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4.41 | 86 ratings | 9 reviews
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Album · 2002

Filed under Folk Metal


1. A Celebration for the Death of Man... (2:24)
2. In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion (14:45)
3. Odal (7:39)
4. I Am the Wooden Doors (6:11)
5. The Lodge (4:40)
6. You Were but a Ghost in My Arms (9:14)
7. The Hawthorne Passage (11:18)
8. ...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth (7:14)
9. A Desolation Song (5:08)

Total Time: 68:35


- John Haughm / Vocals, Guitars, Drums, Percussion, Woodchimes, Ebow
- Don Anderson / Guitars, Piano
- Jason William Walton / Bass, Noisescapes

Guest/Session Musicians:

- Ty Brubaker / Contrabass, Accordion
- Danielle Norton / Trombone
- Ronn Chick / Keyboards, Bells, Mandolin

About this release

Released by The End Records, August 13th, 2002.

Recorded in several separate sessions between November 2001 and April 2002.

Thanks to waiting, triceratopsoil, IMPF2112, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
AGALLOCH took their name from the resinous wood of the aguarwood (Aquilaria agallocha) and on their sophomore album THE MANTLE, this Portland, Oregon based band demonstrates how to let their musical cross-pollinations flow like sticky sap through an hour plus timespan that encompasses a wide spectrum of sounds and styles yet never outstays its welcome. THE MANTLE was a major improvement over the already developed and mature debut “Pale Folklore,” yet the first album was crippled by a lackluster production job that prevented the band’s true atmospheric prowess and uncanny ability to juxtapose disparate sounds in completely logical yet untried manners. THE MANTLE showcased the band in its comfort zone as it gracefully oozed out lusciously strummed acoustic folk guitar chords, electronic embellishments, black metal inspired doom and gloom and post-rock fueled compositional constructs that allowed the music to build to dizzying crescendoes and beyond.

Their first release of the new millennium, THE MANTLE has become one of those must-have albums in any metal collection as it embodies a perfection like few others before or since. Much in the vein of their debut, THE MANTLE tackles a wide range of influences that weave the possibilities of the dark neofolk sounds of bands like Death In June and Sol Invictus with the extra bombast of the metal world in the form of doom inspired riffing dressed up with black metal tremolo picking and shrieked vocals that played tag with clean sung lyrics sometimes resulting in whispered poetic prose. At first mistaken for a Scandinavian band for their use of guitar work utilized by bands ranging from Ulver, Katatonia and Amorphis, AGALLOCH allowed the black metal universe to expand beyond its second wave limitations of the legions of copycats and followed in the footsteps of the innovators that ultimately made them a part of the club that managed to craft a new hybrid of musical innovation.

The album’s signature sound is instantly addictive as the introductory acoustic guitar strumming of “A Celebration For The Death Of Men” demonstrates the band’s ability to create instant ear hooks augmented by subtle changes in atmospheric variation. The track cedes seamlessly into the following monster composition “In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion” which runs the gamut of metal meets neofolk possibilities and not only creates a seemingly infinite variety of subtle changes but demonstrates how the band ratchet up the band’s theme by connecting the tracks into a larger whole, in this case a pseudo-concept about how images can be conveyed through sound. The images in this case are real photos of Portland, Oregon landmarks beginning with the stag on the album cover in a shrouded mysterious blanket of foggy gray and nebulous murky atmospheric detachment. The music perfectly suits the assortment of photos that are included in the liner notes.

THE MANTLE is a slow burner and not one to be listened to in a hurry. This is not what one would deem a headbanger’s type of metal as it seems a vast majority of the real estate is dedicated to dreamy acoustic folk, shoegazy post-rock and hypnotic grooves embellished by electronic wizardry and outlandish production techniques. In fact only on the fourth track “I Am The Wooden Doors” does the black metal inspired fury have domination over the mellower aspects of the album and yet even here, is graced by unorthodox acoustic guitar solos that break in beneath the distorted metal galloping of the guitar grunge. Perhaps another amazing aspect of THE MANTLE is how the vocal harmonics create a whole other level of melodic counterpoint. Not only do the vocals range from the growled, clean, whispered and shrieked but in how they work together to create a larger atmospheric experience.

Sometimes one vocal style will dominate whereas other times clean and shrieked vocals will trade off by ushering in a call and response sort of forum. While many a black metal album’s shrieked vocals are indecipherable, AGALLOCH create almost the most perfect balance of lush melodic musical passages with grainy irascibly charge yet well enunciated periods of black metal magic embedded into the folk dominated soundscapes. The ratio between the sleepy time folk tranquility and the majestic metal heft is meted out in a satisfyingly elegant proportions and while there are points when certain hypnotic post-rock passages appear to be wearing out their welcome, AGALLOCH has a firm understanding of just how far to milk any certain idea before pulling out the rug and taking a 180 stylistically speaking.

THE MANTLE also masters the art of the reprise, that is, simple melodic hooks that are introduced early on and then find their ways back into the mix only with completely different variations but somehow bring the feel of an epic journey where one must revisit past destinations before moving on. In addition to the aforementioned influences, THE MANTLE brings the epic grace of Opeth to mind, especially from albums like “Morningrise” with the brilliant commingling of acoustic and electric elements but also finds epic bands like Pink Floyd-esque guitar solos and space rock feel in “The Hawthorne Passage.” The way that the entire album is laid out evokes a great rock opera and i detect many small touches that remind me of Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” not necessarily in musical delivery but in the compositional posturing and dynamic flow of one track to the next as they incorporate subtle sounds and themes (such as military march drumming and sound samples.)

AGALLOCH found musical perfection on THE MANTLE. All the elements that had been laid out so brilliantly on “Pale Folklore” aligned perfectly on this sophomore release. The album has become a classic in the metal world for great reason. This is one that has the double effect of being instantly addictive yet offers an infinite variety of details to offer satisfying repeat listens. In fact, this is one of those albums i can safely put on perpetual replay and never grow tired of hearing since it conveys such a vast array of moods, tones, textures and timbres graced with a sophisticated production that allows every little detail to shine through the grim, depressive atmospheric displays that permeate THE MANTLE’s post-apocalyptic soundscape. When it comes to a brilliant display of how folk, metal, post-rock and atmospheric ambient sounds are woven together, i cannot think of an example better than THE MANTLE. Just digging this out for a review led me to keep it on replay for several days straight and i’m still awed by it. THAT only happens when an album is friggin’ awesome beyond belief. Yep, THE MANTLE is just that.
This was my first taste of AGALLOCH a few years ago and there were three things that surprised me about this band. First of all that they were from the USA. They have such a melancholic sound i just assumed they were from Sweden, although in hindsight knowing they are from Portland, Oregon a place that gets more rainfall than most cities in North America sort of answers that one. Second the harsh vocals aren't really harsh. They are whispered in a sinister manner which was really different. Thirdly the use of acoustic guitar on a "heavy" album is remarkable. I mean it's all over this record. So yes i found these guys to be unique and very interesting, especially this particular album. I love the term Folk-Metal for this album because it is an apt description. The other strong point about this record are the lyrics especially on "...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth". "The Lodge" is interesting with the sound of someone trudging through snow and then later hearing "deer antler percussion". Lots of atmosphere and more laid back sections on this recording hence the term "Folk-Metal" but it does rock hard at times. These guys were leaders not followers and 4.5 stars is well deserved. A classic.
Using primarily acoustic guitars instead of the electric guitars usually associated with... well, just about every brand of metal you can think of really, but specifically the black metal that Agalloch were previously associated with, the band have developed a compelling post-metal sound. Tapping into the fact that both black metal and shoegaze indie rock make a great deal of use of tremolo guitar, the band craft a strange, folky artifact which exists halfway between the two worlds, and tap into a current which is now regularly explored but which at the time was still incredibly fresh. A classic of experimental, cutting-edge metal.
Widely regarded as Agalloch's masterpiece (not by me, though), The Mantle eschews the largely black metal -based sound of Agalloch's other releases in favour of a more acoustic sound. Straight from the woods, this is the album from which the term "elkcore" was coined. It also has a very post-rock feel to it, which is accentuated by the development of a repeated musical theme throughout the album. The booming tympani adds some power to the music, and overall The Mantle feels like a very deep and emotional affair.

I highly recommend this album to anybody. It's hard to express in words how much this album can affect people.
The Angry Scotsman
I will try to keep this review brief, (probably a welcome relief to my usual style of review!) because words really can not do this album justice. I make no guarantees though!

I will just say this is one of the most unique albums you will hear, and one of the best. The Mantle is an amazing blend of post metal and black metal, with copious amounts of folk mixed in and no shortage of bleak melancholic atmosphere. Indeed, that is the key word here: Atmosphere.

In an odd way, post and black metal are quite alike, in that they sacrifice technicality and musical showmanship for atmosphere. Agalloch has taken the cold, bleak, haunting ambiance of black metal and spread it over the introspective, challenging, and beautiful song structures of post rock, (while never truly conforming to either one). The result is a sound unlike any other, one that is beautiful, bleak, profound and dark.

The lyrics are heavy, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. Honestly dark and crushing, not cliche and goofy. This is deep stuff. It is the final touch, delivered with absolute perfection. Soft whispers to shrill shrieks, deep baritone talking to gravely rasps, and clean singing.

This album is best understood when it is absorbed, rather than listened to. Sit in a forest on a brisk, rainy day. Look at a snowy landscape, lay down in a dark room. Absorb this album. It has touched me in a profound way, that few albums have ever done. At times it has been my escape from society, life, reality. The drudgery's of life, anger, fear and problems wash away like a tide.

An absolutely brilliantly crafted album and rare masterpiece of music.
Conor Fynes
'The Mantle' - Agalloch (10/10)

Agalloch is one of the few bands that makes music that can really move. Sure, there are plenty of bands that make pretty songs, but all too few that can really transport you to another place, and make you feel exactly what the artist wants you to feel. Agalloch is best listened to while walking alone through a snowy forest in the evening. While Agalloch may technically have black metal influence, it shouldn't scare people away, as there is so much more to be heard here.

Although I am a fan of some forms of black metal, it's never really been my thing. However, I can appreciate the objective that black metal aims towards: atmosphere. Classic black metal bands like Emperor never tried to astound audiences with technical-virtuoso playing and shredding; they instead aimed towards creating a haunting sonic atmosphere to give the listeners an emotional resonance. While Agalloch have more to do with folk music than anything else, the attention to atmosphere inherent to black metal is definately seen here. There is almost no skill flaunting here, and everything here would be in the reach of a guitar student's skill to play more or less. However, the way that the simple guitar work is played is beyond compare, and each flowing chord sounds perfect, bringing the listener to an even higher level of musical euphoria.

'The Mantle' is best described as beautifully depressing. There isn't very much of an optimistic sound to be heard here, but more the music of someone that's potentially loved and lost all. These emotions manifest themselves as images of nature in it's purest form.

John Haughm is possibly my favourite lyricist of all time (along with Dani Filth and Daniel Gildenlow.) The lyrics are bleak and emotive without being overly melodramatic. The theme of nature is prevalent in the lyrics as well, which works to give definitive descriptions to the images the band's music tries to create. As a vocalist himself, Haughm definately isn't a technically skilled singer, but that doesn't stop his voice from having a very large (and distinct) presence that compliments the instruments perfectly to the note.

On a personal level, this is music I can listen to when I'm feeling devastated or broken over something, and somehow feel better; simply because I have proof that I am not alone in feeling these emotions. It would be absolutely impossible to write a work like 'The Mantle' without a large amount of sentimental dedication. Through their pure sincerity of voice and perspective, Agalloch has created a beautiful work here, and is something that is yet unparelleled for it's style.
Phonebook Eater

"The Mantle" is a fine masterpiece of Folk Metal.

Agalloch are one of those "progressive" metal bands that are sort of essential in any fan of the genre's library, even though they aren't a progressive metal band. "The Mantle" is the essential Agalloch album, the masterpiece of the band, for many people. I tend to believe it's only a tad better than the also wonderful "Ashes Against The Grain", but this last one doesn't have the importance of "The Mantle", historical and personal.

For whoever isn't familiar with the Folk Metal tag, this album is exactly what Folk Metal is: a mix between harsh metal riffs, Black Metal shrieking alternated with clean vocals, and folk elements, that in this case is the acoustic guitar, which is very much present. The production and sound of the album is a little muddy at times, especially in the drums and some guitars, but you obviously assume it was intentional, and it probably was. But in the end, it doesn't matter at all, because the songwriting is always excellent. Agalloch are band that likes it simple, the melodies are not too intricate and the musicianship is not at all virtuous. The structure of their lengthy pieces however is much more complex, and definitely gives a pretty strong progressive tone to the music. The acoustic guitars are the clue element for the album's sound, as they are the main thing for a lot of the songs: the electric guitar and the heavy riffs are simply giving aggression as a rich addiction to the nucleus.

However, Agalloch are like many Black Metal bands: it's not about being progressive, it's about being atmospheric. They point at atmosphere constantly, but that still isn't what this band is all about. Agalloch want to depress, they want to be extremely emotional in their music, and succeed in a way that only a few bands were able to. Every single note is extremely evocative, depressing, but also extremely beautiful and haunting. This is a band who wants to give it's audience the beauty and melancholy of bleak nature, they want to truly evoke a snowy landscape in the middle of a cold, but completely white forest,gazing at the nature in absolute silence, with such a heavy weight in the heart, that you would come to a point where you question your own existence, which, compared to such beauty, is nothing.

The structure of the album is solid, but very rigid and precise: there is a precise alternation between instrumentals and sung songs.Starting with the sung ones, "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" in it's epic fourteen minutes in length, is certainly the most evocative of all Agalloch songs, and absolute masterpiece that moves in a way that I never thought was possible. "You Were But A Ghost In My Arms" is another long, but still beautiful song, noticeably more aggressive and somewhat less depressing, but almost just as good and haunting.The half ballad "And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" is another magically beatiful highlight, easily the most emotional and touching of all songs here. Among the instrumentals, we still have great, evocative moments: "The Lodge", with it's constant, strange sample echoing through the entire song, has become a classic for the band, and the epic eleven minute "The Hawthorne Passage" is a heavily progressive influenced piece, not because of the music itself but because of it's flow and different themes. The last song of the album breaks the rule of the alternation, and is a whispered song, "A Desolation Song", which is definitely the song that I liked the least, it never does anything to me.

"The Mantle" is the essential winter album, the essential Agalloch album, the essential Folk Metal album. This album under many points of view can be considered important, not really for being innovative, but for being extremely passionate.
I first landed on planet Agalloch with their superb album Ashes Against The Grain. The Mantle offers an earlier exploration of their ambient grey metal sound. It is a good album that you will want to seek out if you like extreme metal with an ambient twist. However it suffers from a number of shortcomings.

I miss the flawless integration of the two faces of their sound. Some tracks like the opener and Odal are just extended ambient pieces and represent their ‘white’ side, others songs like I Am the Wooden Doors characterize their ‘black’ side and are run of the mill black metal that countless others have done more effectively before them.

The two components of their sound only meet on a few occasions as on the marvellous You Were But A Ghost In My Arms. Here they create something entirely personal that, by lack of another genre this band would fit in, we could tag ‘grey metal’.

A second flaw would be that while most tracks are surely meant to be epic and narrative, they mostly fail to build up to anything and end up too long for their own good. The Hawthorne Passage is an example. It has a few good ideas but never develops into something that surpasses the bits and pieces it is forged from.

While I sure appreciate what Agalloch attempted to achieve here, their ambition was somehow defeated by the inadequate execution.

Members reviews

The Truth
One of the only metal with growls releases that I absolutely love and find a masterpiece.

Agalloch pulled out one heck of an album with The Mantle, the atmospheric, lush and dense sound they have on this record really go along with the sound Agalloch was trying to accomplish: walking through a dark forest.

The birds sing and the thunder rolls and each time a branch moves you jump in alarm. That's what this record is and that's why I love it. Something in how the band plays on this album really takes it to a different realm, one that is far better than alot of music I've heard.

Five stars with no shame, one of my favorite metal albums.

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