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Single-Handedly Got Me Into "Post-Black Metal" - 92%

xpsychoblissx, November 30th, 2012

Let me start out by saying that since I got into the metal genre about 10 or 11 years ago, I rarely heard an unknown band that JUMPED out and me and grabbed my attention. The way Agalloch grabs your attention isn't comparable to how a band like Slayer might grab your attention, though.

A few of the reviews here kind of give you a track by track review, but I'd like to talk more about the atmosphere that Agalloch builds with a great attention to detail. Right from the beginning of the album, the band is already setting the melancholic mood. In "The Mantle", the melancholic mood is either punctuated by a mix of soothing vocals and layered, clean guitars, or by abrasive and crushing distorted guitars. The formula sounds simple enough, but the trick is in the impeccable timing and song writing ability--which brings me to my next point.

I've talked to a few fans of black metal, and when the subject turns to "post-black metal", I almost always suggest they give Agalloch a listen. After I give them a general description of the band, they usually follow up with the question; "Where are they from?". When I respond with "Oregon, USA", their expression turns from wonder, to doubt. Hearing that an "intellectual" band originates from the USA seems like a oxymoron, and most time it is. These guys though, are a definite exception to that stereotype.

Right at the beginning of the album, you're greeted with the track, "...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth". The song has a solid and "hearty" beginning, with acoustic guitars, a slow, driving drum beat, and then...the vocals. The vocals have a smooth delivery, and an almost choir-esque sound, but in the most relaxing and calming way. Things start to speed up with the song "I Am The Wooden Doors", which starts out with a classic black metal drum beat that leads into seething black metal screams.

The instrumentation throughout the album is amazing. On "A Desolation Song", there's an accordion in the mix, and yes; it's done tastefully, without a solitary thought of Weird Al. Later in the same track, there's an acoustic outro that's accompanied by the sounds of wind, and what is supposedly the sound of an elk's skull being hit with some type of bludgeon. It all makes for a great atmosphere, and helps the song on the album flow together beautifully.

I was lucky enough to find my copy of "The Mantle" at Metal Haven (before they shut down) in Chicago used for $5. If you have a few bucks, I highly recommend picking up your own CD. I give Agalloch's "The Mantle" a 92%, and that's only because it only fell short of making me cream my jeans.