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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.