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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.