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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.