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Agalloch The Mantle album cover
4.20 | 434 ratings | 44 reviews | 49% 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

Line-up / Musicians

- John Haughm / vocals, acoustic, 12-string & electric guitars, EBow, percussion, sampler (7), co-producer
- Don Anderson / electric, acoustic & classical guitars, piano (3,7)
- Jason William Walton / bass, noisescape (3)

- Ronn Chick / synth (1,8), samples (7), bells (8), mandolin (9), co-producer, mixing
- Ty Brubaker / contrabass (5,8,9), accordion (9)
- Danielle Norton / trombone (7,8)
- Aaron Sholes / sample (5)
- Neta Smolack / sample (5)

Releases information

Artwork: John Haughm with Aaron Sholes (art direction)

CD The End Records ‎- TE-028 (2002, US)
CD The End Records ‎- TE519-2 (2016, US) Remastered by Colin Marston

Thanks to Littlewashu5fuid=Littlewashu5 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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AGALLOCH The Mantle ratings distribution

(434 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(49%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

AGALLOCH The Mantle reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Trickster F.
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!

Review by OpethGuitarist
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.

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.

Review by russellk
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.

Review by Prog Leviathan
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

Review by Moatilliatta
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.

Review by Prog-jester
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!!!
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

Review by Conor Fynes
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
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.

Review by JJLehto
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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 accustomed to growling in prog music and The Mantle has become one of those albums whose songs always interest, surprise, and, yes, I have to admit, excite me when they come onto my iPod shuffle's random play. The acoustic guitar-based music has always been attractive to me, I just resisted its magic because of the vocals. Now as I listen to these songs I am always surprised to check later and be reminded that these great songs so full of subtleties were from AGALLOCH! (Like tympani, double bass, horns, and Italian and Japanese sound bytes.)

Favorite songs: "...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" (7:14) (10/10) "The Hawthorne Passage" (11:19) (9/10), and; "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" (14:45) (8/10)

A solid album--one of the best from a . . . well, a pretty poor year, in my humble opinion.

Solid 4 star effort.

Review by Negoba
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.

Review by Anthony H.
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.

Review by Warthur
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.
Review by Sinusoid
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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars AGALLOCH took their name from the resinous wood of the aguarwood (Aquilaria agallocha) and on their sophomore album THE MANTLE, this Portland, Oregon based band demonstrates how to let their musical cross-pollinations flow like sticky sap through an hour plus timespan that encompasses a wide spectrum of sounds and styles yet never outstays its welcome. THE MANTLE was a major improvement over the already developed and mature debut "Pale Folklore," yet the first album was crippled by a lackluster production job that prevented the band's true atmospheric prowess and uncanny ability to juxtapose disparate sounds in completely logical yet untried manners. THE MANTLE showcased the band in its comfort zone as it gracefully oozed out lusciously strummed acoustic folk guitar chords, electronic embellishments, black metal inspired doom and gloom and post-rock fueled compositional constructs that allowed the music to build to dizzying crescendoes and beyond.

Their first release of the new millennium, THE MANTLE has become one of those must-have albums in any metal collection as it embodies a perfection like few others before or since. Much in the vein of their debut, THE MANTLE tackles a wide range of influences that weave the possibilities of the dark neofolk sounds of bands like Death In June and Sol Invictus with the extra bombast of the metal world in the form of doom inspired riffing dressed up with black metal tremolo picking and shrieked vocals that played tag with clean sung lyrics sometimes resulting in whispered poetic prose. At first mistaken for a Scandinavian band for their use of guitar work utilized by bands ranging from Ulver, Katatonia and Amorphis, AGALLOCH allowed the black metal universe to expand beyond its second wave limitations of the legions of copycats and followed in the footsteps of the innovators that ultimately made them a part of the club that managed to craft a new hybrid of musical innovation.

The album's signature sound is instantly addictive as the introductory acoustic guitar strumming of "A Celebration For The Death Of Men" demonstrates the band's ability to create instant ear hooks augmented by subtle changes in atmospheric variation. The track cedes seamlessly into the following monster composition "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" which runs the gamut of metal meets neofolk possibilities and not only creates a seemingly infinite variety of subtle changes but demonstrates how the band ratchet up the band's theme by connecting the tracks into a larger whole, in this case a pseudo-concept about how images can be conveyed through sound. The images in this case are real photos of Portland, Oregon landmarks beginning with the stag on the album cover in a shrouded mysterious blanket of foggy gray and nebulous murky atmospheric detachment. The music perfectly suits the assortment of photos that are included in the liner notes.

THE MANTLE is a slow burner and not one to be listened to in a hurry. This is not what one would deem a headbanger's type of metal as it seems a vast majority of the real estate is dedicated to dreamy acoustic folk, shoegazy post-rock and hypnotic grooves embellished by electronic wizardry and outlandish production techniques. In fact only on the fourth track "I Am The Wooden Doors" does the black metal inspired fury have domination over the mellower aspects of the album and yet even here, is graced by unorthodox acoustic guitar solos that break in beneath the distorted metal galloping of the guitar grunge. Perhaps another amazing aspect of THE MANTLE is how the vocal harmonics create a whole other level of melodic counterpoint. Not only do the vocals range from the growled, clean, whispered and shrieked but in how they work together to create a larger atmospheric experience.

Sometimes one vocal style will dominate whereas other times clean and shrieked vocals will trade off by ushering in a call and response sort of forum. While many a black metal album's shrieked vocals are indecipherable, AGALLOCH create almost the most perfect balance of lush melodic musical passages with grainy irascibly charge yet well enunciated periods of black metal magic embedded into the folk dominated soundscapes. The ratio between the sleepy time folk tranquility and the majestic metal heft is meted out in a satisfyingly elegant proportions and while there are points when certain hypnotic post-rock passages appear to be wearing out their welcome, AGALLOCH has a firm understanding of just how far to milk any certain idea before pulling out the rug and taking a 180 stylistically speaking.

THE MANTLE also masters the art of the reprise, that is, simple melodic hooks that are introduced early on and then find their ways back into the mix only with completely different variations but somehow bring the feel of an epic journey where one must revisit past destinations before moving on. In addition to the aforementioned influences, THE MANTLE brings the epic grace of Opeth to mind, especially from albums like "Morningrise" with the brilliant commingling of acoustic and electric elements but also finds epic bands like Pink Floyd-esque guitar solos and space rock feel in "The Hawthorne Passage." The way that the entire album is laid out evokes a great rock opera and i detect many small touches that remind me of Queensryche's "Operation: Mindcrime" not necessarily in musical delivery but in the compositional posturing and dynamic flow of one track to the next as they incorporate subtle sounds and themes (such as military march drumming and sound samples.)

AGALLOCH found musical perfection on THE MANTLE. All the elements that had been laid out so brilliantly on "Pale Folklore" aligned perfectly on this sophomore release. The album has become a classic in the metal world for great reason. This is one that has the double effect of being instantly addictive yet offers an infinite variety of details to offer satisfying repeat listens. In fact, this is one of those albums i can safely put on perpetual replay and never grow tired of hearing since it conveys such a vast array of moods, tones, textures and timbres graced with a sophisticated production that allows every little detail to shine through the grim, depressive atmospheric displays that permeate THE MANTLE's post-apocalyptic soundscape. When it comes to a brilliant display of how folk, metal, post-rock and atmospheric ambient sounds are woven together, i cannot think of an example better than THE MANTLE. Just digging this out for a review led me to keep it on replay for several days straight and i'm still awed by it. THAT only happens when an album is friggin' awesome beyond belief. Yep, THE MANTLE is just that.

Review by Hector Enrique
4 stars Agalloch have managed to masterfully combine the power of darker and heavier rock with elements of folk, creating the ideal space to develop a dense, powerful and heartbreaking doom sound, but at the same time clean and nostalgic, in long developments where the intensity doesnīt decay. The Mantle, 4 years after his excellent debut with Pale Folklore, is the confirmation of a unique proposal, where the desolate and depressing winter landscapes contain the strength and drama of the best of the genre, incorporating all the sound distortion with the brilliance of Acoustic guitars that provide an ideal counterbalance to a gloomy atmosphere, the powerful riffs of electric guitars and the guttural voice of John Haughm.

They didnīt need songs with profuse lyrics to make their message clear, in fact A Celebration For The Death Of Man, Odal, The Lodge and The Hawthorne Passage are instrumental. The latter contains in its last minute a small conversation in Spanish regarding the taste for burials, but it is practically instrumental.

Although all the work maintains a similar level, I can highlight as outstanding the eternal In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion of more than 14 minutes, Odal, with its deep melancholy, the powerful You Were But A Ghost In My Arms, the instrumental The Hawthorne Passage and ... And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth, in my opinion the best song on the album, where the band achieves an unbeatable fusion of folk, doom and death metal.

Excellent material and one of the best from the Experimental / Post Metal sub-genre

Latest members reviews

5 stars A beautiful masterpiece. It's for sure one of my favorite post-metal records of all time. It's considerably inaccessible, though, so it might be necessary to give it multiple listens. While there's some records that focus on atmosphere or heaviness, The Mantle is capable of focusing in both at t ... (read more)

Report this review (#2601071) | Posted by Gorgut Muncher | Saturday, October 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A nearly perfect album in a way that is hard to describe. The pinnacle of the album is the legendary song "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" which is both a perfect example of the best Folkloric/Atmospheric Black Metal song and one of the easiest for new ears to the realm to first experience. ... (read more)

Report this review (#2523048) | Posted by RadlyGnarly | Wednesday, March 10, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Agalloch's greatest work, and one of the greatest works Black Metal ever had. The Mantle is a perfect balance between beautiful atmospheric sections and hard- hitting riffs and lyrics, in such way that I simply cannot think how you could possibly improve them. The second track (Agalloch's m ... (read more)

Report this review (#2496402) | Posted by John T | Friday, January 22, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Absolute masterpiece! I love this album! Wonderful atmosphere and some seriously beautiful melodies and moments spread around the album! 1. A Celebration For The Death Of Man... (7/10): A wonderful album opener that throws the main theme of the following beast of a track. Always listen ITSOOPC wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2492313) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Saturday, January 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What Agalloch produced here is a very enjoyable piece of music that black metal fans, progressive metal fans, post metal fans, doom metal fans, folk metal fans, and maybe even Gothic metal fans can easily enjoy. As a fan of all the above, this album was very enjoyable for me to listen to. If you are ... (read more)

Report this review (#2454881) | Posted by progtime1234567 | Thursday, October 8, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Agalloch's 'The Mantle' is one of the most perfect blending's of pastoral folk music and extreme metal I've ever heard - its also one of the most thoroughly depressing albums in my collection. This is not music for anyone feeling down or unhappy as it might just push you over the edge. The musi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1442551) | Posted by AndyJ | Sunday, July 19, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After a very good debut, ''The Mantle'' back in 2002 fell like an unexpected meteorite upon the world of heavy metal music. This U.S band instantly left its eternal mark, in terms of personality, style and quality. In my opinion, Agalloch came to take the place of good 90's Paradise Lost in the thro ... (read more)

Report this review (#1175175) | Posted by Aldebaran_Well | Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 3, 2012 | 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 8, 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

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