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THE MANTLE

Agalloch

Experimental/Post Metal


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Agalloch The Mantle album cover
4.07 | 275 ratings | 37 reviews | 46% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2002

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Celebration For The Death Of Man... (2:24)
2. In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion (14:44)
3. Odal (7:38)
4. I Am The Wooden Doors (6:10)
5. The Lodge (4:39)
6. You Were But A Ghost In My Arms (9:13)
7. The Hawthorne Passage (11:17)
8. ...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth (7:13)
9. A Desolation Song (5:07)

Total Time: 68:25

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- John Haughm / guitars, vocals, drums
- Don Anderson / guitars
- Jason William Walton / bass
- Shane Breyer / keyboards

Releases information

CD The End Records (2002)

Thanks to Littlewashu5fuid=Littlewashu5 for the addition
and to Any Colour You Like for the last updates
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AGALLOCH The Mantle ratings distribution


4.07
(275 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(46%)
46%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
34%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (7%)
7%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

AGALLOCH The Mantle reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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!

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Send comments to Trickster F. (BETA) | Report this review (#76665) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 29, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The Mantle is a big step up from the debut release, as the songwriting is more polished, and the band really refines their craft. What stands out for me, in particular, is how much in love I am with the acoustic guitar work on the album. The somber beauty it emits is well, breathtaking.

The two songs I'd like to point out in particular are The Hawthorne Passage and In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, which I think 70's prog fans would enjoy. The Hawthorne Passage, in particular(which is almost entirely instrumental) is moving and captivating, taking you on a ride mixing folk, post-rock, and a few early prog elements. ITSOOPC is more or less the "epic" here, and combines all varieties of music here with some of the simplest and most effective chords to drive the song from start to finish.

There are however, a few drawbacks, as I feel parts of the long epic track could be removed or changed, and songs like "I am the Wooden Doors" do not particularly captivate me. But, for some reason, I always seem to play this album more than I would think, as the beauty in Agalloch is hard to find anywhere else. An album that deserves much more recognition, a stunning piece of work by the band in the beautiful northwest.

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Send comments to OpethGuitarist (BETA) | Report this review (#89980) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, September 18, 2006

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars (2007 DISCLAIMER: Well, after one year and the opportunity to modify my reviews now that I'm a reviewer, let me just say that the review below has a serious flaw: Agalloch is NOT black metal by any means. I've left the review unchanged as I consider it entertaining and my points are somewhat valid, but please don't pay much attention to the black metal aprts, as that was truly a mistake. And try Agalloch's following album, ASHES AGAINST THE GRAIN, where the drummer has improved a lot and the music itself has gotten better).

Well, seems like I'm going to be the one who'll write the first negative review of this album on this website. The question is, why? Why does everybody praise this band and particularly this album so much? I guess I could give an idea with this few points.

-First, let's assume this is prog-metal, but let's also make it clear where this band is coming from in musical terms: this is black metal, prog or not, it stars as black metal. Now, why everybody loves them? Again, maybe because this is:

-black metal without real noise and violence...good

-black metal with long songs... not bad

-black metal with black metal vocals (shrieking high-pitched guttural yelling) mixed with clean vocals... interesting.

-black metal with some piano and especially a lot of acoustic guitars...now that sounds like something worth listening to!

-black metal without leather spikes, devil signs, facial makeup or upside down crosses....deserves a chance, doesn't it?

Yes, this all sounds very promising and it looks like we've got a real winner here...Then we take the cd out of the case (which, by the way, comes with a very elegant, discreet, non-blackmetal-like booklet, I have to recognize this), we put it on the cd- player, we press play...immediately we found ourselves in a dreamy, forest-like atmosphere...acoustic guitar....yes! It seems we're in for a fantastic ride! Then we keep listening....we keep listening.... the surroundings turn to grey... everything becomes blurry....is the music hypnotizing us? Is it so good? Well, a few minutes later we'll know the answer, when we finally.....

....fall asleep.

Then we wake up, we got upset with ourselves for being so weak for falling asleep in the midst of such a journey, so now, with our eyes wide open, (maybe a coffee in order to make sure it won't happen again) and we press PLAY again.... and what happens now? We get the answer to the question, why did I fall asleep. And it is:

boredom

And, with our minds clear, we analyze again the points I just mentioned at the beginning:

-yes, here we have no violence, no noise... but we almost don't have dynamics!!! Almost the whole album sounds at a set volume level...there's no crescendos or diminuendos...there are no changes...It seems we could've used some noise after all, just for the kick of it....

-yes, songs are long, but...TOO LONG AND INCOHERENT....I mean, we all love complex structures, we all applaud when some band takes a different route than the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus one....but all kinds of music give you at least some point of reference, some repetition, something that at least resembles a chorus or a focal point so the music's narrative has a purpose, a goal....here, the songs begin in point A, and they end in point F, without ever revisiting points A, b,c,d,or e again....maybe keeping songs a little bit shorter would've helped....

-yes, there are some clean vocals....but let's keep that "clean" part in observation, for these "clean" vocals are not melodic, soulful, but a monodic, monotone, and distorted echo thing...but hey, in this point I'll be less harsh: at moments this voice sounds interesting, especially when compared with the atrocious guttural shrieks... the clean vocie comes as heaven after the shrieking hell...I really prefer cookie-monster vocals when I have no chance but to deal with a death/black metal kind of voice...at least those are in lower register and, when used properly, they can convey the idea of the devil or some dark entity, but this vocals, they convey the idea of a gremlin like creature pleading for mercy!...And to add insult to injury...it's only 30% clean vocals and like 70% gremlinvoice!!!...

-yes, there's a lot of unusual instrument for black metal...but, any drummers here? I am one, and any person who knows anything about percussion can tell: there's some HORRENDOUS drumming going on...these three guys in Agalloch don't want to hire a drummer it seems...they better do, for Haughm is really worse than I can bear....and about the piano and guitar: they could use some better soloing, but well, they make this thing listenable.

-yes, they have no makeup or black leather spikes or upside down crosses or anything like that, but....well, actually there's no criticism here. Well done fellas!

So that's my take on this overrrated album. I don't describe songs for two reasons: one, all of them sound alike, and two, I can't remember any!! (I swear I've given this disc more than 4 spins before sitting down to write this)....

Do you want interesting death/black metal with prog elements? Try Opeth, try old Amorphis.

This one is not awful, but it's not great as everybody seems to believe. It's a flawed, rushed, self indulgent album. This 3 guys have talent (except for the drumming!!) but in order to achive the greatness many people think they already have, I think they have a long, long road to travel....

Recommended for: people who, like me, want to experience every music you find on this website.

Not recommended for: people who want to listen to it while driving long highways at midnight...it could be dangerous...you could fall asleep and crash...and maybe die...and if you were bad, maybe meet the devil, or worse, the gremlin-like creature that sings on this album

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#95362) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, October 22, 2006

Review by MikeEnRegalia
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars An ok album, although I must admit that I don't understand at all how others can think of it as a masterpiece, I do understand how someone could like this album much more than I do. It's really repetitive, mostly "eventless" and the occasional growling vocals are uncalled for in my opinion. The folk elements are implemented very nicely, but especially during the heavy parts the drums are often a bit out of sync with the rest of the band.

I'm rating it 2 stars here ... if you're new to the band you should start with their 2006 output Ashes Against the Grain and if you like that then proceed with the debut.

The Lodge: I can't see what's remarkable about this track - it's more like a long, eventless segue.

You Were But A Ghost In My Arms: This doesn't grab my attention - a lot of tremolo picking, fairly conventional chord progressions, uncalled-for growling.

The Hawthorne Passage: A nice track - unfortunately there are quite some timing problems (drums) in the middle section that annoy me a little bit.

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Posted Sunday, January 07, 2007

Review by russellk
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A surprising and sometimes delightful album.

The sub-genre under which this is housed is misleading. Yes, there are elements of metal in the sound, but the overall shape of the compositions is post-rock/post-metal. This is important because, as it is currently labeled, people may spend money to purchase this album under the impression it is a DREAM THEATER clone. It most emphatically is not.

So what is it? AGALLOCH is much closer to ISIS or PELICAN than to anything in the progressive metal genre. Ponderous, slow beats provide a base for slow-building soundscapes in which crisp acoustic guitars plays the most prominent role. The emphasis is on the organic nature of the songs themselves rather than technical virtuosity. The vocals - both clean and growled/whispered - are generally low in the mix. The resulting sound is a fascinating fresh take on post-rock.

The first track is a little long for an introduction and does not develop, which is to my mind the chief fault of the album: it's simply too long for the weight of ideas it contains, a fifty minute album wearing seventy minute clothes. This is, of course, a characteristic of the post-rock genre, and has the effect of creating an ambient-like atmosphere, where ideas are prolonged. The second track, 'In the Shadows of our Pale Companions' - even the track titles are post-rock - is perhaps the album's best, and has an excellent build to the climax a few minutes from the end.

And so it goes. I appreciate the band's use of interesting instruments: faux horns and the like do dress up the music. The last track creates an almost optimistic atmosphere, counter to the general tense, brooding soundscape of the album, and is an effective closer.

Worth a listen for fans of post-rock, but not quite the groundbreaker I had been hoping for.

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Posted Sunday, April 15, 2007

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A collection of moody, rarely interesting songs that attempt something a little out of the norm for death-metal bands: to put the listener to sleep with extended tracks lacking any sort of excitement or memorable moments. "The Mantle" is a very somber, and very overrated metal album.

To start with, the band's songwriting is numbingly repetitive, which is the main reason why this album seems so long-- the songs drag into each other and are almost all the same tempo and played with a staggering lifelessness that completely sabotages the album's effectiveness. If the band put some emotion into their playing it might generate more of an impression, but as it is now, it's like they're just trying to fill space (more than an hour of it). The rhythm section is easily the worst culprit of this, but the guitars aren't much better.

To top things off-- the vocalist is terrible. His growls are more like impish squeaks and his somber singing is as unexciting as it gets.

To the band's credit, they are trying to do something different within the post/death/black- metal genre, but need to polish their songwriting and add some energy to their playing if they are to put out anything worthwhile.

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

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Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

Review by Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Of all the album's recorded in the annals of time, few would be able to compete with Agalloch's The Mantle in terms of musical imagery. While the band's debut Pale Folklore was able to paint the picture of a cold winter's day in the northern woods, The Mantle is capable of actually transporting you there and immersing you in this wilderness. When you're listening to this album, it's just you, the earth, and that moose on the cover. The atmospheric quality of this music is so incredible, it's almost as if the music isn't even there. You won't be picking apart the notes being played, or worry about the dexterity of the musicians. The sound coming from your speakers is a single aural being that takes you to another place.

In order to approach The Mantle, you must forego any preconceptions you may have about it, and ignore your musical biases. This is nothing like anything you've ever heard, and it's like that it's nothing like you ever will hear afterward. Surely many have passed this off because of the black metal vocals, but surely when you hear the opening track, in its acoustic glory, complete with timpani, you'll know that this has got to be something beyond black metal. Soon after, you'll realize that this is beyond music. This is, much like all of the other great records in history, an experience.

All I know is that when I don The Mantle, I don't feel, I just am. And I am cold, lost in a desloate earth, in a snowy woods where I am the last man on earth. I'm trying to find peace and resolve before I too will pass, and the earth after me.

This album is simply amazing.

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Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Review by Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The essential AGALLOCH. Mid-way from extreme Metal to extreme Post-Rock. The most balanced and enjoyable (dare I say accessible?) record, which perfectly shows all the merits of this unconventional outfit. My personal favourite is '...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth', which sounds epic right from its title! AGALLOCH guys managed to make 'The Mantle' as diverse as it's possible; here we have Ambient, Folk, Black Metal, Doom Metal, some Post-Metal stuff, and it's all wrapped in wonderful lengthy tracks a-la 'OPETH goes Post-Rocky'. I still wonder how they can be regarded as purely Metal band, they're far more intelligent than most of your common 'rock-till-ya-drop' Metal bands. Astonishing musicianship, tasteful arrangements, high-class material and unique atmosphere. Extremely recommended!!!

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Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sounds like the cover looks!

I have come to really enjoy checking out the various styles of progressive-metal. I tend to find the more experimental and off-the-beaten-path stuff much more interesting than any band that reminds me of the metal I endured back in the day like Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy, who just don't interest me any more. Agalloch is one such band that I have really taken to, appreciating very much their doomy style of post-rock/folk-metal ripe with imagery of cold, dark forests and grey statuary. While I came to the band through "Ashes" first "The Mantle" employs a similar sound, with clean guitar, acoustic guitars, and excellent fluid leads mixed with almost whispered growls. It never degenerates into silliness or unbearable harshness, in fact this is a band that should appeal to fans of Pink Floyd who have always thought about trying modern metal. The lyrics are also quite poetic and serve the imagery very well. Some claim this album (and band) to be boring and uneventful and I couldn't disagree more: this is wonderfully nuanced and atmospheric music that has maintained my interest over time-unlike more contrived bands like Riverside and Orphaned Land that just induce huge yawns from me at this point. I would personally recommend starting with "Ashes Against the Grain" although many people prefer this one. Both are good and provide another whole flavor to your metal collection. 6/10

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Posted Monday, June 02, 2008

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'The Mantle' - Agalloch (10/10)

Agalloch is one of the few bands that makes music that can really move. Sure, there are plenty of bands that make pretty songs, but all too few that can really transport you to another place, and make you feel exactly what the artist wants you to feel. Agalloch is best listened to while walking alone through a snowy forest in the evening. While Agalloch may technically have black metal influence, it shouldn't scare people away, as there is so much more to be heard here.

Although I am a fan of some forms of black metal, it's never really been my thing. However, I can appreciate the objective that black metal aims towards: atmosphere. Classic black metal bands like Emperor never tried to astound audiences with technical-virtuoso playing and shredding; they instead aimed towards creating a haunting sonic atmosphere to give the listeners an emotional resonance. While Agalloch have more to do with folk music than anything else, the attention to atmosphere inherent to black metal is definately seen here. There is almost no skill flaunting here, and everything here would be in the reach of a guitar student's skill to play more or less. However, the way that the simple guitar work is played is beyond compare, and each flowing chord sounds perfect, bringing the listener to an even higher level of musical euphoria.

'The Mantle' is best described as beautifully depressing. There isn't very much of an optimistic sound to be heard here, but more the music of someone that's potentially loved and lost all. These emotions manifest themselves as images of nature in it's purest form.

John Haughm is possibly my favourite lyricist of all time (along with Dani Filth and Daniel Gildenlow.) The lyrics are bleak and emotive without being overly melodramatic. The theme of nature is prevalent in the lyrics as well, which works to give definitive descriptions to the images the band's music tries to create. As a vocalist himself, Haughm definately isn't a technically skilled singer, but that doesn't stop his voice from having a very large (and distinct) presence that compliments the instruments perfectly to the note.

On a personal level, this is music I can listen to when I'm feeling devastated or broken over something, and somehow feel better; simply because I have proof that I am not alone in feeling these emotions. It would be absolutely impossible to write a work like 'The Mantle' without a large amount of sentimental dedication. Through their pure sincerity of voice and perspective, Agalloch has created a beautiful work here, and is something that is yet unparelleled for it's style.

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Posted Friday, April 10, 2009

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars. I was surprised to find out this band is from Portland, Oregon simply because from their sound I thought they must be from Norway or Sweden living in the woods somewhere. Well Oregon certainly isn't short on forests is it. On their MySpace site they list their influences as "Woodsmoke, snow, fire, wrought iron, fog, rain, stone, moss..." not one band is listed. On the cd itself there is a quote "The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship". So you get the idea of where this band is coming from.The music on this record uses a lot of acoustic guitars in these mostly mid paced tunes. The vocals are both clean and growly, although the growly ones are almost whispered in a sinister way, and he holds the last syllable of each word. So these harsh vocals actually are not that harsh or difficult to handle at all.

"A Celebration For The Death Of Man..." is a short instrumental of mainly strummed acoustic guitar and percussion. The sound does build somewhat and synths come in. "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" has such interesting and well thought out lyrics. Nice guitar line to open as drums and classical guitar joins in. It's building.Those sinister vocals come in followed by clean vocals and they continue to share the spotlight on this one. Love the guitar 5 1/2 minutes in. The tempo continues to shift slightly throughout. I like the line: "If this grand panorama before me is what you call God...Then God is not dead".

"Odal" is an instrumental that opens with some beautiful acoustic guitar. Drums and electric guitar join in.The guitar sounds so good 2 1/2 minutes in. Piano before 6 minutes as it settles. "I Am The Wooden Doors" is where they "let loose" a little bit with drums and guitar. Growly vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. It settles a minute later then it kicks back in with clean vocals. "The Lodge" opens with the sound of someone trudging through deep snow. Done that many times (haha). Guitars take over quickly we even get some "deer antler percussion" in this instrumental. Strummed guitar takes over as the sound builds. "You Were But A Ghost in My Arms" opens with acoustic guitar but becomes powerful quickly then settles back. Vocals before a minute are normal, although we get lots of sinister ones too in this song. Thunderous drums at times. The combination of electric and acoustic guitars is such a treat. "The Hawethorne Passage" is another instrumental. Great sound to this one with some steller bass at times.The samples 6 minutes in are cool, sounds like a strong wind. I like the guitar line that comes in as the wind continues to blow. Spoken words as it kicks in again around 8 minutes. Trombone late. Spoken words end it.

"...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" has some outstanding lyrics including where we get the title of this album from. Bass, drums and strummed guitar sound incredible to open as clean vocals come in. Great sound here. Growled vocals quote from Cherokee folklore. Themes are repeated. "A Desolation Song" opens with acoustic guitar and accordion as reserved vocals join in. Some mandolin in this one before the song stops 4 minutes in and the wind starts to blow. Acoustic guitar joins in briefly as wind continues.

What an amazing trip this recording is. Funny but I don't feel like i've really connected with it yet on any emotional level or this would be 5 stars.

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Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars I first landed on planet Agalloch with their superb album Ashes Against The Grain. The Mantle offers a first exploration of the ambient grey metal sound that they perfected there. The Mantle is a good album that you will want to seek out if you like extreme metal with an ambient twist. However it suffers from a number of shortcomings.

I miss the flawless integration of the two faces of their sound. Some tracks like the opener and Odal are just extended ambient pieces and represent their 'white' side, others songs like I Am the Wooden Doors characterize their 'black' side and are run of the mill black metal that countless others have done more effectively before them.

The two components of their sound only meet on a few occasions as on the marvelous You Were But A Ghost In My Arms. Here they create something entirely personal that, by lack of another genre this band would fit in, we could tag 'grey metal'.

A second flaw would be that while most tracks are surely meant to be epic and narrative, they mostly fail to build up to anything and end up too long for their own good. The Hawthorne Passage is an example. It has a few good ideas but never develops into something that surpasses the bits and pieces it is forged from.

While I sure appreciate what Agalloch attempted to achieve here, their ambition was somehow defeated by the inadequate execution.

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Posted Sunday, November 08, 2009

Review by Any Colour You Like
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It would be futile to attempt to describe Agalloch's The Mantle in conventional musical terms. I believe that it is simply not possible to do. For The Mantle is an album of mystery, decadence, darkness and raw power - all wrapped up in a warm folky mood.

The clean, warm acoustic sound is the basis of much of the music here, simple and catchy without being boring or overly repetitive. From this folky base, the band layers a mixture of post-rock inspired guitar tones, beautiful and haunting samples, tremolo picked black metal fury, and a mixture of clean, whispered and growled vocals. Most of the songs are quite long, and focus around an assortment of bleak nature inspired themes. Despite the obviously dark and nihilistic overtones, I would not describe Agalloch's tone as melancholy, it is best described as philosophical and reflective - however it is not sentimental. Agalloch has made no attempt to hide the heathen and pagan themes in their music, and it is prevalent here. The philosophy of the band mixes nicely with the folk metal influences in the music, creating a tangible aura of a lonely fireside reflection.

Several pieces stand out in The Mantle, including the post-rockish 'Odal', the epic 'In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion' and the powerful 'Hawthorne Passage'. The band is adept at mixing their influences into a cohesive block, that sounds both intricate and solid. Nothing strikes the listener as technical as per se, but the lengthy instrumentals drive the progression of the album, morphing from fireside folk acoustics to avalanches of black metal. Haughm's vocals are a pleasant surprise, he is able to supplement to timbre and mood of each movement without sounding fake or forced. His grim voiced vocals mix nicely with crisper sections, and easily complement to tone of Agalloch's compositions. Lyrically, this album is very strong, fusing philosophy and nature inspired pieces with musings on life and hope. In this sense, The Mantle remains a bleak listen, offering enough lyrical depth to keep any serious listener pondering for the whole day.

The real strength of this album is that it is more than simply a sum of its parts. At 70 minutes, it is a lengthy listen that may deter some listeners. But given the right moment, The Mantle is a powerful work that transports the listener into the darkest days of bleak winter. The Mantle is not only a brilliant album, but a personal revelation of sorts. And for that it deserves all the praise it receives. To aptly quote Trickster F, "If this album before me is what you call prog, then prog is not dead".

Essential.

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Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

"The Mantle" is a fine masterpiece of Folk Metal.

Agalloch are one of those "progressive" metal bands that are sort of essential in any fan of the genre's library, even though they aren't a progressive metal band. "The Mantle" is the essential Agalloch album, the masterpiece of the band, for many people. I tend to believe it's only a tad better than the also wonderful "Ashes Against The Grain", but this last one doesn't have the importance of "The Mantle", historical and personal.

For whoever isn't familiar with the Folk Metal tag, this album is exactly what Folk Metal is: a mix between harsh metal riffs, Black Metal shrieking alternated with clean vocals, and folk elements, that in this case is the acoustic guitar, which is very much present. The production and sound of the album is a little muddy at times, especially in the drums and some guitars, but you obviously assume it was intentional, and it probably was. But in the end, it doesn't matter at all, because the songwriting is always excellent. Agalloch are band that likes it simple, the melodies are not too intricate and the musicianship is not at all virtuous. The structure of their lengthy pieces however is much more complex, and definitely gives a pretty strong progressive tone to the music. The acoustic guitars are the clue element for the album's sound, as they are the main thing for a lot of the songs: the electric guitar and the heavy riffs are simply giving aggression as a rich addiction to the nucleus.

However, Agalloch are like many Black Metal bands: it's not about being progressive, it's about being atmospheric. They point at atmosphere constantly, but that still isn't what this band is all about. Agalloch want to depress, they want to be extremely emotional in their music, and succeed in a way that only a few bands were able to. Every single note is extremely evocative, depressing, but also extremely beautiful and haunting. This is a band who wants to give it's audience the beauty and melancholy of bleak nature, they want to truly evoke a snowy landscape in the middle of a cold, but completely white forest,gazing at the nature in absolute silence, with such a heavy weight in the heart, that you would come to a point where you question your own existence, which, compared to such beauty, is nothing.

The structure of the album is solid, but very rigid and precise: there is a precise alternation between instrumentals and sung songs.Starting with the sung ones, "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" in it's epic fourteen minutes in length, is certainly the most evocative of all Agalloch songs, and absolute masterpiece that moves in a way that I never thought was possible. "You Were But A Ghost In My Arms" is another long, but still beautiful song, noticeably more aggressive and somewhat less depressing, but almost just as good and haunting.The half ballad "And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" is another magically beatiful highlight, easily the most emotional and touching of all songs here. Among the instrumentals, we still have great, evocative moments: "The Lodge", with it's constant, strange sample echoing through the entire song, has become a classic for the band, and the epic eleven minute "The Hawthorne Passage" is a heavily progressive influenced piece, not because of the music itself but because of it's flow and different themes. The last song of the album breaks the rule of the alternation, and is a whispered song, "A Desolation Song", which is definitely the song that I liked the least, it never does anything to me.

"The Mantle" is the essential winter album, the essential Agalloch album, the essential Folk Metal album. This album under many points of view can be considered important, not really for being innovative, but for being extremely passionate.

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Posted Friday, May 14, 2010

Review by JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I will try to keep this review brief, (probably a welcome relief to my usual style of review!) because words really can not do this album justice. I make no guarantees though!

I will just say this is one of the most unique albums you will hear, and one of the best. The Mantle is an amazing blend of post metal and black metal, with copious amounts of folk mixed in and no shortage of bleak melancholic atmosphere. Indeed, that is the key word here: Atmosphere.

In an odd way, post and black metal are quite alike, in that they sacrifice technicality and musical showmanship for atmosphere. Agalloch has taken the cold, bleak, haunting ambiance of black metal and spread it over the introspective, challenging, and beautiful song structures of post rock, (while never truly conforming to either one). The result is a sound unlike any other, one that is beautiful, bleak, profound and dark.

The lyrics are heavy, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. Honestly dark and crushing, not cliche and goofy. This is deep stuff. It is the final touch, delivered with absolute perfection. Soft whispers to shrill shrieks, deep baritone talking to gravely rasps, and clean singing.

This album is best understood when it is absorbed, rather than listened to. Sit in a forest on a brisk, rainy day. Look at a snowy landscape, lay down in a dark room. Absorb this album. It has touched me in a profound way, that few albums have ever done. At times it has been my escape from society, life, reality. The drudgery's of life, anger, fear and problems wash away like a tide.

An absolutely brilliantly crafted album and rare masterpiece of music.

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Posted Friday, June 04, 2010

Review by Negoba
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.

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Posted Monday, January 10, 2011

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Using primarily acoustic guitars instead of the electric guitars usually associated with... well, just about every brand of metal you can think of really, but specifically the black metal that Agalloch were previously associated with, the band have developed a compelling post-metal sound. Tapping into the fact that both black metal and shoegaze indie rock make a great deal of use of tremolo guitar, the band craft a strange, folky artifact which exists halfway between the two worlds, and tap into a current which is now regularly explored but which at the time was still incredibly fresh. A classic of experimental, cutting-edge metal.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#652227) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, March 09, 2012

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Picture the Decemberists adding death metal to their sound and you have a rough sketch of what THE MANTLE is (Agalloch might be creepier). Come to thought, it makes almost perfect sense if you think of both bands having similar bases but going off in different volume directions and each band finding its own niche in progressive folk.

There's sense involved if you call THE MANTLE a ''post-metal'' album simply because that post-rock niche sound is on display in the cracks here. But the album is moreso folk and metal almost to the point where neither main genre completely dominates. There are plenty of acoustic guitars running about, but the electric guitars have more folky patterns to them as opposed to metal riffs. The metal comes from the volume and the grunts from John Haughm.

I can best describe the mood of the album as sombre and cold, but not completely aloof. It's dark in the ''it gives me goosebumps'' sort; nothing at all to do with depressing, gothic or creepy atmospheres even if I'm thinking ''wicked'' in spots. THE MANTLE bases itself around the mood and sometimes the tension and never focuses on histrionics, something that good albums from this prog sub-section do well.

The lengths of the songs are too tiresome due to how the mood and ''riffs'' (can't find a more suitable word) develop which bolsters two of the centrepiece tracks (''The Hawthorne Passage'' and ''In the Shadow Of Our Pale Comparison''). I would vote for ''The Lodge'' as the strongest track with the floating guitar lines over the top and the odd percussion (according to the credits, it's a deer antler; can't get more folk than that) hit the target spot. The closing track has an accordion(?) in it that makes me think Decemberists again. ''Odal'' and ''Great Cold Death of the Earth'' are the other highlight tracks.

Really, this folk/metal hybrid works quite fluidly and beautifully. If only there was more strength in the vocal department (where comparisons to Comus make sense), then I could really see THE MANTLE hitting new heights.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#758555) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 25, 2012

Latest members reviews

3 stars The second full-length release from Agalloch is not without it's moments of beauty, moments that emerge from the dappled shade of both darkness and light. This is particularly true of the sections in which the instrumental work is allowed the space to breathe and develop. That said, my overa ... (read more)

Report this review (#1153741) | Posted by stranded_starfish | Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I find this to be a very seasonal album. For instance, if you live out in a rural area in a snowy place surrounded by forest, this is an ideal album. It's very wintery, with a production I can only describe as very forest-like. I live in a Canadian city with trees absolutely everywhere you look, ... (read more)

Report this review (#644946) | Posted by DisgruntledPorcupine | Saturday, March 03, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An album I've owned for quite a while that at first I disliked because I thought it's songs long and boring--as well as due to the fact that this was my very first acquisition that contained growls for some of its vocals. I was put off by this, especially. Now, four or five years later, I've grown a ... (read more)

Report this review (#377598) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Monday, January 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Mantle is quite possibly the most beautifully desolate thing I have ever heard. Agalloch's masterful use of acoustic guitar rhythms underneath the haunting growls of creeping despair give this walk through deathland an ironically pastoral feel. And not unlike the grey wooded landscape that ... (read more)

Report this review (#299789) | Posted by The Progmatist | Sunday, September 19, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I'm not sure I've heard a darker or more depressing record in my time listening to progressive music. The acoustic guitar on this album is what truly gives the listener a sense of isolation and desolation. Just listen to the last song, "A Desolation Song." "Here I gaze at a pantheon of oak, ... (read more)

Report this review (#271931) | Posted by scootman369 | Sunday, March 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Mantle was my first foray into Agalloch. Its desolate beauty had me get their next album Ashes Against the Grain. But while AATG has the electric guitars in the forefront, The Mantle is a much more acoustic affair and in my mind a much better album than the follow-up. This is an album you ... (read more)

Report this review (#179388) | Posted by johnobvious | Monday, August 11, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Agalloch's second album... how to describe its sound? Maybe a mixture of neofolk bands (Nest, Ulver...), soft black metal (specially noted in the raw voices) and the tempos of some doom bands like Anathema, would be a good description, but inaccurate. The sound here is based on clean, very cl ... (read more)

Report this review (#174256) | Posted by Blackdog | Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As long as you don't approach this expecting a metal album (or if you do and you're open-minded), this is a beautiful album. Just sit and listen without thinking about when the song is going to end, or when the "interesting bit" is coming, and you will enjoy this album. It''s very slow and has ... (read more)

Report this review (#134690) | Posted by BobFrank | Friday, August 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It took me well over a year, but this Album just kept crawling back to me, each time i gained a higher appreciation for it The only reason i went near this album in the first place is because a year ago(maybe more) "The Mantle" was featured on the top.20 Prog.Metal List, and so i decided to g ... (read more)

Report this review (#128062) | Posted by TR!P | Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This disc has a very special place in my music collection. I don't find myself wanting to listen to it all the time, but when I do, I really enjoy it. It is different and beautiful in a melancholy way. There is nothing overly complicated on this disc, and the mixed styles of death growling ... (read more)

Report this review (#124126) | Posted by pianomandust | Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I must thank to this great server for bringing us so much information about our favorite style of rock music and also for allowing me to come to know a big amount of great music bands which I might have never run across. One of these great bands is an american outfit with a strange name AGALLO ... (read more)

Report this review (#119494) | Posted by KeyserSoze | Monday, April 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a wonderful album. Dark, poetic, full of folkish influences, a cross between - let's say - My Dying Bride and Amorphis. It sounds very relaxing for a metal album with extreme vocals... The production is flawless, the sound is perfect... maybe the vocals could be improved a little, but ... (read more)

Report this review (#93740) | Posted by zaxx | Sunday, October 08, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Forget everything you know about (extreme) progressive metal... Agalloch's "The Mantle" is the album that surpasses them all. Dark, melancholic, poetic, yet heavy at times, this album blends perfectly many styles: doom metal, acoustic rock, folk, extreme metal. Half of the album is instrumenta ... (read more)

Report this review (#92659) | Posted by Senya | Saturday, September 30, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Damn ! Never heard such beautifully melancholic dark-metal since the golden age of Anathema and My Dying Bride ( even if we can't compare their musical approach to Agalloch's one which blends metal with folk and progressive elements ). Threatening, sad, tenebrous and atmospheric, The Mantle is ... (read more)

Report this review (#92482) | Posted by Philoops | Thursday, September 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars ".we are the wounds." The solemn, cold darkness that formed the core of Agalloch's 1999 debut release Pale Folklore has blossomed into something far more universal. The irreverent storm of vexatious, hopeless pleadings to a pitiless majority now channeled through sparse chromatic arrangemen ... (read more)

Report this review (#85966) | Posted by bleak | Sunday, August 06, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A simple acoustic guitar track with some percussion and we are off. We are off on a journey into the woods and forests of life, and to the rivers and streams of reality. It is not known where these woods and waters will lead us to but there is one thing that can be assured, it will be a grand and be ... (read more)

Report this review (#82172) | Posted by Crushed Aria | Wednesday, June 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars agalloch comes through with a masterpiece in THE MANTLE, creating a cold wintry landscape of folk style acoustic guitars, occasional outbursts of metal, with growled vocals at times, and haunting clean voice others. The standout track here is " In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion." Clocking in ... (read more)

Report this review (#81273) | Posted by Blind Camel | Friday, June 16, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Having turned into an avantgarde puppet over the years, I have grown out of my old inane banter metaleer stages. However this band is a semi-god that is infinite and unscraped by time, you do not judge them after you've seemingly grown in the ways of sophistication, they judge you. The alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#49544) | Posted by | Friday, September 30, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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