The Mantle
AGALLOCH

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AGALLOCH - The Mantle cover
4.29 | 57 ratings | 9 reviews
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Album · 2002

Filed under Folk Metal

Tracklist

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

Line-up/Musicians

- Don Anderson / guitar
- John Haughm / vocals, guitar, drums
- Jason William Walton / bass
- Shane Breyer / keyboards

About this release

The End records

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AGALLOCH THE MANTLE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Sinkadotentree
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.
Warthur
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.
Triceratopsoil
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
8/10

"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.
bonnek
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.
Any Colour You Like
It would be futile to attempt to describe Agalloch's The Mantle in conventional musical terms. I believe that it is simply not possible to do. For The Mantle is an album of mystery, decadence, darkness and raw power - all wrapped up in a warm folky mood.

The clean, warm acoustic sound is the basis of much of the music here, simple and catchy without being boring or overly repetitive. From this folky base, the band layers a mixture of post-rock inspired guitar tones, beautiful and haunting samples, tremolo picked black metal fury, and a mixture of clean, whispered and growled vocals. Most of the songs are quite long, and focus around an assortment of bleak nature inspired themes. Despite the obviously dark and nihilistic overtones, I would not describe Agalloch's tone as melancholy, it is best described as philosophical and reflective - however it is not sentimental. Agalloch has made no attempt to hide the heathen and pagan themes in their music, and it is prevalent here. The philosophy of the band mixes nicely with the folk metal influences in the music, creating a tangible aura of a lonely fireside reflection.

Several pieces stand out in The Mantle, including the post-rockish 'Odal', the epic 'In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion' and the powerful 'Hawthorne Passage'. The band is adept at mixing their influences into a cohesive block, that sounds both intricate and solid. Nothing strikes the listener as technical as per se, but the lengthy instrumentals drive the progression of the album, morphing from fireside folk acoustics to avalanches of black metal. Haughm's vocals are a pleasant surprise, he is able to supplement to timbre and mood of each movement without sounding fake or forced. His grim voiced vocals mix nicely with crisper sections, and easily complement to tone of Agalloch's compositions. Lyrically, this album is very strong, fusing philosophy and nature inspired pieces with musings on life and hope. In this sense, The Mantle remains a bleak listen, offering enough lyrical depth to keep any serious listener pondering for the whole day.

The real strength of this album is that it is more than simply a sum of its parts. At 70 minutes, it is a lengthy listen that may deter some listeners. But given the right moment, The Mantle is a powerful work that transports the listener into the darkest days of bleak winter. The Mantle is not only a brilliant album, but a personal revelation of sorts. And for that it deserves all the praise it receives. To aptly quote Trickster F, "If this album before me is what you call prog, then prog is not dead".

Essential.

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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