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Pure brilliance... - 99%

t_, July 30th, 2006

Oh yes! I didn’t think it was possible, but Agalloch’s second full-length release in ‘The Mantle’ is just as impressive (well, almost) as its predecessor, ‘Pale Folklore’.

Agalloch have decided to go down a more rock-ish path in this release, and, as a consequence, should not be labeled as metal. If I was told this before listening to the album, I may have been put off, but let me assure you that it isn’t a problem.

Agalloch do not perform anything exceptionally technical or fast in their music, so instead they rely on their songwriting to bring out the brilliance in their music. Most of the instrumental pieces are beautiful and highly atmospheric and consist of slow acoustic strumming, rather hypnotic drumming and sometimes an acoustic solo or black metal riffing.

Production-wise, ‘The Mantle’ differs greatly to ‘Pale Folklore’, with a crisper and clearer sound. Almost half of the tracks on the album are instrumental and the other songs have lengthy instrumental sections, allowing the listener slip into a relaxed state with ease.

In my opinion, the only fault worth noting on this album is the seemingly inane vocal sample that is used as an outro to the song ‘The Hawthorne Passage’, but even that isn’t enough to take away too much from this album.

My favourite song on ‘The Mantle’ is the 15 minute epic, titled ‘In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion’. This has to be one of the best songs I have ever heard, if not THE best. Uplifting yet sorrowful, tremendously epic, genuinely beautiful, highly atmospheric… I find that basically everything in this song in near perfect. Don Anderson, Agalloch’s guitarist, even said that this is the most ‘representative’ Agalloch track in an interview. I must say that this album should not be listened to track by track; this album needs to be listened to as a whole and with full dedication to get the intended effect.

If you are looking for material in the vein of the older Agalloch albums, then there is a chance that you will not enjoy ‘The Mantle’. Fans of the early Ulver albums (especially Kveldssanger) should love this work for the similarities that the two bands share. In a way, I believe that Agalloch may be what Ulver would have become if they kept to their folk roots. This release would also appeal to anyone who is looking for a rather unique, progressive and atmospheric album with abundant use of the acoustic guitar.