even superior album of outstanding beauty that would not only surpass the predecessor but would become the group's breakthrough, their most cherished masterpiece and, perhaps, one of the greatest albums of the new century.

Four years since the last album had passed by the time The Mantle was unleashed and you really can't blame them for lack of originality, repetition of old ideas or stagnancy. What first catches your attention upon your first encounter is that the musicians have developed their skills over the past years. This could be one of the reasons why about a half of the album is instrumental. Still, fotunately for us all, there is not a single excessive note used and the group knows better not to show off their skill and technical prowess. What is noticeable next is that the overall form of songwriting is different. Pale Folklore contained an abundancy of brilliantly inspiring melodic metal riffs put together carefully, whereas its successor seems to be mostly based around the acoustics, the electric guitar playing a less important role. This could explain why the record sounds more relaxed and carefree, yet still being an epitome of emotional, engaging music.

A Celebration For The Death Of Man... opens the album and, although it is just a short acoustic instrumental, it sets the mood quite nicely. It also represents the group's progressive folk influences very well. Next is the almost fifteen minute long In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion, which is the ultimate track to choose if you would like to introduce Agalloch artistic aesthetics to a listener who has not got the perception of it yet. Being the album's first and longest epic track, it also contains the lush, beautiful songwriting and feeling the group is known for and plenty of other elements as well. First lyrics can be found here and you can say that they have become much more thoughtful, poetic since the time. More importantly, they match the music perfectly - what more could you wish for? The improvement in the singing also shows here - while it is a fact that John Haugm will never be known for vocal acrobatics which he doesn't and I hope will never possess, his raspy and grim singing accompanied by clean vocals, now more common in the music(about half to half), also greatly improved, contribute to the sound correctly. This is the music that will send shivers down your spine and absorb you into its imaginary magical world. The second half of the song is most remarkable, highlighted by the majestic melodies, vocal harmonies and the brilliant guitar solo. The instrumental Odal is next, expanding beyond the set acoustic folk sound and also going taking a more Post Rock influenced direction that can be heard and felt beginning from this track. There will be build-ups, crescendos and other typical post-rock elements present in the group's rich sound. I Am The Wooden Doors is one of the album's heavier tracks(You Were But A Ghost In My Arms being the other one), which is not saying much as it still is immensely beautiful and has those eerie moments that make the music stand out. The contrast between the distorted riffs with black metal vocals and the clean acoustic section is one of the most remarkable aspects of this release.

The next three tracks are just as good as the ones I described earlier and they go further into the Post Rock development in Agalloch's sound. ...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth includes the album's title and can be considered to be the title track. The use of wind instruments is very suitable for the group's aesthetics here. By the end of the track, the theme heard on the first track is heard again. However, it isn't the outro, as there is still one song left. A Desolation Song does not really flow with the rest of the album as well - the approach to songwriting and singing is different and it expresses despair, desperation and melancholic desolation with the help of its components. The lyrics are more bleak and straight forward here, although in no way simple. The real outro closes the album and this is where Agalloch's dreamy landscapes disappear and the listener has to put up with reality once again.

I won't be an exaggerating if I say that this is one of the greatest albums of this decade. This is music for the hearts and ears of all people regardless of their tastes and moods. There isn't quite anything sounding like this(although now there are many groups trying to copy Agalloch's sound but with no success). Anybody refusing to witness the majestic beauty of The Mantle is missing out greatly. This album is particularly recommended(yet not limited to)fans of progressive folk, modern music and post rock.

A masterpiece!

Trickster F. | 5/5 |

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