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Reach for what keeps you warm!!! - 95%

AgeOfTheWiccans, May 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, The End Records (Remastered, Digipak)

The Mantle is probably the most important record of Agalloch's career. With this release, they manage to create a very profound effect to which they add tons of Neofolk. The result is a perfect blend of songs that flow and pass as if they felt like the wind and they combine a natural grace and a strong humility.

With a vocal range that goes from shriek to sad whispers, it is set in motion with "A Celebration for the Death of Man ..." and it will not stop at all, but will connect with different themes. Next, we find ourselves carried away in the clutches of the titan "In the Shadow of our Pale Companion", an offering that takes the form of a semi-ballad between dark metal and mid-tempo as well as an acoustic serenade. By far the most intense title on "The Mantle".

One striking thing, which is true for most of the songs on the album, is that we have the impression of progressing in a sort of cinematic idle, to the rhythm of a funeral doom except that the lightness of the sound does not allow direct reconciliation. Agalloch never hurry a measure, they allow themselves on the contrary to patiently pave the way to different melodic stages with full of detours by multiple atmospheric digressions.

"I am the Wooden Doors" is an archetype for Agalloch; with an extraordinary short intermediate part with two interwoven guitars, a piece more linear, but never less excellent than the rest because it is perfectly positioned in the album. Probably, "You Were but a Ghost in My Arms" is the most representative of a Folk metal song. Although its traditional dominance of clean vocals, here Agalloch call for some violence, especially a string of blast-beats and sharper riffs, more "metal", which contrast with the great finesse of the lyrics. It's so easy to fall into this cliché and the redundancy when one focuses his expression on subjects like winter or nature.

I do not see what else to say, the metaphors are true and speak of feelings more than they try to provoke them, the melancholy goes through the veins as if it was transfused in real time when the words are absorbed while listening to the music. If I had to point out one weakness on "The Mantle", I could only think it would be the lack of energy from the drummer when the music takes a punchy turn, for example on "You Were but a Ghost in my Arms" which the desired effect stumbles into confusion.

Life is a Clay Urn on the Mantle - 90%

Morbe, March 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, 2 12" vinyls, The End Records (Remastered)

“The Mantle” is no doubt considered Agalloch’s magnum opus, and it is very clear as to why. With beautiful acoustic interludes, Haughm’s signature gremlin vocals and overpowering melancholy melodies to accompany an overall exhibition of emotion from the members of the band.

Songs like “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” will stand out to listeners of this band for time immemorial, the beautiful melodies that interchange with heavier post-rocky (and kinda black metal-ly) parts with the incredible lyricism that tells a story of a man whose lost his faith in god, to find it elsewhere in nature. Which is the overbearing theme of this album: Pantheism.

Other songs like “The Lodge” or the introduction; “A Celebration for the Death of Man” have beautiful acoustic melodies that are unforgettable, the emphasis on the lack of percussion on “The Lodge” in place of a deer skull is absolutely stunning, the atmosphere that is built through this song is reciprocated similarly in “A Celebration for the Death of Man”. Where the only thing really found is the soft strummed melody of the acoustic guitar alongside a subtle synth. With such an entrancing combination on the interludes and the introduction and final song of the album, a somber and melancholy atmosphere is set up, and built upon in the big pieces on the album.

The way “The Mantle” was composed in the song list plays a big part of why it is so entrancing and powerful upon a first listen. The growth of the songs and the sway of the atmosphere surrounding the music as the album progresses is unrivaled.

Overall, I think “The Mantle” is rightly considered the magnum opus of Agalloch’s career. More than that however it serves as a powerful lead into the genre of atmospheric black metal for many listeners, myself included. The soft melodies and the larger post-rocky ones on the bigger pieces on this album combined with Haughm’s unique and powerful voice is an important mix that lead me personally; farther into black metal than I ever thought I would be pulled.

I think that if you want to get into black metal, or you want to get a friend into black metal, you should do nothing other than start them with “The Mantle”, for if they are really interested, they’ll move on to “Ashes Against the Grain” and be hit with the same amount of melodic potency with a significant more focus on the black metal aspects of the bands influences and capabilities.

Chapter II: The Mantle - 100%

BlackMetal213, June 7th, 2016

Another magnificent album from the Portland, Oregon band Agalloch. Released in 2002, three years following their debut full-length "Pale Folklore", "The Mantle" was the finest album these dudes managed to produce throughout their 21 years of existence. It stands as a testament to what Agalloch was: a band that blended influences from many genres ranging from black metal, folk metal, doom metal, post-rock, ambient, etc etc. This list goes on. They were one of the most unique bands to ever exist. You really can't classify Agalloch into any one genre because their sound is just so vast.

It is no secret that "The Mantle" is considered by many to be the best Agalloch album. Originally, "Pale Folklore" was my album of choice but over the years, my opinion changed. There seems to be a much heavier emphasis on acoustic guitars here, even more than we experienced with the previous album. The intro track "A Celebration for the Death of Man..." focuses on instrumental acoustic strumming with a distorted guitar that provides feedback every now and then. This is one of 4 instrumental tracks total on this 9 track album. This strumming seems to appear quite a few times, identically, throughout other songs. This is notable towards the end of "...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth". Sometimes, recycling riffs and notes can work in the favor of the band and album, and this is a good example of such. The acoustic guitars is what drives "The Mantle" forward in progression. The final track "A Desolation Song" is a purely acoustic number with very melancholic lyrics, as its title may indicate. Let's take a passage from this song:

"Here I sit at the fire
Liquor's bitter flames warm my languid soul
Here I drink alone and remember
A graven life, the stain of her memory
In this cup, love's poison
For love is the poison of life
Tip the cup, feed the fire,
And forget about useless fucking hope"

The sad, mournful lyrics such as these are the main themes and ideals we read within the lyrics. This album is probably Agalloch's most mellow release but this certainly is not a negative thing. It's clear to be enjoyed and adored by many aside from myself. Why? Because it's brilliant and beautiful, why else?!

So yes, most of this album is softer and almost soothing, however, there are definitely metallic moments as well. As calming and soft as this album is, it is still a metal album with numerous influences from different genres. "I Am the Wooden Doors" is the heaviest song on the album and while it's not "brutal" or whatever, it's still crushing in comparison to "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion". Another heavier number would be "You Were but a Ghost in My Arms" although it's not as heavy as the aforementioned track. Agalloch does not need to write heavy music to be effective with their atmosphere, as they have managed to prove again and again. They even use some non-traditional instruements at times, such as the very unique deer skull in "The Lodge", which they incorporated by hitting it with sticks. This created a very unique and easily remembered sound of clicking that you can't really get elsewhere.

Vocals are fairly similar to those we heard on "Pale Folklore". There are harsh vocals here as well but they seem to be lesser in quantity. The quality, however, has increased a little bit. I feel John's rasp has improved here and sounds more dreary and desolate than before. He possesses this whisper-like quality that sounds more haunting and eerie than it would had he used traditional black metal screams. His clean vocals are a bit better here and sound even more sorrowful than before. "Life is a clay urn on the mantle..." Whenever I hear him sing that passage on "...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth", I get chills. The same chills I got the first time I heard it. Not many bands can manage to do this the way Agalloch did.

"The Mantle" was definitely Agalloch's strongest release, even if it was one of their softest in overall sound. It is beautiful and I listen to it very often. It is one of my go-to albums, no matter what mood I am in, but it really helps console and comfort me when I find myself in a dark place. This is pure beauty in the art form of music and I honestly could not imagine my life without it, as cliché as that may sound. This is a perfect example of something that the hype around it, actually makes sense and is educated.

Utterly Magnificent - 100%

TimJohns, December 15th, 2014

There are only a handful of albums that are as well-rounded, masterful, accomplished and perfected in it's own style as Agalloch's "The Mantle". This is a very special and unique masterpiece that takes the listener on a sonic experience through the beauty, tranquility, fragility and harmony of nature. The entire vibe of this album feels like the transition from autumn to winter, with some of the tracks that feel like walking alone through a completely silent landscape covered with snow, where one is discovering the true essence and spirit of nature. The depth of this diverse and vivid sounding instrumentation along with the deep and powerful songwriting brought together makes "The Mantle" sounds evermore jarring and sensational.

The epic twelve minute track "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" is absolutely exquisite that reeks of beauty with gorgeous textures of sound. The emphasis of the acoustic guitar playing along with other classical instruments shows Agalloch at the peak of their creativity. The mellowness of "The Mantle" compared to their previous superb release "Pale Folkore" not only portrays Agalloch as perhaps their best but shows how they are experimenting further in their unique style. Along with their vast range and unique blend of influences, Agalloch are able to mix a harsher, unrefined sound at times with an elegant and majestic sound that feels absolutely transcendental and soars with uplifting emotions.

Another highlight track would have to be "Odal" and is definitely one of the most impressive instrumentals I have ever heard. This track in particular has a very thematic, theatrical and triumphant approach to it. Also many tracks on "The Mantle" with those characteristics would be perfect to have as movie soundtracks especially tracks such as "The Lodge" and "The Hawthrone Passage". Another aspect of Agalloch's sound that I particularly found to be outstanding was how they were able to make the scratchy and rough vocals sound both melodic and accurate while going along very well with the rest of the music.

As a concluding statement, "The Mantle" will always be known for being a memorable, superb, deep and downright powerful album. There are many impressive aspects about Agalloch whether it's how they blend so thoroughly and perfectly the unique art of both their music and homeland in the Pacific Northwest or how they are able to execute their musical vision so incredibly well. With all of these elements put together, it is quite clear that Agalloch have put together quite the unique masterpiece and to this day is an album that is strongly recognized for it's sheer brilliance and outstanding musicianship.

Agalloch's finest. - 100%

HypervioletMask, July 15th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2005, 2 12" vinyls, Infinite Vinyl (Limited edition, Grey vinyl)

The date is the 14th of July, 2014. The Serpent & The Sphere is the most recent release by Agalloch, and to this day they have never disappointed me with one of their releases. Always expansive, emotional and well-crafted, albums by this band never fail to hit the spot for me. Of course, I have my favourites. If I were to rank Agalloch's albums in order from least favourite to favourite, it would go Ashes Against The Grain, The Serpent & The Sphere (though due to the short time I've had with it, this is always subject to change), Marrow of the Spirit, Pale Folklore and then finally The Mantle. But like I already said, none of their albums have disappointed me, meaning I consider all of those albums to be quite fantastic in their own aspects. However, this is not a discussion of the band as a whole, merely a singular album. I will not go into the history of the band, or their stylistic musings, as to be honest I'm sick of people discussing what genre/style Agalloch play, or where they came from.

Those familiar with Agalloch, you need no explanation of their particular genre-blending/expanding tendencies. Those unfamiliar, it's actually probably best you go in blind, but remember to keep an open mind as this album belongs to no specific genre boundaries (also listen to the album before you read this review, because you might spoil some really amazing bits for yourself). The Mantle was my first exposure to Agalloch and it definitely made me clamour for the rest of their discography immediately. Coming of off the praise and success of their debut, Pale Folklore, Agalloch crafted a much more refined masterpiece with The Mantle. To date, clocking in at around 68 and a half minutes, The Mantle remains Agalloch's longest studio album (if you omit the 20 minute bonus track at the end of Ashes Against The Grain). This is not an album that feels like 68 minutes, however it does not fly by. When I listen to The Mantle I am utterly encapsulated by the music and the length is certainly justified, The Mantle never drags on. Additionally, I am an owner of the vinyl edition of the album and the artwork I feel is an excellent accompaniment to the music, grey, bleak and in touch with nature.

Musically, what The Mantle contains is ten tracks of cinematic ...fuck. I didn't want to have to mention genres because I think it creates too much stereotyping, but I guess I have to... Black metal (primarily, it lays the groundwork for the other genres to be placed on top of) and neo-folk. Traces of folk metal, progressive metal, doom metal and post-rock are also to be found... Goddammit. Doesn't that just sound like a clusterfuck when you lay out genres like that? It doesn't define the band at all. Especially considering how loose genres are anyway. Folk metal? There's not a trace of Finntroll to be found here. Doom metal? There's definitely no Electric Wizard tinge to the music on this album... But I digress, what Agalloch do here is genius. Imagine these genres were little balls of Play-Doh, Agalloch take all these different balls and mix them all together in their hands! But normally when you mix all the different colours of Play-Doh you end up getting a disgusting brown mess. What Agalloch do in the mixture process is they add their magic touch (metaphorically, that being their talent, dedication and aspiration) to the different coloured balls, and the end result is Play-Doh of a rather grey shade. Get it? What I'm trying to get at, is that while all those previously mentioned genres are present, I believe Agalloch to have blended them so seamlessly that it is difficult to pinpoint exact spots in the music where each of those genres apply. The only obvious example I present to you is the main riff of the song "I Am The Wooden Doors", that riff is pretty goddamn black metal.

Now, after that long paragraph that has made you question my reputability after I effectively did exactly what I said I would try to avoid doing in the introduction, let me attempt to redeem myself. One thing I sure do love about this album is the variety it entails. A pet-peeve of mine is albums of 40 minutes, containing 10 songs of 3-4 minutes with a traditional pop song structure. How much more uninspired can you get? It's like crafting songs with templates. Baking biscuits, cutting them out with boring square cutters... Agalloch take the dough and they craft with their hands lovely little deer-shaped biscuits ranging in shape and size. Much more creative and interesting. That's always a positive in my eyes. In fact, the shortest and longest songs on the album are placed next to each other right at the start of the album. I sure do love a juxtaposition. I can nerd-out about track listings and song placements forever. It's really cool! It allows for miniature interpretations between songs and what ties them together. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if The Mantle is meant to have an overarching story, but it does in my eyes.

Something else noteworthy about this album is the use of extra instrumentation. In addition to the typical metal band two guitars, bass, drums and vocals, you get a healthy dose of contrabass, cymbals, trombone, deer skulls being struck, synths, EBow, samples and much much more! Variety is the spice of life, and the album is thriving with musical ideas. However, Agalloch do not throw these in your face, all this extra instrumentation has a purpose and it certainly does not feel like one of the band members came into the studio and said "My dad's uncle's brother's daughter plays the electric triangle and wants to feature on our album, so where shall we put her?" For example, take the track "The Lodge", built entirely around a sample of somebody trudging through heavy snow with a deer skull being struck steadily in time once every cycle round the steady 4/4 beat. Genius. Entirely atmosphere building. Having been to the snowier parts of Austria in my time, this song is certainly fitting with the cold and always brings me back. To those of you who have never listened to this album, the deer skull returns again in the album later on. To those of you who have listened, isn't it incredibly chilling? I love it.

I do have to state, what makes this album stand out further is certainly John's vocal performance on the album. For those unfamiliar, John's typical style is a unique take on the traditional black metal vocal. It is semi-whispered, raspy and decipherable(!) There are also actual whispered vocals and breathtaking harmonised cleans that are unmistakably Haughm. Trust me, love it or hate it, John's voice is distinctive. Being the mastermind behind Agalloch he also plays guitars both electric and acoustic on the album, and I'm pretty sure he performed the drums too. I know he did on Pale Folklore. The instrumentation isn't overly flashy, but it's still absolutely top-notch. The guitar sweep in "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" is still as pivotal to the song as the first time I heard it. Such a clever little thing to add. Furthermore, the lyrics (in the 5 songs that actually have them) are highly gripping and emotive. John Haughm writes all the lyrics to the album, barring a section in "... And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth", and in 2001, these lyrics illustrating man's connection to nature weren't at all overdone and were very original and thoughtful. Even to this day, with the amount of atmospheric black metal bands all simultaneously declaring their love for every single leaf in their back garden, The Mantle's lyrics have not diminished in their emotional resonance to me. Standout lyrics to me include the eery clean-sung harmonised sections in "You Were But A Ghost In My Arms" with the absolutely gorgeous line "Like snowfall, you cry a silent storm..." Haughm really knows how to tread the line between beauty and melancholy.

Notice how I mentioned that only 5 of the tracks have lyrics. Well, that's because this album contains 4 instrumental songs, those being "A Celebration For The Death Of Man...", "Odal", "The Lodge" and "The Hawthorne Passage", though the latter does contain a few samples from two foreign films, the first being Swedish and the second, Spanish. These tracks all add to the cinematic and progressive nature of the album. Any points raised as to the post-rock nature of the album most likely come from the tracks "Odal" and "The Hawthorne Passage", not entirely due to the instrumental nature of them both. Don Anderson has stated Godspeed You! Black Emperor were a large inspiration on his playing at the time, so such connections are highly reasonable.

The album concludes with the short (relative to some of the other songs) "A Desolation Song", a fantastic conclusion to a stunning album. The simple mix of hushed vocals, strummed acoustic guitar, accordion and the return of a previously featured instrument at the very end really completes the album in a very climactic way, but not in the traditional sense. It's the logical path that the music takes. The sorrow of the music perfectly matches the finality of the lyrics, a narrator sitting by the fire as they drink from a cup of poison. Haughm sings "Tip the cup, feed the fire, and forget about useless fucking hope." Considering in the lyrics, the word "fucking" is omitted, I get the idea that John simply improvised the use of it in the studio. It's the only swear word on the album, making it poignant and impactful, not like how I've sworn horribly throughout this whole review. It's just another little detail to love about this album.

My thoughts on this album... You've seen the score. You know what I think. The Mantle is a landmark release by one of the most important bands in the entire American music scene. Though my lists are constantly shifting, this is one of those releases that never leaves my top 10. It is one of those "perfect" albums that I would not change a single thing about. 12 years after the original release and the album does not feel one bit aged. The Mantle has undeniably left its impact on the flourishing American black metal scene, with neo-folk/acoustic elements now being almost required for you to qualify as an "atmospheric" black metal band. The contemporaries that followed however I still hold in high regard, but it is important to consider how much of a wider impact The Mantle has left on the scene. This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I absolutely love it. I highly implore you to purchase whatever format of this album you deem necessary and enjoy the exploration into a truly classic release.

A Masterpiece of Artistic Expression - 97%

Nokturnal_Wrath, February 21st, 2014

It seems to me that many people are listening to The Mantle for the completely wrong reasons. This isn’t an album full of intense metallic fury nor is it an album you can headbang the hell out of, this is a highly atmospheric, poetic album that requires a lot of patience and an open mind to fully appreciate the scope of The Mantle.

Clocking in at over 1 hour long, The Mantle is not an album for the ADHD sufferers, there’s a lot of repetition throughout the album, with the band settling on an idea for a few minutes before transitioning to the next. The album is a whole is quite slow paced, with very little tempo changes, much of the music is based around a single idea that is expanded upon throughout the album continues. To tag The Mantle in one specific genre serves as nothing more to constrict it, although flashes of other bands may be found in a purely influential dimension, the aura of Agalloch’s music is intoxicatingly unique. In its simplest sense, The Mantle is a fusion of neofolk, black metal and post rock, with all of the ideas being a prominent force but each used in perfect duality. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar segments running throughout the album which brings the neofolk into fruition, and although the folk label might conjure images of drunken people playing violins and flutes around a campsite, Agalloch’s folk influences comes through in the atmosphere it conjures which is not dissimilar from that of Empyrium’s early work.

The Mantle is an album that is enjoyable primarily because of the atmosphere, although much of the music is simplistic, at times even minimalistic; the atmosphere Agalloch conjures is so utterly evocative that is impossible to not get lost within. From the cold melancholy of You Were But a Ghost in My Arms to the ethereal beauty of Odal, Agalloch deliver atmosphere in spades. What really strikes me about The Mantle is that even though each track is similar on a musical dimension, the moods and tones are wholly different between each track. To me it appears that Agalloch have laid down the tone they want for the album and each track expands upon that tone in different ideas. There are folk influenced tracks, tracks with a high post rock vibe and straight up black metal tracks. Although musical complexity is not what Agalloch have set out to achieve, emotional and atmospheric complexity is something that Agalloch are able to perfectly employ.

The musical aspect of The Mantle is something that listeners will be familiar with if they have already heard other black metal/neofolk hybrids such as the aforementioned Empyrium, the core of the music isn’t wholly original but Agalloch have carved their own unique identity within the scene. There’s a large focus placed upon the acoustic guitars, with each track making prominent use of them to the point that they lead the music. The use of electric guitars is generally kept as a musical backdrop, adding more depth and weight to the music whilst letting the acoustic guitars take center stage. The most striking usage of the acoustics is the track In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, where the electric guitar serves similar to a bass guitar rather than an actual melodic instrument, thus allowing the acoustic guitar to take center. Other tracks such as I Am the Wooden Doors and the aforementioned You Were But a Ghost in My Arms place more focus on the electric guitars whilst still retaining the use of acoustics. These are the most lively, aggressive tracks on the album with John Haugm presenting a particularly venomous vocal performance.

Despite the length of the album, The Mantle is a rather easy album to digest. There’s not much metal fury here, much of the music is very calm, comfortable with only the odd flashes of a more metal inspired passion. And although the languid nature of this music might turn off some people, I find the tired, worn out delivery to work incredibly well within the context of the music. With The Mantle Agalloch have shown their audience that they are able to change the sound of their music from album to album whilst still retaining the atmosphere and beauty of the one that came before. The much greater use of acoustics adds more depth and subdued beauty than what was presented on Pale Folklore, and although the music seems less determined than the bands debut, the atmospheric intensity is equal, if not superior to said album. Although the changes are small, they are significant, crafting a very different album from its predecessor. Even though the core of the bands sound has remained concise, the tones and atmospheres presented differ drastically from Pale Folklore and thus succeed in creating a very worthy follow up. Recommended.

Tenth Anniversary - 90%

FullMetalAttorney, August 8th, 2013

Ten years have passed since the release of Agalloch's second full-length, The Mantle (as of the date this review was originally published, Aug. 13, 2012). The record is not revolutionary in and of itself, exactly. But it does represent two radical changes in metal. After its release, those shifts slowly gained prominence. That is no coincidence.

The style is one that is still, to this day, difficult to define. It's been described as everything from post-metal, to black metal, to folk metal, to pagan metal, to doom metal. Others have suggested other genre names, like "gray metal" or "dark metal," descriptions that don't have much meaning. What it is, in fact, is neo-folk music with some black metal elements, rather than the other way around. The distorted tremolo riffing doesn't even begin until nearly a half-hour into the record, and never really takes center stage at any point. Metal that's barely even metal: That's the first shift.

The second shift is one away from individual songs and toward complete albums. Metalheads like to think that this has always been true of metal, but that's not really the case. Do all of the songs on Master of Reality fit together, and make a cohesive album? Absolutely. But it was still about the songs. You could make singles out of them, and they rocked in their own right. They were all built on the almighty riff, as was almost all metal. The Mantle, on the other hand, is cinematic. Its power is in the emotional tides of the whole, and is not built on riffs in quite the same way. There are rhythm chords, yes, but they don't serve the same purpose. It's the cello, the piano, the accordion, the clean vocals. The mood is paramount. The songwriting is brilliant not because of monster riffs, but because it creates atmosphere and holds it together with memorable melodies and musical themes. In that sense, it resembles classical music more than any kind of rock music.

The shift to a neo-folk-infused musical style and cinematic/classical songwriting did not originate with Agalloch. Ulver (and others) had been doing these things. But no one plying this trade had made such a strong statement as The Mantle. It brought the style much more recognition, and influenced many bands over the last decade. Primordial, Negură Bunget, Drudkh, Alcest, and countless others owe an enormous debt to the Oregonians. Pagan metal and post-black metal would be unrecognizable (or non-existent) today were it not for this record. By extension, the nation of Ireland would have zero presence on the international metal stage.

The proof of these statements came at the end of 2010. In a genre that should never have had broad appeal, that should have been a niche market within a niche market, the band’s fourth full-length Marrow of the Spirit became one of the most high-profile albums of the year, in short order receiving almost universally effusive praise.

To paraphrase, mangle, and distort the Billy Joel cliché, Agalloch didn't start the fire. But they did pour on enough gasoline to make sure no one could miss it.

originally written for

The Mantle - 88%

rippingthrash, June 2nd, 2013

Agalloch’s second full-length effort, “The Mantle,” focuses in on what made the first album so great, culling the less-savory elements of the aforesaid record to create something that is as beautiful as it is mystical. Technically proficient and lyrically competent, the recording boasts a very unique sound that spawned countless rip-offs in the years to follow.

From the sensational “I Am the Wooden Doors,” to the lachrymose closer, “A Desolation Song,” these tracks run the gamut from atmospheric ballads to straight-up black metal riffing. The vocals are generally subdued by the strength and power of the excellently-produced guitars, as well as the drums, but nevertheless course through the songs expressively and without heed to their surroundings.

The bass is also quite prominent, and there appears to be a cello in some of the tracks which lends an almost illusory quality to the soundscapes already provided by the synthesizers, which themselves are not-too-sparse throughout the record. There’s a certain sterility in the production that, at its worst, mars the music ever so slightly. This is only because the record is supposed to feel organic, and does in many ways; it’s only a very small disservice, then, that the production at times feels a bit too boisterously-done.

All in all, though, the record stands as a testimony to nature and the piercing dusk whispered of in “You Were But A Ghost In My Arms.” If “Ashes Against the Grain” is to be considered Agalloch’s magnum opus, then let this record stand beside it modestly.

Cold Foggy Journey - 95%

grantify, March 16th, 2013

Agalloch's masterpiece.

From this album you can expect a chilly fog to arise from the atmosphere that is developed throughout the album and music that is being played. Honestly, nothing can beat the atmosphere that Agalloch designed in The Mantle. With crashing deer skulls, Viking-like banging drums, acoustic guitars, and fresh clean vocals, you'll find nothing like this album ever, so treasure it. From the point when you press start on this album, prepare to feel like you are on top of K2 looking upon a troubled, misty Earth with guitars that define a depressive mood and the drums keeping on beat to put the icing on the cake. With music, you'll usually rely on the vocals to perfect an album, but this is certainly not the case at all despite the fact that Agalloch explore all ranges on this album.

This album overall is a cold, foggy journey and you could actually feel chills from the air when you listen to this, and with a running time of about an hour and ten minutes, you'll find this first impressions TOO LONG for an album and usually drags out to the point where you get bored, but this album took this risk and absolutely crushed the idea of keeping a perfect album below 50 minutes. You do not get bored of this album. This feels like a cold, majestic movie and each song is a scene of different situations, the first being a depressive, cold, and empty Earth to the next being a glimmer of hope and haunting 'clicks' from the crushing deer skull. Fantastic is all I've got to say. With folk metal chants and hard rock/progressive riffs to complete the theme of a perfect winter is astonishing in this album. Doom metal 'thickness' of the guitars and somewhat black metal elements are even inserted in this album at times due to their influences from Pale Folkore.

After giving this album 95%, I realized that the loss of the 5% is due to the consistency of this album, for at times you'll realize Agalloch have not explored other themes and genres and the songs are similar in their own right, but it's not a big mistake as Agalloch are AMAZING at doing what they do and The Mantle can be seen as one big cold journey and not a big mess of inconsistency.

Agalloch must know themselves and that this album is not to be touched or even competed with in their future releases, however realistically they haven't created anything bad at all in their discography and The Mantle is something that you can recommend to ANYBODY that likes metal and is willing to explore further into this mysterious genre.

A landmark in atmospheric music - 87%

psychosisholocausto, February 24th, 2013

As far as atmospheres go, it truly is mission impossible to hope to topple The Mantle as the definitive atmospheric album. Right from the opening notes the listener knows straight away that they are in for one haunting, dark and thought-provoking ride through the darkest corridors of human psychology and they find solace in the fact that when they come through it, they will be more complete a person. This is an album of such twisted beauty that it truly does affect the listener and is guaranteed to scar them mentally, terrify them and shake them to the core. All this happens within the space of an hour and five minutes, such is the genius behind this release.

It opens up with some haunting acoustic work that straight away sets the tone of the album-you know right from those opening chords that this is going to be a dark release, with the war-like drums occasionally crashing behind it. The song is entitled A Celebration For The Death Of Man, a title that immediately provokes feelings of isolation in an apocalyptic world, and that is essentially what The Mantle is the sound track to. This is an album that sounds both desperate and evil at the same time, carrying a foreboding sense of menace that echoes off of every single note. The musicianship and song writing behind this is insanely well written, with the frequent usage of soft melodic passages coupled with the murderous-sounding black metal vocals that create a better atmosphere than possibly any album ever recorded.

The finest song on this release is a fifteen minute epic entitled In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companaion, another morbid title for a song and another one with music that reflects this. It opens up where the last track left off, but soon we are gifted to some great drumming in the background and distorted electric guitars alongside the beautiful acoustic work from Haughm and Anderson. The listener has to wait around two minutes before Haughm's signature raspy black metal shrieks are introduced alongside the acoustic guitars and this is such an interesting contrast but works to perfection. His clean voice may not be the strongest out there but certainly stacks up well against his screams and works within the context of the album. This is an album that really balances both vocal styles well and Haughm knows exactly when to change between his two styles so that the listener does not become bored. At times, he will double track the two styles and layer them over each other which provides an interesting dynamic for the album to play around with.

This is a nine song affair released in 2002 to high levels of praise and it really is not hard to see why for those who enjoy listening to atmospheric and haunting music. The Lodge is probably the best example of how this album can play with your mind, opening up with some weird effects and the sound of footsteps for about ten to fifteen seconds before the acoustic guitars come in and it is enough to reduce a grown man to tears. This album embodies feelings of isolation and the end of the world in ways never heard before, and for those thinking an album such as Blackwater Park or Wish You Were Here would never be topped in terms of atmosphere, think again as The Mantle does it time and time again with every single song.

The actual sound of the album is noticeably much mellower than Pale Folklore and although it still contains both acoustic guitars and electric guitar riffs, the folk elements of the band are much more present here with a greater emphasis on delivering a message through their music, and the message is simple-The apocalypse is not a nice thing. The lyrical themes of this album dabble with religion, the apocalypse and isolation and are handled very well to couple the musical style the band chose to take with this. This album is also home to some masterfully well written louder sections, such as the song I Am The Wooden Doors which contains some great double bass work that is both speedy and intense to listen to whilst the guitar work allows the listener to take the time to dwell on the sound of the song instead of the traditional black metal style of blasting ahead as fast as possible and never giving the listener this time. The vocal work on here is dark and carries an aura of desperation and hate at the world that it is unlikely will ever be touched by any other band.

The Mantle is perhaps the most haunting experience that music has to offer and is certainly not for the faint hearted. If you are looking for pure black metal as some would have you believe of this band, then turn away right now as this is not even close to that style of music. Instead this takes the folk elements of their debut and enhances them tenfold on here to create a much darker and more evil sounding album that everyone should take the time to listen and soak in at least once, and then hit the repeat button and discover what you missed upon first listen. This is a marvelous album that deserves that attention it gets and is perhaps the finest example of an atmospheric release out there.

Single-Handedly Got Me Into "Post-Black Metal" - 92%

xpsychoblissx, November 30th, 2012

Let me start out by saying that since I got into the metal genre about 10 or 11 years ago, I rarely heard an unknown band that JUMPED out and me and grabbed my attention. The way Agalloch grabs your attention isn't comparable to how a band like Slayer might grab your attention, though.

A few of the reviews here kind of give you a track by track review, but I'd like to talk more about the atmosphere that Agalloch builds with a great attention to detail. Right from the beginning of the album, the band is already setting the melancholic mood. In "The Mantle", the melancholic mood is either punctuated by a mix of soothing vocals and layered, clean guitars, or by abrasive and crushing distorted guitars. The formula sounds simple enough, but the trick is in the impeccable timing and song writing ability--which brings me to my next point.

I've talked to a few fans of black metal, and when the subject turns to "post-black metal", I almost always suggest they give Agalloch a listen. After I give them a general description of the band, they usually follow up with the question; "Where are they from?". When I respond with "Oregon, USA", their expression turns from wonder, to doubt. Hearing that an "intellectual" band originates from the USA seems like a oxymoron, and most time it is. These guys though, are a definite exception to that stereotype.

Right at the beginning of the album, you're greeted with the track, "...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth". The song has a solid and "hearty" beginning, with acoustic guitars, a slow, driving drum beat, and then...the vocals. The vocals have a smooth delivery, and an almost choir-esque sound, but in the most relaxing and calming way. Things start to speed up with the song "I Am The Wooden Doors", which starts out with a classic black metal drum beat that leads into seething black metal screams.

The instrumentation throughout the album is amazing. On "A Desolation Song", there's an accordion in the mix, and yes; it's done tastefully, without a solitary thought of Weird Al. Later in the same track, there's an acoustic outro that's accompanied by the sounds of wind, and what is supposedly the sound of an elk's skull being hit with some type of bludgeon. It all makes for a great atmosphere, and helps the song on the album flow together beautifully.

I was lucky enough to find my copy of "The Mantle" at Metal Haven (before they shut down) in Chicago used for $5. If you have a few bucks, I highly recommend picking up your own CD. I give Agalloch's "The Mantle" a 92%, and that's only because it only fell short of making me cream my jeans.

we are the wounds - 95%

TowardsMorthond, June 11th, 2012

The Scandinavian metal influences of past works (In The Woods..., Katatonia, Ulver) remain present in the sound, but The Mantle incorporate a greater degree of neo-folk elements evident in most songs as well as identifiable post-rock qualities that bring powerful emotional energy to "Odal", "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion", and "You Were But a Ghost in my Arms".

The sonic template here stretches beyond the surface monochromatic minimalism. A linear foundation does exist for much of this material, yet this factor does not set limitations for elaborate thematic or musical ideas. Lengthy instrumental passages are frequent, with vocals, although no less a significant component, less of a focal point. The album's first twenty-six minutes, in the shape of "A Celebration for the Death of Man", "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" and "Odal", is a movement that, upon the arrival of its finale, leaves the listener simultaneously mentally/emotionally/spiritually overwhelmed and cleansed. The acoustic intro, which includes distant ceremonial percussion, acts as a ritualistic portal into this dimension, setting a contemplative tone for the album. "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" is an epic journey of over fourteen minutes, wandering through bleak soundscapes and charged post-rock dynamics, and the transcendental, yearning guitar solos provide fading glimpses of a distant sunlit horizon. It's not so much a song as a revelation of profound existential awakening, but is equally life-affirming and despondently nihilistic. The nearly eight-minute instrumental, "Odal", removes the listener from these desolate wastelands, guiding him through tranquil pathways dividing the glorious splendor of dawn and the twilight caress of dusk. Excellent ambient guitar effects ignite into a cathartic release of earthly burden, a deliverance from cold despair into a calm abode of inner bliss, before drifting into scenes of plaintive serenity. The result is their most powerful musical statement.

Agalloch have delved deeper into a broader range of sonic elements to enrich their overall expression in a fascinating display of musical variety and stylistic diversity. The role of acoustic guitars has increased, not necessarily in abundance, but rather in their significance to not only individual tracks, but the album as a whole. The inclusion of wood chimes, ebow, trombone, contra bass, accordion, mandolin, and even found instruments such as the "grim cymbal bell" and "deer antler percussion" splendidly enhance the expressionist shades within Agalloch’s music. The metallic currents remain intact throughout, yet no longer can be recognized as the band’s definitive sonic foundation. "I Am the Wooden Doors" and "You Were But a Ghost in my Arms" exemplify these aspects, bitterness and melancholy entwined in cold distance, not in limitation of the music, yet also rendering itself vocally. Hauhgm’s predominately monotone "clean" vocals, used to greater effect here than on past works, portrays the more reflective and thoughtful, yet no less compelling features of Agalloch’s evolution as musicians and individuals. The wretchedness expressed through the bitter vocal shrieks present the agonized emotions vital to the essence of their sound and appeal. It’s a presentation of the struggle between harmony and chaos that is the occupation of human experience. At its core, this a melancholic and bitter work. It is music of autumnal essence and wintry isolation. Yet, unlike previous efforts, The Mantle recognizes tranquility as at least a momentary realistically achievable plateau. Interestingly, however, is that these moments remain relegated to instrumental passages, particularly "Odal", "The Lodge", "The Hawthorne Passage", the expansive instrumental passages of "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion", and "You Were But a Ghost in my Arms". This could symbolize more about the musicians developing as individuals; a reaching for tranquil horizons, yet the desire remains silent within by defenses crafted from worldly threats to the emotionally vulnerable, who are perhaps merely the painfully aware and therefore deeply sensitive and more alive members of a failed humanity.

"…we are the wounds…"

The Mantle is a stark artistic reaction to a soulless modern life within a culture that breeds emptiness and has developed an increasing disregard to the beauty and power of nature. Agalloch have observed in disenchantment the acts of humanity in such a climate and turned their gaze towards the within. In this form, the search for truth in personal meaning, striving for truth within one’s self in a world of deception, is directed towards the essence of the self. This is reflected in the lines "…it washed away in a tide of longing....a longing for a better world…" from "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" and "It is this grandeur that protects the spirit within, from the plight of this broken world." from "I Am the Wooden Doors". The expressive essence of The Mantle is a severe discontent with present cultural conditions of its time, and intellectually formulates itself against this virus in an emotionally powerful portrayal of the will to isolation. However, in the midst of this personal empowering through inner discovery, The Mantle succeeds not in escaping the often cruel effects of human interaction. Desperate and bitter responses to the usual factors of betrayal and abandonment lurk within "You Were But a Ghost in my Arms" and "A Desolation Song".

Indeed, the very existence of The Mantle, and Agalloch itself, depends upon these instances, yet the maturation of these individuals is strikingly clear throughout the duration of this album. No longer entirely consumed with emotional frustrations and misunderstood spiritual complexities, a search has begun for universal meaning while reluctantly acknowledging their existential burden. Consistent with previous works, Agalloch once again express through all facets of their expression a deep appreciation and reverence for nature. The elk statue that graces the cover symbolizes their affirmation in this regard. Through the beauty and splendor of nature, Agalloch have found something to believe in, a vindication for being. As this creature has become something of a mascot for the act, they have found truth and purity in the ways of nature, something to hold onto as humanity apathetically bring to ruin all that was once held sacred by a nobler and stronger people. As mankind continues to technologically progress and the ever-increasing emphasis on social status feeds superficial endeavors, nature has become the sufferer. Agalloch, in their plight to sever themselves from an afflicted species, have wholly embraced what mankind seemingly strives to destroy in pursuit of its own agenda. Thrust into this world on the condition of our ultimate death, we are left to question the meanings, or the existence of meanings, within everything that surrounds and moves within us. We ponder our purpose here and seek to develop higher understandings of ourselves and our environment. Reactions are developed towards the functions of the world, relations with other people and the humbling knowledge that we are ever one breath closer to our last.

Life in this world can be a cold, unforgiving, and bleak journey. We can take what we can from this place and utilize our methods for our own devices, or we can submit and fall in line with the spirit-draining structure of society until we meet our death afraid and alone, blinded in the mysterious facade of warmth and compassion. We can wallow in the misery of life, shroud ourselves in impenetrable darkness and await life's end, arms open as if to embrace the shadows of expiration as a gift of deliverance. We can free ourselves, escape the wretchedness, the pain of living, and the horrors of a new day. The Mantle, even through its grey-spirited dejection and distressed weight, portrays this quest for meaning. The often unbearable conditions of existence cannot be escaped entirely, but we can get through by discovering individual purpose and reaffirm existence through knowledge and affection for truth and beauty. On The Mantle, Agalloch have turned to self-affirmation through social withdrawal and reverence of nature’s grandeur.

The solemn, cold darkness that formed the core of Pale Folklore has expanded into a more panoptic expression. The irreverent storm of vexatious, hopeless pleadings to a pitiless majority are now channeled through sparse chromatic arrangements of a more seamless flow. The elaborate structural formations have been treated with an increased level of patience, giving the musical elements additional breathing capacity. The Mantle is an ambitious, penetrating work. It does not cater to the impatient or to those intimidated by emotionally-compelling, thought-provoking artistic expressions. This is music with genuine purpose, a prime display of a beautifully constructed album possessing the ability to dramatically alter the listener’s mental and emotional state during the listening experience. It is music delivered through a rich collection of visions and intentions, a complete package offering stimulation musically as well as lyrically and visually. The stark design of the package in shades of grey, silver, and black effectively reflects the spirit of this music and lyrics. Each phase of this work flows seamlessly into the next, creating a continuous and comprehensive stream of concept and musical flow which transcends the standard song by song album format. The Mantle is one of those rare musical experiences requiring elimination of surrounding or threatening distractions as well as a willingness on the part of its audience towards emotive and cerebral immersion for its entirety, such is the vast and rich quality of its presentation. It stands as this band's most accomplished and cohesive work.

Agalloch - The Mantle - 100%

ConorFynes, April 21st, 2011

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.

As The Plates In The Mantle Shift... - 86%

rosewater7, September 5th, 2009

My rating of this album goes on a collective average of my ratings of all of the individual tracks on this album. While I could sit and compare the music on this album to other metal bands and rate it based on what traditional metal has been, I won’t. This is not about other metal bands or about tradition. This is about this album and this band.

It has been argued that Agalloch isn’t metal because it isn’t heavy enough, doesn’t express enough hatred, lacks testosterone, is only inspiring if you are looking for a career in taxes and accounting, and so on down the line. I actually find the statements written by one reviewer, about how anyone who likes this album should consider a career in accounting, to be quite humorous. I’m actually good with numbers, I hate taxes and accounting, but I still love this album.

Here’s why I like it. First, I live in Vancouver, Washington, which is right across the river from Portland, Oregon. Tigard, Oregon, which is a suburb of Portland, just happens to be where Agalloch is from. Incidentally, "The Hawthorne Passage” includes a recording of traffic over the Hawthorne Bridge, which runs from west to east Portland. This recording just happens to bridge part one and part two of the instrumental “The Hawthorne Passage.” I don’t know if Agalloch had this in mind, but the Hawthorne Bridge, as well as Hawthorne Boulevard, in Portland are named after the head doctor of a psychiatric institute for the mentally ill. Many other references in The Mantle and other Agalloch albums call up many glorious images of the Pacific Northwest. It is references to landmarks like these which make Agalloch feel like home.

Second, and more important, the music is phenomenal. Of the three full length Agalloch Albums, I find the acoustic guitar work on The Mantle to be most impressive. When I say acoustic guitar work, I mean everything you can do on the acoustic. The album begins with your standard display of acoustic chords in "A Celebration For The Death Of Man…", but there is more to come with "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion", where we hear acoustic finger picking harmonics, acoustic lead guitar, and more acoustic chords. Throughout the album, we hear the exploration of both melody and harmony on the acoustic guitar as well as the electric guitar. Of course, the electric guitar is only faintly audible in "A Celebration For The Death Of Man...". However, it gradually comes out of the woodwork as the album progresses. We hear some very good electric solos in "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion". Then, in "Odal", the electric guitar gradually overpowers the acoustic, becoming a driving force until about the middle of the song where the acoustic takes primary hold again up to the end when the piano creates a little musical finale, which is followed by a blowing wind sound-affect. "I Am The Wooden Doors" follows, crashing with pure metallic force. Well, as heavy as Agalloch ever gets anyway. "The Lodge" gives you a nice acoustic breather before hitting the metallic crash of "You Were But A Ghost In My Arms."

These first six pieces easily rate above 90% for me, because they capture both extreme musical talent and deep emotion. The beauty of the music is moving not just on an emotional level, but on a spiritual level. Listening to Agalloch is like listening to a band operating off of a higher spiritual plain, whose music is performed by a force beyond themselves, which uses the band members merely as a conduit. John Haughm is a vocalist of few words, but when he speaks, sings, whispers, or chants, it is as if he is speaking in tongues, and there is definitely more going on there than just a few words. There is a painting of phantom images, flames, nature, beauty, longing, fear, impending doom, and much more in each piece of music. This is expressed in both the music and the words. I use the term pieces as apposed to songs, because Agalloch’s songs do not begin or end, they are pieces of a greater masterpiece. I suppose this has its inspiration from classical, which consists of pieces of a greater composition as apposed to songs. More on this later.

The first problem I encountered with this album came on track 7, "The Hawthorne Passage". Here is an excellent acoustic and electric composition that would easily rate above 90% if it weren’t for the second half of the instrumental. The first half plays beautifully, and is followed by one of my favorite sections of the album, which is the recording of the Hawthorne Bridge I mentioned earlier. The problem begins when the Hawthorne Bridge gives way to the second section of the instrumental, which is the music itself. For some reason, the music in this section just doesn’t capture me the way that the rest of the instrumental does. This is purely opinion, but I think this is just an aspect of the composition that I don’t identify with in the same way as the rest of the album. I suspect there is an element of humor in this section of the piece, because the tone of this section is upbeat and at odds with the rest of the album. Humor is welcome, but in this case it somehow doesn’t fit. Whatever the case, despite the excellent composition of the first section of this piece, the second section brought my rating of "The Hawthorne Passage" down to 84%. Still, I am very fond of this piece and I highly recommend it to anyone who listens to the album.

Then, there is "...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth", which is the continuation of "A Celebration Of The Death Of Man...". The acoustic chords in track 8 basically pick up where they left off from track 1 and what unfolds is a glorious piece foretelling the end of existence. The album title appears in the lyrics of this piece, which leads me to believe that this piece is not only the conclusion of the larger story of this album, but is also the piece that ties the album together. This track easily rates 92% for me, due to its excellent musical skill, artistic beauty, and its endless ability to capture my interest and emotion. I rate none of these tracks 100%, because there is room for improvement, Agalloch has done better, and because, as much as I love this album, I must give an honest review. However, the high ratings these pieces get from me are not ratings I hand out lightly. There are plenty of songs I love that don’t come anywhere close to the kind of ratings I give to Agalloch’s music.

All that said, let’s move on to the final track on the album, "A Desolation Song". This track is a song of its own and is entirely acoustic. It reminds me of "Half A World Away" by REM, which is one of my least favorite songs REM ever produced. "Half A World Away" reeks of self pity to an extreme that was nauseating. As a result, any song that sounds like "Half A World Away" has that same affect. "A Desolation Song" does just exactly that. For this reason, "A Desolation Song" rated 42% on my scale. This killed the average rating of this album for me. Without this final track, the album would have averaged a 92% rating from me.

As I said earlier, The Mantle is not Agalloch’s best album, but it isn’t its worst either. Further, despite the fact that it isn’t its best, it is still an outstanding piece of work. It is also the album that introduced me to the band. I was first captured by the music, then the unique vocals. Finally, I had to study the lyrics to get a bigger picture of what Agalloch is about. Truly, they are captured by the beauty of nature, the search for truth, and the warnings of mankind’s impending doom. However, Agalloch isn’t just a message of words, it is an experience that is powerful, moving, mind altering, and leaves me as a listener filled with awe. The first few times I listened to them, I would have described them as nice to listen to, but the deeper implications of the music took hold the more I immersed myself in their work. The layers of Agalloch are so thick, that I am still taking each piece of each album apart and studying the meanings and the musical talent. Creative is an understatement.

As for the statements that this is not metal, I beg to differ. While metal is not classical, it gets a great deal of inspiration from classical in its structure. It is one of the reasons that metal bands produce songs and pieces that last over ten minutes. Lead solos performed by metal guitarists are inspired by classical, as well. That said, there are more styles of classical than there are pairs of underwear in my drawer. Therefore, with the classical elements of inspiration that weave their way into metal, there are going to be multiple styles of metal, particularly progressive metal, that are going to sound entirely different from each other. Agalloch is merely demonstrating this by bringing new styles of metal to the table. Just as not all classical is from the dark ages, not all metal is driven by hatred, screaming, blood baths and machine gun guitar playing. Agalloch is a progressive metal band, which means they are evolving, and they make no secret that they employ other styles of music, such as neo classical, folk, and various forms of rock. This allows the band to demonstrate their abilities as genuine, because the listener gets to hear what Agalloch can do even without the boost of electronics. It is said that to master the guitar, you must first master the acoustic. Agalloch has more than demonstrated they can do this. They also demonstrate they can perform their music on any instrument put in their hands, which is more than I can say for a lot artists out there.

Agalloch has also been accused of lacking sincerity and lacking energy. I also disagree with this. I think the quality of the music speaks for itself in saying that this band is very sincere about what they do. Further, I think their music demonstrates that they could care less about what’s popular, and care more about the integrity of music as an art form. I also think their music demonstrates their hearts are genuinely in what they do, and what they produce is an honest representation of what these gentleman stand for.

Agalloch is not for everyone, but even if it isn’t the style you are looking for, they are undeniably good at what they do.

The Musical Equivalent of Waiting in Line - 15%

LordOfTerror, April 3rd, 2009

I generally enjoy atmospheric music, but there's a difference between creating a calming atmosphere and just idly plucking at instruments and halfheartedly singing a few lines of music. Apparently, Agalloch have not have learned this lesson, because The Mantle is a boring, half-assed attempt at "atmospheric" metal. This album has the atmosphere and passion of a high school math class-that of indifference and routine. The band went through the motions of writing an album, but forgot to inject personality, passion, atmosphere, or anything of note whatsoever.

The excitement starts off with A Celebration for the Death of Man, which is a pretty standard album intro. It moves from there to the overlong In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, which is 15 minutes of my life I'd like back. The drums keep a steady, generic beat, while arpeggios are plucked on an acoustic guitar with power chords being strummed on the electric. There's a solo towards the end of the song, which sounds like something out of a guitar exercise book. This song never goes anywhere, it kind of just sits there. Yawn. It's barely metal. Metal should have some power behind it! Even other atmospheric metal bands, such as Burzum, have some fucking energy, some passion, SOMETHING to make their music more interesting than paint drying.

Things pick up a little bit with the fourth track, I Am the Wooden Doors. It's actually, truly metal, black metal no less, with tremolo picking and all. Who would think that this band has the energy for that! Don't get too excited, though, it's basically castrated black metal. No anger, hate, passion, or emotion of any sort is evident on this track, just like the rest of the album. This is, sadly, the closest to a standout track this album has.

The rest is pretty much the same as A Celebration for the Death of Man. Grey, soulless half-metal. This album is the perfect sound track for filing a tax report, clipping your toenails, or mopping the floor. Anyone who likes this should consider a career in accounting - if this is interesting music to you, accounting will be like skydiving without a parachute while injecting pure adrenaline into your eyeballs. For the rest of us, this album will make suicide seem like a desirable act - at least you when commit suicide, something HAPPENS. Unlike The Mantle.

Nothing short of dark, and breathtaking art! - 100%

brentondig, February 26th, 2009

I give this album 100% because, of the folk/black/doom Metal genres this album encompasses, it stops at nothing to deliver the best of all three. The Folk influence is apparent from the beginning of, "A Celebration For The Death of Man..." to the end of, "A Desolation Song", yet the dark atmosphere delivered by the black and doom metal influence is always a constant throughout each track. This album sends you to a grim and desolate landscape the whole time you listen. I rarely cut this album short when I listen to it. The Mantle reads like a story from start to finish.

The highlight of the album has to be, "In The Shadow of Our Pale Companion". Fourteen minutes and forty-five seconds of bliss and beauty from start to finish. The song is primarily an instrumental, I have trouble describing it's greatness. You really have to hear it and experience it for yourself. An atmospheric masterpiece, for lack of better words.

"Odal" has to be my second favourite track from the album. An instrumental, complete with ambient noise beginning and ending the track, electric guitar as the primary voice, accompanied by acoustic rhythms seething their way through you as you listen. Towards the song's end, a dream-like piano expresses the final mood of the song, sounding very lost, yet it could not have been used better in the song. "The Lodge" would be the song most similar to "Odal" on this release.

Other songs do possess the brutality found in most black metal music, and the influence can truly be felt. The main examples would be, "I am the Wooden Doors" and "You Were But A Ghost In My Arms". If you're looking for a definite black metal influence, these are it. "I am the Wooden Doors" opens with brutal double-kick drum beats akin to something recorded by early Emperor.

Each track on this album blend together like a dream that never ends. If you're looking for an album full of lightning-paced riffs, you're looking in the wrong place, however, if you're a fan of black metal or any other metal, really, The Mantle is definitely worth your time. An emotional ride from beginning to end, really, full of agression, peace, and desolation. Musically, The Mantle is a very diverse album, a must-listen (and purchase) for many!

Like background music,only more so. - 58%

caspian, December 24th, 2008

I’m not entirely sure how to view this band; their latest album was painfully average, the fans are up there with Tool and Opeth fans in terms of annoyance and pretension and they’ve garnered a lot of fairly undeserved praise. Plus hipsters can’t get enough of them. Despite that, though, they’ve always had a relatively unique sound -doesn’t mean the band is good, but I’ve always felt that striving for uniqueness is admirable, regardless of the end result - and they seem to have a knack for catchy and well thought out arrangements, even if the results are sometimes fairly average (though Pale Folklore was decent enough). This one has some pretty good moments; some of the longer tunes are pulled off with aplomb. However Agalloch don’t really manage to transcend themselves here, and while this is certainly better then the Coldplay love that’s AAGT it’s not particularly interesting.

Two things that the average listener will pick up straight away is that the guitarist needs to lay off the chorus effects and the vocalist needs to be replaced. Considering that the rest of the album has some rather polished production the clean guitars are really horrible; no bass and some really grating upper mid boost. Really thin and permanently irritating, basically. It’s a strange problem that these guys have always had; it seems that they actually like this type of guitar tone, which to say the least is a very puzzling thing. Those who’ve heard Agalloch won’t be all that surprised by the vocalist’s sheer average ness; however his clean vocals sound a lot more pubescent then in the other releases, and his whisper/scream vocals.. Man. AIDS in audio format- and both occasionally get some use at the same time. I hear that dual scream/sing vocals have replaced water boarding and other various forms of torture in Guatanamo; far cheaper and a lot more effective.

Vocals and guitars aside this isn’t too bad but suffers from the usual Agalloch-isms. Some of the tunes are pretty cool; "Pale Companion" is a really long tune that changes things up a fair bit; it’s a pretty entertaining tune with some rather cool guitar lines. Indeed, it‘s actually a rather good song, and it‘s probably my favourite Agalloch tune. Lyrics are shit, though: I sat down by a river/And sat in reflection/Of what had to be done (Wow!!!). "Odal" is a pretty decent attempt at some post-rock, and "Wooden Doors" has some amusing and competent Bergtatt-ripping, though it’s nowhere near as good as the original, and it‘s kinda sad that a 17 year old Garm sounds way manlier then the Agalloch vocalist. Yeah, some of this is pretty decent- the acoustic solo in "Great Cold Death…" is a real tasteful, melodic thing that many a band would love to have.

But the Agalloch-isms quickly suffocate any brilliance. For every relatively interesting bergtatt worship/post rock/epic track there’s three typical Agalloch tunes. Folky and a bit doomy, maybe a pinch of meloblack metal, long and graceful, sure, but boring as all hell; it’s well written but there’s never any sort of cathartic element to it; the songs just come and go in a pleasant, vaguely-atmospheric haze. Put simply: boring, bland, blathering, babyshit (as in, of a consistently smooth texture, and made by people who are still breastfed).

There’s a palpable lack of emotion throughout the whole thing; I’m not expecting the dude to get all screamy or anything but damn, does the vocalist- and every other band member- sound bored. I have a feeling that it may be due to over producing this (they might pull it off live, I dunno), but man, even the black album is more emotional then this album. No feeling at all. The arrangements don’t help- competent but for the most part safe and boring. There’s so many bits where you think that if only these guys were a bit more risky and dramatic- less stuff accompanying the acoustics, slightly heavier climaxes, better use of drums, a sense that these guys mean it- then it would be a great album.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a horrible album. It’s better then Ashes…, and while it’s only good in a few places it never gets bad or anything; it’s just mostly spent being all inoffensive and pleasant. Good in a few spots + Not terribly offensive anywhere else = a decent enough rating. Can’t really see any need for anyone to own this, though; those looking for the most inoffensive "metal" they can find will be better suited for Ashes Against the Grain, and everyone else would be advised to ignore this band and get Ulver’s Bergtatt instead.

A Desolation Album. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, May 28th, 2008

Arguably one of the most celebrated bands that isn’t in the core of the mainstream, Agalloch have long since established themselves. Their name has been etched in stone forever more and will never be extinguished, no matter how good or bad the material of tomorrow is. The present state of the band is positive. Although there have been some complaints that Agalloch aren’t ‘metal enough’ to feature, the bands reputation is improving on an already solid foundations. ‘The Mantle’, along with the other Agalloch albums, is considered a great victory in the eyes of the modern listener. Why? It’s fusion of genres has not been done so well … Ever? May be so. The cries are that Agalloch have developed a highly experimental sound which is bound to produce some shocks every time a new record is released. This experimental sound is a risk that the band have chosen to take. There are those who will enjoy it for what it is and those who will ridicule it for not being what it should be.

The confusion over the genre of the band probably hasn’t helped boost the reputation of this Oregon outfit, but nevertheless, it still is steadily improving. All this despite the fact that Agalloch have been around for some time now, though it seems like yesterday that we were all being blown away by the mammoth sound of ‘Pale Folklore’ which produced one great noise of adoration and produced a following of people not usually common with metal bands, or bands associate with the genre that don’t step into the mainstream. I suppose, over time, Agalloch have become more and more mainstream. I, personally, don’t consider this a band thing. To me, Agalloch’s sound has always taken on a natural sort of progression, as opposed to a forced progression into completely the wrong direction. I could name a few examples of where that has occurred, but that wouldn’t be relevant.

Stepping into the limelight that being in the mainstream brings is, in itself, a risk. Why? Well, whilst the mainstream aspect of music is totally different to the underground, there are certain unwritten rules by which a band must follow. It goes without saying that the band must be loyal to the people who first supported them. Their music must stay ‘true’ to their support. Although progression is allowed and expression is applauded, the bands sound mustn’t stray into the grey zone, where so many bands fall into once they’ve broken into the big time. The grey zone is an area which signifies that the band have developed an uncanny ability to appeal to the masses based on what is popular at the time to the drones who buy anything and everything with some sort of gimmick.

Comparisons to Opeth, a mainstream band, are rife. You can’t hear the name of Agalloch without having it compared to the music of Opeth, whom I don’t rate anywhere near as highly as I do this band. Apparently, they have a similar taste for acoustics. Whilst both bands do happen to use them, that, to me, is where the comparisons begin and end. So, on with the Agalloch material, shall we? As previously stated, this particular Agalloch piece is littered with acoustics. The debut wasn’t as musically diverse as this, and that is truly saying something. Agalloch have always been about exploration in sound, but ‘The Mantle’ takes that to new levels. The acoustics are one part of it that indicates to me that Agalloch have made some serious efforts to change their style.

The changes applied to ‘The Mantle’ may be small, but they are significant. The acoustics add a beauty that the previous album, ‘Pale Folklore’ didn’t explore much. In a sense, you could compare the avant-gardé style of Agalloch to that of Norwegian legends, Ulver. Whilst Agalloch are yet to drain out all the aspects of their music which associate them to metal and begin to sound more like an electronica act, the bands do share some similarities. On the earliest Ulver albums, the music was fixated on the idea of creating beautiful, sweet sounding songs filled with acoustics and clean vocals.

‘The Mantle’ is beginning to show us, the audience, that Agalloch have the potential to drastically change their sound from one album to another. Although the sounds that Agalloch have conjured up here aren’t entirely different to that on previous albums, those small differences are decisive. The change in production, for example. ‘Pale Folklore’ graced us with a murkier sound, which suited the atmospherically diverse album. ‘The Mantle’ is more focused than the previous effort. It’s more conscientious towards it’s audience due to the fact that the songs are now played over a much clearer and cleaner production style. Whilst the music on ‘Pale Folklore’ was accessible, it is much more so here. The use of the synths can be appreciated more due to the clean approach. This new and fresh sound suit’s the clean vocals that accompany it. Whilst many people seem to have a problem with the vocals, I don’t. I like them. Whether we’re talking about the harsher vocals, or the clean one’s. I like them both. I believe they match the style fairly well.

Whether we’re tasting the sweet sounds of the acoustics, the vocals which are sung in a clean voice are capable of playing alongside the sound without any problems. Also, if we’re treated to the older Agalloch methods of double bass pedals and tremolo picked riffs, then the rasps suit that style superbly too. Although ‘The Mantle’ isn’t as good as the previous effort, it’s still a good album across all fronts. The bass is strong, producing a subtle sadness beneath the more awe inspiring lead guitars, which play a mixture of riffs. That includes twin riffs, which are well executed. The drums are dynamic enough to suit the needs as well. The majority of the aspects present on this album are good, especially the atmospheric nature of it, but there are too many filler tracks. Usually situated next to each other, it seems.

Everything else is ashes on the floor... - 99%

CursedFuneral, May 27th, 2008

At this point it may be somewhat cumbersome to put forth more accolades unto this already highly acclaimed--both on this web site and throughout--masterpiece. Though, after being aurally ensconced for the umpteenth time while still being able to feel the power of this album no less than when the writer first heard "...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth," it is felt that a debt of gratitude is owed to this album.

Agalloch is a continuously developing band, but nothing they have released prior or after this album has recaptured the essence this album possesses. While similarities both obvious and subtle abound, this album is in it's own right far more than just a follow-up to the dark and brooding "Pale Folklore," as it is far more than just a very worthwhile predecessor to the heavier and more electric "Ashes Against The Grain." To release another album of this magnitude is a daunting task in and of itself, as perfection such as what is contained here has little room to expand, compounded by fact that four years separates this and "Ashes Against The Grain," which of course is ample time to allow a high degree of progression and style change. Of course, the aforementioned album was certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but "The Mantle" is, in the writer's opinion, unquestionably the zenith of their already astounding musical journey.

The album opens with the somber introduction "A Celebration for the Death of Man..." Having an introduction on an album is a gamble to begin with, because with a plethora of albums in this genre, the introduction is little more than a minute of "ambient" noises which do not serve the purpose(s) of giving the listener an idea of what is forthcoming or setting up an atmosphere which the following tracks will continually build on. Without accomplishing one of these, many times an introduction will be nothing more than an unneeded, isolated track which contributes little if anything to the overall quality of an album. Fortunately, "A Celebration for the Death of Man..." achieves both and quite superbly. This dreary little introduction begins with an acoustic passage interspersed with light yet immensely deep percussion. After a minute or so, an electric guitar enters the mix, striking a chord or two, as well as the percussion intervals shortening and a sound effect somewhat reminiscent of water flowing down a drain--though it is doubtful that was the intention--ensues. Overall, a brilliant introduction to set the melancholic, woodsy ambiance for the forthcoming epic gem "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion," as well as for the remainder of the album.

"In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" is the next song, and clocking in at a bulky 14 minutes and 45 seconds, is the longest of the nine tracks on the album by over three minutes. Does this length at all detract from the overall quality of the song--or album? Certainly not, as this song undergoes numerous changes in the sound, and contains everything from a section involving nothing but the same 3 strings being plucked on an electric guitar, to a section where the snare drum is the only thing separating the track from complete silence, it even briefly revisits the passage of "A Celebration For The Death Of Man." Lyrically, this is not painstakingly complex, nor is it simple to where thought is not needed to make an attempt to understand them. In simple terms, this song deals with the relationship between nature and god, perhaps a central theme to this album. The result of the multitude of style changes as well as the sheer quality of each section of the song--both individually and as a cohesive unit--"In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" could have been a three-part track, as was both on "Pale Folklore" with the magnificent "She Painted Fire Across the Skyline" trilogy, and on "Ashes Against The Grain" with the similarly high quality "Our Fortress Is Burning" triad. Just as well, this song would have been no less satisfactory were it a solid 30 minute track, as the use of repetition and change are both exemplary enough to allow it without it becoming a dull, droning and tedious nor becoming an inconsistent, direction-lacking mishmash of sound changes. Indeed, this track flows so smoothly, even to where the end of "Pale Companion" and the opening segment of "Odal" share the same thunder effect, thus rendering it as difficult to tell where the latter begins. Is this a bad thing? Most definitely not, as it is just one among many peculiarity that highlight just what a cohesive unit this album is.

"Odal" is the second of three instrumentals to be found on this album, though it sounds nothing like "A Celebration..." Where the aforementioned track served the purpose of establishing the forthcoming atmosphere, and basically just performing the basic duties of an introduction, "Odal," in contrast, completely submerges the listener in the already somewhat established atmosphere. There is still similarities with this and the opening track though, as "Odal" incorporates the same formula used in "A Celebration," with the guitar being significantly louder than the percussion, but the effects in this track are nearly at the volume of the guitar, rather than fading into the background. There are no lyrics to consider with this track, but the atmosphere speaks for itself. There is no hope or optimism whatsoever to be found in this track, with nearly eight minutes of majestic melancholy consuming the track, from the opening seconds of thunder to the finishing gusts of wind. Whereas in "In The Shadow..." there was considerable variation in the overall sound, "Odal" utilized repetition to a greater extent, but done in a satisfactory manner. This song, unlike the previous tracks, would not have the effect of a smooth transition into its forerunner, "I am The Wooden Doors." It becomes immediately clear that said track will not follow the formula the beginning of the album has used. This song contains far more percussion than what has been heard thus far, and the bass drum acts as a primary ingredient for the first time. Once again though, the use of repetition is exemplary, while there are enough sound changes to prevent this from becoming a burdening, unwieldy track. While early Ulver is clearly an influence to this band, it is none better displayed than on this track, as this is in the vein of one of the calmer songs on "Bergtatt," but needless to say, far from being a mindless derivative. "I am The Wooden Doors," just like "In The Shadow..." are the only two songs to be sandwiched in between instrumentals. Following the fourth track, the album steers away from the more heavy and instrument-laden sound and returns to what was established in the first two instrumentals. "The Lodge" opens with the sound of a person presumably walking toward a lodge somewhere in the woods, with the snow briskly crunching under said person's weight. Following that, a calming acoustic passage is played repeatedly, with a orchestral string sound complementing the passage. Another similar-sounding acoustic passage is then played, later to be interspersed with a cello, and ends with the same effect which the first passage contained. As with "Odal," this further serves to enhance the already established atmosphere, though this instrumental piece has an entrancing quality not so much possessed within the other two.

"You Were But A Ghost In My Arms" comes next, and is clearly another Ulver-influenced tune. The majestic, sad feeling that was culminated in prior tracks has been lost at the arrival of this track, as it contains far more of the electric guitar, percussion without the hollow tone experienced in previous songs, and a combination of vocal styles. Utilized within are Haughm's clean vocals, whispering vocals, black metal style shrieks and even spoken word. Variation abounds in this song, both in terms of the vocals and the instruments. As a result of this variation as compared to the other songs, this acts as more of a standout track, though a welcome one. While this song tends to deviate from the others, it is the lyrics which render this as an equally important segment of this powerful album, in particular:

Though tempted I am to caress her texture divine
And taste her pain sweet, sweet like brandy wine;
I must burn these halls, these corridors
And silence her shrill, tormenting voice

While the overall subject could not be less ambiguous, it is the use of such metaphors, personification and other writing techniques that require the lyrics considerable attention. Absolutely brilliant, though I'd have preferred this particular section of lyrics to have been sung in Haughm's clean voice, rather than in the more spoken type voice he had chosen. The song continues to alternate from lighter to heavier sounds, as well was with the type of vocals used being alternated. Deviation or not, this song deserves praise on it's own merits. The next track, "The Hawthorne Passage," begins with a guitar passage similar to that of previous tracks, but as a result of the use of percussion and the increased speed at which the passage is played, the melancholy that was once conveyed is lost, but soon to return as the song changes direction. Rather than the Ulver influence though, this clearly displays the genius of Pink Floyd, at least during the beginning-middle section. Near the middle of the track, a wind gust sound effect acts as a separator, with the remainder of the track once again utilizing repetition in a notable manner, though with little difference from what has been done in earlier songs, though still as important. The track is, for the most part, an instrumental, only with two clips from films (the Swedish "The Seventh Seal" and the Mexican "Fando y Lis," to be specific) serving as the lyrics. After the nearly 12 satisfactory minutes contained in "The Hawthorne Passage," the true gem of this album awaits. "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth" begins with an acoustic passage with less speed and upbeat quality than was found in the beginning of "The Hawthorne Passage," but with more ferocity than the numerous other acoustic passages found throughout the album. This passage is repeated through two of the three sections of the lyrics, at first only with the percussion accompaniment and then with more electric guitar sounds. Following the second section of lyrics, an interesting but well fitting guitar interlude dominates with electric strumming occupying the background. This then progresses into a section which consists of hollow sounding drums and string sounds, which does a very admirable job building up to the return of the passage, though the second time the passage contains more ferocity than the first time. Certainly a highlight of the album, let alone the song. Again, the lyrics deserve an honorable mention on their own merits. While lacking the complexity in which"The Hawthorne Passage" contained, the lyrics in the grand scheme of things may perhaps be the most fitting to accompany the atmosphere this album has evoked. The first section and third section are nearly the same, describing the same occurrence, only with a progression in time. The aforementioned sections are sung cleanly, whereas the verse in between them is stated in a whispered shriek. The last set of lyrics gives way to the same passage that "A Celebration..." and briefly "In The Shadow..." contained. The perfect way to end such a majestic song.

Even if the next track, "A Desolation Song," had been omitted entirely and the album began and ended with said passage, this album would still have been no short of perfection. Nonetheless, the final track acts as a fine closer. "A Desolation Song" begins with a feeling of despair felt throughout the album, but the feeling is heightened with the use of the mournful string sounds. The song continuous with a hopeless, strained whispering vocal style, as well as another acoustic/electric guitar interlude. The opening the line "Here I sit at the fire" gives this song a reminiscent quality which is maintained throughout the song, as it becomes clear the character is drinking and remembering what had happened in the past. What may briefly capture the listener's attention is the the line "...forget about useless fucking hope." Once again a gamble had been taken, as the use of such a word may give off the impression of angst-ridden juvenile bantering or nasal emo whining. Rather than that, the word slightly enhances the message of the song, adding a slight touch of anger to complement the prevailing depressive tone. The song takes that direction for the remainder of the song, up until the final seconds, when the only sound is another gust of wind and the wooden bang as heard in "The Lodge." An excellent way to close this musical journey through the cold, bleak, snow-covered forest.

Top 3:
1) "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth"
2) "A Desolation Song"
3) "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion"

"Darkness and silence, the light shall flicker out."

Another of Agalloch's masterpieces - 97%

Unaslayer, April 22nd, 2008

I find it very hard to name a favorite band. I discover new things all the time, and music which I thought to be the crowning achievement of civilization in the end may inspire no more than yawns and a feeling of mediocrity. I must have listened to Agalloch’s “The Mantle” more than a hundred times, and this album has yet to bore me. If I can call any band “my favourite”, Agalloch is probably the top contender. Words can’t describe the originality and beauty of this band, you really do have to listen to it yourself, but I will try.

What makes them so special? Well, everything really. They’re most often referred to as “folk metal”, but that tag is so misleading I don’t like to use it, as Agalloch are in a category in their own. Folk metal evocates either the over-the-top, epic brand of Viking-inspired metal or a bunch of drunk guys slapping on their guitars with a fiddle or violin making up catchy melodies. Agalloch are neither, their sorrowful folk mixing excellently with slow, melancholic doom and black metal influences often appearing in some guitar riffs and the vocals. The music here is not about hooks and making the music stick in your head, it is about surrounding you in an atmosphere of sadness and magnificence, taking you through bleak, snowy forests, admiring and worshipping nature and escaping from the oppression of modern society. Nothing is a better testament to this than Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on the CD, “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship”, and that is exactly what Agalloch are achieving here, strong imagery of rivers and forests coming through both in the lyrics and the music.

The music is essentially very similar throughout a song, the same strummed chord being played over and over, while other instruments slowly pile on to an epic climax. A certain passage may start with a simple acoustic guitar, and instruments will be added on top of it, first a drum beat, then an electric guitar and sometimes even a cello, slow enough to relax you but never enough to bore you. It will drag on for some time until the sound is released as the singing comes in, exploding into a huge chorus. Some of the songs, however, are relatively upbeat: “I Am the Wooden Doors” opens up with a fast double-bass drum before a sustained riff in the style of black metal kicks in, the song having much more prominent growled vocals, unlike the rest of the album which is mostly cleanly sung. One might thing such a heavy song after one of the calmest, “Odal”, would upset the flow of the music, but it manages to weave in extremely well, as does the rest of the album, flowing from track to track very seamlessly and there never being a moment in the music where the general atmosphere is disturbed.

One major improvement from their debut is the excellent production there is here. Long gone is the gritty, subdued sound from their “From Which of This Oak” demo, or even “Pale Folklore”, their debut LP, which is replaced with something worthy of the music: acoustic passages are clear and powerful, the distorted guitars are heavy but rich and full and the drums are loud enough to be heard but never end up overpowering the rest of the music. The vocals are excellently mixed as well, the black metal shrieks sounding natural but effectively showing the pain they are meant to display, while the clean singing is nothing short of epic and beautiful, oftentimes rising above the instruments and uplifting the listener. Lyrically, “The Mantle” is astounding, both the bleak and the vivid of nature coming through the lyrics. They lyrics are centered about nature, but through it Agalloch explore human nature, religion, death and depression. Thankfully, their lyrics are far from emo, showing a sophistication that would make emos commit suicide, imagery of nature being used as symbols for the feelings expressed. It’s extremely hard to put into words what the lyrics portray: it’s beauty, grief, melancholy, grandeur and whatever else you can think of.

“The Mantle”, in short, is a masterpiece of modern metal. I have yet to find a band which has a sound similar to Agalloch’s, since they take in influences from so many genres: black, folk and doom metal, drone, post-rock and shoegaze all find a way into this album without breaking it up. Inspiring, beautiful and majestic, this album represents Agalloch maturing into the innovative band they have become today.

A Bleak Journey for Cloudy, Cold Days. - 96%

woeoftyrants, April 5th, 2007

While Agalloch's debut Pale Folklore certainly was a hard one to follow up, the Portland outfit pulled through without scathing by introducing several new elements into their signature melancholy, catatonic sound, and becoming all-around better writers and musicians. This album is a bit more experimental and progressive in nature, and forgoes some of the band's heavier terrain.

Unlike the nighttime winter feel of Pale Folklore, The Mantle introduces a more bitter, almost modern feel; fear not, though. The organic tendencies of the band are in even more full swing here than on the debut album, and it actually benefits the band since they're not redoing anything they've already accomplished. This "vibe" I speak of has a very detached feel that makes me think of bleak, cloudy days in small cities; this is illustrated clearly in the album's layout, which features various monochrome photos of downtown Portland's statues, and the members in natural settings of the city. It also shows a natural progression of the band, who have now introduced parts of their personal lives into the music. "The Hawthorne Passage" uses various soundclips of cars passing over a bridge and Native American language, while "The Lodge" uses recorded samples of a person traversing through heavy snow. Haughm's lyrics have grown more introspective, and focus on nature and mankind's relation to it more than before. Feelings of loss and desolation are still rampant though, as illustrated on "You Were But a Ghost in My Arms," which is one of the few tracks that keeps the formula of the debut album fully intact.

So, other than the atmosphere, what's so different about this album? Pretty much everything. The majority of Haughm's vocals are now clean, and he has an excellent voice. In a way, it's almost monotone and deadpan, but soothing and emotional at the same time. It takes some getting used to, but "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth" and "You Were But a Ghost in My Arms" are some of Haughm's best performances yet. Many ranges of clean vocals are used, and even layered in a tasteful way. His other vocal style used is still seen frequently, and sounds clearer and more bitter than that of the first album.

The guitars are now an entity of their own in the music; no more of the Katatonia influence is prevalent, and the post-rock sheen has now blossomed into a main aspect of the band's sound. Acoustic guitars, either strummed or plucked, serve a major role here; rather than the occasional flirtation with folk music, the gloomy acoustics serve as a purveyor of recurring themes. The opening instrumental features a line that is repeated not just in several songs, but well through the album's duration for a wholesome and emotionally draining experience. Strummed chords often resonate behind clean or distorted electric guitars as a background instrument. Also, the electric guitars have progressed healthily since the debut, are more sophisticated, and now serve as a canvas for atmospheric experiments. Various riffs and solos are soaked in effects that bring the grey feel of the album to fruition, though it's usually along the lines of reverb or echo to give the music a more distant feel. It could be the wailing, painful solos in "In the Shadow of Pale Companion," which features one hell of a sweep at the 12-minute mark. Or maybe it's the familiar feel of shimmery clean arpeggios, as seen on "Odal." Regardless, there's a new artistic edge at work here with the guitar department.

Alongside natural artistic progressions, there are also new elements to the sound here. There are many bristly, rusty mandolins to speak of, mainly in "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" and the harrowing acoustic closer, "A Desolation Song." Other odd little experimental tidbits come in: an ancient-sounding hand bell on "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion," doom-impending brass on "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth," electronically programmed percussion and bells, and a deep, barely detectable contra bass and ebow throughout many of the compositions. Everything melds together in a vast artistic scope that lets The Mantle stand apart from anything else in this corner of music.

Production has improved superbly since Pale Folklore, thankfully. With the intricate scope of this music, it would be impossible for this album to succeed without a clear, crystalline, and organic production. This is especially noticeable with the drums, which seem to have more power behind them, thanks to deep toms and a pounding snare sound. The experimental touches jump out at the listener, and there's plenty of ear candy to be found on subsequent listens.

Some things from the debut still remain intact, though; mainly the sense of wholeness given off by the flow of the album, since every song leads to the next by means of ambience and soundscapes. There are still some damn good heavy moments though, especially "I am the Wooden Doors," which would fit perfectly on the band's debut with its mid-paced double bass, dark romantic lyrics, and folkish acoustic breaks ala Ulver. Nothing comes off in a rehashed way, though; it's all fresh and full of vibrancy.

While certainly different than the debut album, undoubtedly "lighter," and not as immediately likeable, The Mantle stands as one of the best metal-related albums to emerge in recent years. You owe it to yourself to at least give this album a chance.

A Solemn Journey That Will Leave You Breathless - 100%

Fear_Shining_Yrael, February 11th, 2007

The Mantle is an album that goes beyond any positive adjective you could readily apply to such a masterpiece. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt and album with no parallels or rivals. This is the most beautiful album ever recorded, and I honestly don't think there will be another this awe inspiring in many, many years. Not to seem like I'm a "deep" individual, but this album is honestly so beautiful I have trouble with expressing how incredible it is. Before my discovery of Agalloch in August of 2006 I had never felt an emotional bond with an album. But then someone sent me this, and my musical prefernces changed forever.

The Mantle is a masterpiece. There isn't much else I can say about it. Every song is an instant classic, and even the near fifteen minute epic In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion remains a solid, atmospheric and overall tear jerking experience every time you hear it, over and over again. The instruments featured are very minimalistic, and very simple and often somewhat post-rock sounding, but composed superbly and everything supports each other, and harmonizes the atmospheric effect and then when you throw in John Haughm's raspy, blackened vocals and his very powerful clean singing voice in it, you get an affect that will literally stun you utterly speechless. The production is also very well done, and everything sounds absolutely perfect.

There are a few instrumental tracks on the album, and each is distinctly unique and seems to be a separation in the different chapters of their journey through a retrospective view of Nature. It seems to me that they have set it up so that A Celebration For The Death Of Man... is an introduction to their world with the rest of the songs only further expanding on the ideals of their holding Nature to the highest degree of reverence.

I simply do not see how some of the reviewers below gave this a failing score. In my opinion, this album can do no wrong, and Agalloch deserves high praise for creating such a beautiful work of art. Get this album, and any other albums of Agalloch that you can find. I recommend this album to everyone who likes any sub genre of metal or rock period.

Pure brilliance... - 99%

t_, July 30th, 2006

Oh yes! I didn’t think it was possible, but Agalloch’s second full-length release in ‘The Mantle’ is just as impressive (well, almost) as its predecessor, ‘Pale Folklore’.

Agalloch have decided to go down a more rock-ish path in this release, and, as a consequence, should not be labeled as metal. If I was told this before listening to the album, I may have been put off, but let me assure you that it isn’t a problem.

Agalloch do not perform anything exceptionally technical or fast in their music, so instead they rely on their songwriting to bring out the brilliance in their music. Most of the instrumental pieces are beautiful and highly atmospheric and consist of slow acoustic strumming, rather hypnotic drumming and sometimes an acoustic solo or black metal riffing.

Production-wise, ‘The Mantle’ differs greatly to ‘Pale Folklore’, with a crisper and clearer sound. Almost half of the tracks on the album are instrumental and the other songs have lengthy instrumental sections, allowing the listener slip into a relaxed state with ease.

In my opinion, the only fault worth noting on this album is the seemingly inane vocal sample that is used as an outro to the song ‘The Hawthorne Passage’, but even that isn’t enough to take away too much from this album.

My favourite song on ‘The Mantle’ is the 15 minute epic, titled ‘In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion’. This has to be one of the best songs I have ever heard, if not THE best. Uplifting yet sorrowful, tremendously epic, genuinely beautiful, highly atmospheric… I find that basically everything in this song in near perfect. Don Anderson, Agalloch’s guitarist, even said that this is the most ‘representative’ Agalloch track in an interview. I must say that this album should not be listened to track by track; this album needs to be listened to as a whole and with full dedication to get the intended effect.

If you are looking for material in the vein of the older Agalloch albums, then there is a chance that you will not enjoy ‘The Mantle’. Fans of the early Ulver albums (especially Kveldssanger) should love this work for the similarities that the two bands share. In a way, I believe that Agalloch may be what Ulver would have become if they kept to their folk roots. This release would also appeal to anyone who is looking for a rather unique, progressive and atmospheric album with abundant use of the acoustic guitar.

Inspirational and Innovative - 90%

SlumberOfSullenEyes, July 26th, 2006

Agalloch has accomplished what few bands who operate within the realm of "metal" are capable of doing. With "The Mantle," they've proven that it's possible to write a metal album that gets enormous praise without actually using that much typical metal aesthetic. It's surprising that save for two songs ("I Am The Wooden Doors" and "You Were But a Ghost in My Arms"), acoustic guitar is the dominant instrument here. The vocals, while occasionally loud and aggressive, are usually a subdued, whispered growl or a droning singing voice. It is important to note that nearly half this album is instrumental, yet for the most part remains equally interesting throughout. The post-rock and neo-folk influences are here, but contrary to what other reviewers have stated, I don't feel they are all that prominent. (It is in Agalloch's soon-to-be-released-but-widely-leaked album Ashes Against the Grain where these influences become very apparent). But on "The Mantle," it mostly sounds like they've listened to Ulver's "Bergtatt" quite a bit, and then decided to take it one step further in the acoustic direction.

For many bands this could a recipe for disaster, but for Agalloch it works. Everything that sounds odd and out of place at first eventually becomes beautiful and essential to the music. John Haughm's whispered growls have an eerie and mysterious quality to them, and his droning clean voice can be downright hypnotic on pieces like "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth". In terms of the songwriting, layering seems to be the name of the game. Acoustics are often accompanied by subdued electrics to provide heft to the compositions, while a classical acoustic guitar is brilliantly used as a lead instrument (see the first 2 minutes of "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion"). The melodies are remarkably simple yet dazzingly effective throughout. In fact, for most of the album, the composition is based around one or two of the same chord progressions. It is pleasantly surprising that such simplicity rarely becomes overbearing or boring (although there is some occasional dragging). The lyrics are phenomenal, and "The Mantle" succeeds more than most albums in terms of the close atmospheric relation between the music and the words.

Despite the odd choices to achieve such an end, "The Mantle" comes across as a metal album in spirit and in atmosphere. The fascination with nature and paganism that is so common among Northern European bands is (finally) manifesting itself in American band successfully, albeit not to the point of ethno-fetishism like Finntroll. The few aggressive sections of the album sound refreshingly genuine and natural. One can feel the tension and anger of the "I Damn this Oak!" section of "You Were But a Ghost..." and in the spiteful whispering of the mandolin-and-accordion dominated closing piece, "A Desolation Song."

There are two main issues that prevent Agalloch from scoring a perfect 100. The first is something that is rarely touched upon by any review of "The Mantle" I've read so far, and that is the amateur-ish and messy drum work. While this issue was corrected on the latest Agalloch release, here it can be quite distracting at times ("The Hawthorne Passage" sounds a lot more stiff than it should, for instance). The second is that if one is not in the right mood, the instrumental songs on "The Mantle" may seem less interesting. This is not an album for those that value technical virtuosity over atmosphere and composition, nor is it for black metal traditionalists, even if that is ultimately what this music is based on.

In nearly all other respects, Agalloch's "The Mantle" is a solid exercise in uniqueness and innovation, and will likely prove to influence many metal bands in the future to push the creative envelope.

Traditional excellence - 93%

Axonn, May 6th, 2006

As I write this, I'm sailing through "The Mantle" for yet another time. I listened to this LP countless times and I will continue to do so for many more times, that's for sure. Is this enough to tell you that it's a music worth buying? It wouldn't be enough for me. So I'll go ahead and continue to explain exactly why it is.

"Pale Folklore" was ok. I liked it especially for the wonderfull "She Painted Fire Across The Skyline". But this album really tops everything. It's a real masterpiece of guitar instrumentals.

For me, Agalloch is the absolute best Metal band ever in terms of guitar and traditional instruments. Agalloch really learned to do an excellent composition without using modern synths or keyboards. They used all sorts of innovations in Metal which you can hear all the way during "The Mantle". The album is interestingly layered, switching from instrumental songs to songs with vocals. Except the last two songs which both feature vocals, after each instrumental song you will find a vocals song. The instrumentals-only are: Celebration For The Death Of Man, Odal, The Lodge and The Hawthorne Passage. I wouldn't have expected such a sound to hail from the U.S.A. but alas, it does and by no means is this something bad.

Last but not least, another reason for which this album is a masterpiece is because it actually has a melody which is an amazingly almost 15 minutes long and it doesn't bore you. These guys are really good in composition and this is a well structured and well built album. Moody and depressing at times, inspiring at other times, but yet always in the same tone and spirit. A record with a rare unity and quality. The vocals aren't something to wonder at, but 1. they do the job excellently and 2. they're original enough not to be cliche. "The Mantle" makes me hope that Agalloch will continue their career, 'cause they make some really excellent music, I assure you.

Beautiful, but incredibly overrated - 65%

Sean16, May 1st, 2006

Credit has to be given where it’s due, so I’ll give credit to Agalloch for having created, with their two full-length albums to date, something somehow unique in metal history. This band’s work is indeed slightly hard to describe more precisely than by the utterly generic name of “atmospheric metal”. These slow, majestic, epic tracks, with a strong emphasis on acoustic elements and “natural” sound samples, can’t certainly fully qualify as doom metal, and even sometimes can't qualify as metal, but if it’s not metal, what is it then? Folk music this isn’t really either, even if this album, like the previous one Pale Folklore, is dedicated to the glorification of nature and native North-American culture. No, once again Agalloch music has no real equivalent.

But let’s face it, this doesn’t prevent this album from being overall particularly EASY.

Creating his own style is one thing but writing creative, surprising and attention-catching songs is another, and that’s where The Mantle fails in my opinion. This album gets old very, very quickly. Once the first moment of surprise and amazement at the external beauty of the music is gone, one begins to realize that the band actually always use the same formula all throughout these nine LONG tracks: the atmospheric, sometimes doom-ish electric guitar / bass guitar / drums background, on top of which is stuck the overwhelming acoustic guitar and sometimes the vocals – though this album exhibits huge instrumental parts, four tracks, almost half of the album, being indeed totally instrumental. Add to this a slight touch of keyboards and the aforementioned sound landscapes, and you don’t really have much more to know.

The occasional vocals sound less aggressive than on Pale Folklore, consisting this time mostly in clean singing, while the vocal lines don’t really differ from one song to another, and above all seem to surprisingly lack of any passion, except maybe in You Were But A ghost in my Arms, when Haughm wonderfully spits his curse, following a long soloing part, in what may be the peak of the album – I damn this oak! And I damn her sorrow! I damn these oaken corridors, that bear the ghosts of those I’ve thrown away! – The song, alongside I Am the Wooden Doors, is easily the best here, being precisely livelier, more aggressive and to sum up more memorable than anything else.

The remaining tracks are just dragging on, for the most part. Granted, there can be occasional variations inside the songs, particularly in the epic In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, but the overall SOUND remains terribly identical, what I can’t really explain, though I suspect the acoustic guitar from being mainly responsible for it. Add to this the fact that some parts are shamelessly repeated all along this release, the best example being the instrumental The Lodge which is a carbon copy of the intro of And The Great Cold Death Of the Earth, including the wailing contrabass, and you’ll begin to understand that the record suffers from intense monotony syndrome. Of course, you can pick almost every part of it and you’ll hear the same majestic, beautiful and appeasing atmospheric music, but the problem is, you’ll precisely hear the SAME music: same tempo, same vocals, same acoustic guitar, what makes this work almost impossible to listen to from the beginning to the end without falling asleep.

Pale Folklore, without being an ultimate masterpiece, was superior to this release because of the more inspired songwriting, the occasional touch of female vocals which added some variety to the songs and overall the more striking style (though the band has never been and, I guess, will never be renowned for its raging aggressiveness). If you want to be introduced to Agalloch, you’re advised to get that one instead.

Highlights: I Am the Wooden Doors, You Were But a Ghost in my Arms

A Bleak, Frostbitten Folksy-Metal Journey. - 100%

IcemanJ256, October 30th, 2004

If you happen to be looking for a CD with the best instrumentals you’ve ever heard (easily enough for an entire full length instrumental album), interesting soundscapes, unique vocals, and mixtures of genres, you found it. The Mantle is a mixture of so many different elements. Shoving it into a certain category would not possibly describe where it would take you. There are lots of acoustic and electric guitars at the same time, which makes for an interesting sound. In some parts of the album 3 guitars are used at once, and the use of upright bass is nice and something you don't hear too often. The guitar work seems very inspired by folk music but with a dark twist. The songs are quite long with mostly instrumentals that shroud you in the beautiful, haunting atmosphere. I usually think of snowy and cold landscapes often while listening to this CD, It is really more exciting to listen to it in late fall or winter. And prepare for a long CD - Over 70 minutes of music here. And it is definitely something to listen to all at once, listening to one song is more like hearing 1/9 of a song for this album. I can definitely see the comparison to Sol Invictus and Ulver, that’s where they get the folk inspirations and vocal style from. Godspeed you Black Emperor? Yes, some inspiration comes from them, the soft instrumentals and climatic points.

In this CD, the vocals are mostly clean unlike their first release. Haughm has one of the most unique and best singing voices I’ve ever heard, very dark and calm, yet powerful and majestic. There are still harsh raspy black-metal style vocals, which are also done well and fit the mood well, but this is not really black metal at all. When those types of vocals are juxtaposed to a soft acoustic strumming, it is a wonderfully unique experience that you won’t find it much other music.

The CD starts out with a nice introduction with acoustic guitars and transforms into the 15-minute epic "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion." This song’s vocal arrangements, singing and screeching overlapped right on top of one another, sounds quite good. The same acoustic strumming is repeated for a while and continues through the vocals and the first epic, frostbitten solo. There is a break in which another acoustic loop is played, which then slowly transforms into what I think of as the climax of the song. It’s kind of like the chorus but is only played once. The song quickly shifts into a different theme with adventurous, rudimental marching-band style drumming (it sounds perfect when you hear it) and continues on and on, until it slowly fades out.

Next comes the incredible instrumental track "Odal" which just sends shivers down my spine every time. This is probably the best instrumental song I’ve EVER encountered, in any CD, in my whole life. It is made with mostly crystal-clear strumming acoustic guitars and shifting, electric guitar riffing in the background. It has more rudimental drumming, layered, magnificent, enchanting guitar playing, majestic climaxes, an incredible, surreal, imaginational atmosphere, and a soft, echoed piano outro. This song could not be more perfect. The addition of vocals would possibly ruin it.

“Odal” slowly drifts away until the double bass of “I am the Wooden Doors" tears the atmosphere apart. This is probably the most aggressive song on the album. It has heavy drumming, fast and heavy guitars, and screeched vocals. If you’d like this CD more for the folksy acoustic guitars and breathtaking instrumentals, this will most likely be your least favorite song. But if you listen carefully there are still the folk-inspired acoustic guitars underneath all the chaos. Then the song suddenly falls apart into a short but marvelous acoustic solo with two guitars and nothing else, and goes right back to the heaviness like it never happened.

"The Lodge" really gives you the feeling of venturing through a snowy forest, with its "deer antler" percussion and sounds of someone trudging through deep snow. This is another chilling acoustic instrumental track and did I mention I love the use of the upright bass.

"You Were But a Ghost in My Arms" is an emotionally grim song with poetic lyrics and mostly harsh vocals. Haughm’s vocal melodies are mind-blowing and extremely powerful with the singing, yet dark and forbidding with the screeching. This song contains some of my favorite lyrics ever. They contain so much imagery and might as well be poetry. “Like snowfall, you cry a silent storm / Your tears paint rivers on this oaken wall... / Amber nectar, misery ichor... / cascading in streams of hallowed form...” This song is pretty heavy too, but surpasses almost every other metal band in terms of being inventive with the song structure and painting an amazing atmosphere.

That song fades out and "The Hawthorne Passage" begins with a short acoustic intro and then starts off quickly with the same melody with finger-tappingly good drumming. This is a 10-minute entirely instrumental track, and keeps shifting themes throughout the song countless times, with upbeat parts and more relaxed parts. It also includes some samples: some talking and some sound effects to add to the environment.

"And the Great Cold Death of the Earth" is probably the most accessible or most memorable song, and certainly more upbeat after hearing the vast song before it. It is catchy, has mostly singing, and a basic song structure, still with all the Agalloch goodness included, of course. The bridge in this song even has some trumpets, and also uses upright bass, which sounds spectacular. It contains the exact melodies found in the first short instrumental track, and ends with those melodies just like how it started with them. That would make a perfect ending for the album but there is still another song that establishes an even better ending.

And finally we have "A Desolation Song", a very sad song but a good way to close the album. It uses some unique instruments such as the mandarin and accordion, soft half-whispered vocals, and some straightforward acoustic strumming. For the rest of the album I usually think of being outside in a snowy or at least cold environment, maybe in a forest or a mountain at times, but for this song I picture going into a dark log cabin after a long day out in the cold and relaxing by the fire and drinking something hot. The ending has some cold wind blowing over a sad acoustic solo.

This CD could get you interested in a lot of other bands and is very interesting itself. I can't get enough of it. Everyone should give it a try if you like music with a unique feeling and a lot of talent. Most people would probably not even classify this as metal and I agree, it is quite far away from what most people think of as metal. There is a good combination of harsh and clean vocals, it has a nice variety, and combines many different genres together and forms them into the band's very own unique sound. I’ve had this since the day it came out (a bit before it came out actually), and I consider it my 3rd favorite album of all time, surpassed only by Agalloch’s other full length album and one Opeth album. Agalloch has really helped broaden my musical taste and shape it into what it is today. And after all this time there is still more in this album to discover.

there are things i like better than this, yessir - 41%

Cheeses_Priced, October 7th, 2004

The End Records’ online catalog/website has spared both me, the reviewer, and you, the consumer a bit of trouble with their blurb about this album: “The Mantle is a grand multi-dimensional opus of 70 minutes featuring their melancholic metal with post rock and neo-folk elements. References range from Pink Floyd, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sol Invictus, Ulver, Dissection, Fields Of The Nephilim and more.”

No, I don’t know what a “multi-dimensional” opus is either, but the list of influences at least is pretty accurate (well, the Dissection mention does seem a little random). I wonder if the band provided that list or if it was just the copyist’s best guess?

Anyhow, as you may have gathered, this album hasn’t got an awful lot to do with metal, for the most part. It’s often not terribly difficult to guess what band or style of music Agalloch’s attempting to be influenced by at any particular point – at points it sounds like the band’s trying to namedrop purposely. They’re apparently above committing to any particular genre label, and yet… not so far above that they’re not deliberately mixing and matching genres. They take a pinch of this and a pinch of that, juxtapose it with something else, throw in a touch of dynamics, meanwhile presenting it all with as much of a sense of sophistication as they can manage and tying it all together with easy-on-the-ears hooks.

Even the harshest parts tend to resemble bands like Ulver (see above), In the Woods, Katatonia and the like – metal bands that were in turn very heavily influenced by rock music themselves (and incidentally, bands that I generally don’t care for). This is a couple of degrees of separation away from any sort of straight metal, in my opinion.

And what of it? Well, I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing greater dynamic or aesthetic range on metal (or “post metal”) albums, so I appreciate the band’s efforts in that regard. I like acoustic guitars, for instance. Most neo-folk guitar playing I’ve heard tends to sound a little thin to me, but still, steering away from chainsaw distortion seems like a smart move to me. The psychedelic effects and ambient sounds are very much up my alley – I consider nearly any attempt to alter perception by a piece of music to be welcome. Lengthy track lengths are no grand innovation, of course, but still, it seems a logical choice for a band so concerned with atmosphere. I also like the way they’ve downplayed the vocals in favor of instrumental passages, and although the singer sounds a little weasely to my ears, I like the fact that the band’s thrown in some real singing alongside the rasps.

So, all of that’s well fine and good. Unfortunately, this all tends sound a great deal better on paper than it does coming out of my speakers.

Now, the music’s basically listenable, there’s nothing wrong with the musicianship and the production’s fine. But… it does remind me a little too much of the sort of music I got into underground metal to get away from in the first place. Not just underground metal, actually: pretty much every kind of music that I listen to (much of which is not loud, if you were wondering). This is “normal music”. It reminds me of why I can’t usually listen to post rock bands with a great deal enthusiasm… in spite of all the experimentation and knowingness and detached cleverness, they’re still stuck sounding like, well, like a rock band. And working inside a rock framework, with all the cleverness and knowingness in the world will give you maybe… Radiohead or Tool, on a good day. “Clever” as all hell, but musically inarticulate and ultimately empty. A dead end.

One of black metal’s better points was the way it managed to be both artistic in spite of being thoroughly nonacademic – it was primal as fuck and rather silly but nevertheless articulate, and managed to blow off or ignore most of what makes radio music sound like it was poured into a mold before release.

But it seems to be a continuing theme, especially recently, that the bands in the “metal scene” most frequently praised for their artistry and creativity are the ones who back away from the murkiness of underground metal and move back towards the mainstream’s idea of what artistic music sounds like. Personally, the “diverse influences” on this album are not in and of themselves worth a lot to me, nor is the putting on of sophisticated airs via acoustic guitars, whispered vocals et cetera. It’s all clever enough, but often my general impression is that depth and profundity are not so much qualities possessed by the music as veil it’s attempting to weave or a façade it’s attempting to put up. It has window dressing that evokes a sense of artistry. This is a quality commonly referred to as pretentiousness, I believe…

There’s really only one song on here that I really enjoy, that being the second track, “In the Shadow of our Pale Companion”. At 14:44, it’s the longest song on the album – I think a couple of reviews that I read mentioned Godspeed You Black Emperor! as a specific influence here, which seems fair. Not really a massive GYBE fan myself, but somehow this song just adds up right to me. It has more of a natural flow than the other songs on the album, with a somewhat multilayered feel in the way the various musical elements are introduced and the way that they play off of one another. It’s not quite all that I would hope for – it does feel a tad directionless to me at times, and I don’t like the singing – but there are some great melodies, and compared to the rest of the album it leans a good deal more towards my personal tastes.

There are echoes of what I like about that song all across the album, at various points, but never in a really high concentration. A great part will be set up, but instead of building on it the music will segue away into nothing, or the vocals or a rock solo will come in and cheapen the feel. And then there is some straight rock/black metal hybridization like “You Were but a Ghost in My Arms”, which I just have no love for at all. All over the place I find myself wishing they’d draw out the melodies a bit longer and quit segmenting the songwriting – you know, integrate everything a little more cohesively, because as it is, it often sounds like a series of related digressions, lined up one after the other.

But I’ll spare you any further rationalizations… the truth is that I like the idea of this album but when I put it on I forget I’m listening to it. It really seems like it ought to be better.

A fucking great atmospheric masterpiece - 100%

Ciriuz, April 18th, 2004

Not much needs to be said about this album. I could just write "a fucking great atmospheric masterpiece", give it a good score and submit it. But I won't, I'll try to into detail instead.

Agalloch - The Mantle is a fucking great atmospheric masterpiece. The sound is very unique, mixing folk, doom, black and atmospheric into something ungodly.

Half the album is instrumental. No, about 75% of the album is instrumental. About every other track is instrumental, and the songs with vocals are 50%+ instrumental. It's not a technical wankfest a la Liquid Tension Experiment though. No, the instrumentals parts are either slow, moody acoustic strumming with matching drum beats, sometimes with a clean, melodic, sometimes acoustic solo played over it, or distorted, atmospheric, black-metal-ish riffing. The drumming is mostly slow-paced, atmospheric black a la Burzum, with some very interesting beats at times.

The vocals shift between harsh and clean. Haughm's harsh vocals are some of my favorite black-ish vocals. I can't really place it, but there's something about them that makes them really fucking great. They are neither too low nor too high. They have a perfect level of raspyness and are not too brutal.

The clean vocals are pretty weird. For some reason, they make me think of snow. Endless mountains covered with snow. But that's just me. They do add to the depressing mood of the album though. Haughm hits all the right notes in the right octaves. He just sounds weird while doing it. Sort of like a guitar with a chorus pedal.

The last song, "A Desolation Song", is very different from the rest of the album. The vocals are whispered, the song is all-acoustic guitars with a harmonica being played over them. It has an acoustic solo after the first chorus that sounds a bit odd. "A Desolation Song" has a very dark, depressing mood though, and the lyrics about a guy who apparently wasted his life on drinking and lost his love fit the mood as well.

The highlights on the album are "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion", "You Were But a Ghost in my Arms" and "The Hawthorne Passage". The first one is an epic masterpiece (about 15 minutes) that has... well... everything. Atmosphere, nice guitarwork, great vocals. It starts out very slow, but builds up. The second one is my favorite song. It alternates between clean, slow, atmospheric acoustic bits and distorted black-ish riffage. The third one is one of the greatest atmospheric instrumentals ever made. It's very powerful and has a very dark mood.

In conclusion, I'll just say that this is a fucking great atmospheric masterpiece.

What beauty has been bestowed upon me!!!! - 91%

WitheringToSerenity, March 19th, 2004

Agalloch is one of a few select bands that defies easy categorization. They have certainly taken full advantage of this on The Mantle. The Mantle without a doubt is one of the most unique albums I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. An amazing blend of some of the most atmospheric distorted rhythm/lead, clean and acoustic guitars you will ever listen to. What is most amazing is how Agalloch virtually ignore keyboards, violins and synthesizers, which many atmospheric bands depend on too much for atmosphere. It might sound cliched but this album really takes you through a journey of some of the most chillingly beautiful music you will hear straight from the cold winters of Oregon, US . Their alternation of clean(almost spoken) vocals and a rather unique scream/growl(not BM scream but comparable) approach does not spoil the music like many bands with guttural vocalists either. Agalloch most definitely possess progressive elements to their music but you would be instantly laughed at if you tried to compare them to other progressive extreme bands (ala Opeth). Don't expect to be overwhelmed with lightning fast solo's here, guitar harmonies on this album are typically slower and it fits the atmosphere very well. This is the type of music that you must listen to with an open mind because I am pretty sure you haven’t heard anything like it. If you appreciate atmospheric metal with an excellent blend of different guitar, talented musicians and most of all some of the most hypnotizing, beautiful (dare say it defies art?) music around give it a try. The rhythm section is not particularly special but it compliments the surreal atmosphere these guitarists create. Production was also vastly improved over A Pale Folklore and overall done quite well on this album. Tracks?

A Celebration for the Death of Man is an excellently played introduction to this album. Its very melodic and atmospheric, shows many of the bands capabilities and sets the stage for this glorious release. In The Shadow of our Pale Companion is one of Agalloch's greatest songs. It takes all the alluring sounds of Agalloch and sticks them in one amazing song. Shows the unique blend of Agalloch's sound creating a surreal atmosphere that could never be imitated. There is too much outstanding work (blended folk tinged harshly beautiful verses etc) to put in this review. One more thing I really like about The Mantle is their how they are not afraid to ignore standards and trends to write a good amount of instrumental work. You would be lucky to find one instrumental on your average album. If only more bands would get the clue of how it can enhance an album... Odar, The Lodge and The Hawthorne Passage are great examples of instrumentals using a variety of clean, acoustic, lead guitars and various sounds to create such an intensely emotional atmosphere. The Hawthorne Passage is particularly brilliant with its addition of a bleak, desolate sound of winter atmosphere incorporated in the middle of the song. The folk influenced acoustic work …and the great cold death of the earth is easily one of the best performances on this album. With lead guitar that makes the title of the track seem very fitting. A Desolation song is exactly that, a memorable acoustic sorrow tinged beauty using the bleak winter wind as an amazing background atmosphere, which was an excellent idea for a closing track. If you are looking for something that is actually “different”, highly atmospheric and defies such predictable modern music I highly suggest you give this a listen.

Peaceful torrent of sorrow and desolation - 96%

HealthySonicDiet, December 23rd, 2003

The Mantle, Agalloch's second full-length release on The End Records, is a truly unique release. Think old-school black metal rasps mixed with folkish guitars a la Suidakra and ambient clean vocals a la Akerfeldt without drugs. Ah, don't sue me for saying that! It's just an expression. I don't know if Akerfeldt does drugs or not.

Anyway, the overall song structures of this album are comparable to Opeth in their smoky acoustic brilliance, but of course Agalloch doesn't mix in death growls. Calling this album metal, even, is stretching things a little since distortion is slim to none and the general aggression is virtually non-existent. What Agalloch does instead is delve the listener into dark pagan merry-go-round soundscapes that whisk the listener into an otherwordly state, becoming one with the music. Like Bjork and Sigur Ros, Agalloch is an excellent band to sleep to. This is not saying that they are a boring band. Quite the contrary. They are quite exciting, but not in the conventional, ass-kicking metal way. It's the stark beauty and otherwordliness that's so exciting about this band, and this album in particular- the way the music isn't just music anymore, but a transcendence into altered states of unconsciousness. The Mantle isn't an album that is meant to be listened to for only a few tracks. It's one of those albums that should be experienced as a whole to get the full effect of it. If you have a burned version of the album, but burned the tracks in the wrong order, it will have a deleterious effect on you as well.

The Mantle consists of arguably some of the most beautiful music in the world. Aficionados of melodic metal with clean vocals will be taken aback when the singer breaks out into a muffled black metal rasp, but I doubt that it will affect them enough to make them stop wanting to listen to it. The 'black metal rasps' of the singer are not evil or foreboding in any way, but rather pleasantly folkish and paganistic, hearkening back to ancient times. What these vocals do is in fact enhance the ambient beauty of the CD, lurking seemingly in the background but still maintaining a strong presence.
Something that does bother me a bit about the album is that there is a lack of aggression and the long songs aren't quite as progressive as preferred.

Agalloch's music isn't supposed to be aggressive, but it would be nice to have some aggressive sections mixed here and there. Whether it would sound good or not is debatable, but I think it might work. Agalloch's acoustic guitar tone is heavenly and is in the vein of Suidakra and In Flames, although perhaps better. What distinguishes this album from many other metal albums is that the acoustic guitar is used almost exclusively. There'a a bit of electronic sound to the guitars during choice sections on the opening track and during certain verses, but otherwise it's very scarce. The true highlight of the album would undoubtedly be track 9, Desolation Song. It's replete with a nonchalant acoustic guitar melody, an accordion, and mystical whispered vocals, which vary in intensity. Lyrically, it is about the poison of love and other related topics. Ah, such a great, moving song. It's so beautiful it may bring you to tears. If I had to sum this album up in one word, it would be BEAUTIFUL. This isn't something I listen to very often at all, but I still highly respect it.

When metal transcends itself, and turns into art. - 100%

BabySchraiberJesus, August 30th, 2003

In my not-so-humble opinion, this is the finest album ever recorded. I've never heard anything even comparable to the power, the beauty, the sheer awe of this album. The first time I listened to it, I was nearly in tears. How these guys can make such amazing sounds from such simple ideas is beyond me.

The music, in a lot of ways, is influenced by black metal, and european metal in general. I was quite surprised when I found out these guys are actually from Portland, Oregon. The vocals are pretty much equally black metal-esque and clean, though I think there's a bit more clean vocals. Actually, if there's anything wrong with this album it's Haughm's clean voice, which is... slightly odd. It takes some getting used to, definitely. However, I can' t say I'd like it any other way. It's very powerful. Haughm is also responsible for half of the guitar parts and, oddly, the percussion. I assume it means that he plays the drums, not that they have a drum machine, as the drums sound real enough. The drum lines fit the songs perfectly, even when they go into a bit of a marching band thing.

A lot of the guitar work is 3/4 acoustic strumming, which is very repetitious, minimalistic, and simplistic, and that's what this album is about. Beauty through minimalism. I don't think any of the musicians would win awards for their technical ability, but the soloing on this album is beyond amazing. Simply beautiful. It's not fast, nor does it seem technical, it just really... tugs at your heart strings, so to speak. A lot of the soloing is acoustic, as well. When they decide to turn on the distortion you get some black metal-esque riffing, not in your face, but to add to the atmosphere. Very tasteful.

The album is put together in an interesting way... with the exception of the last two songs, it alternates between instrumentals and normal songs. The instrumentals are very post-rockish, with one part building up for a while, then changing... the last instrumental, The Hawthorn Passage is one of my favorite songs ever, truly powerful, even without lyrics.

On that note, I'm going to conclude with the lyrics. Normally I don't really care about lyrics, but when an album is perfect, it better have perfect lyrics, too, right? The words are well written, and flow together well, especially the first real song, "In The Shadow of Our Pale Companion", a song about Nature being the real God, aparently. Very, very powerful. "Where is the god... has he fallen?"

This is probably not an album you will immediately understand if you don't know what you're looking for. But you must own it. It is incredible, it is beyond metal, it is beyond music.