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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.