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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.