Review Summary: An amazing folk metal album. Unique on every level if you are looking for something different go out and buy this now.
I think I was sold on Agalloch even before I heard them. The idea of a metal band with heavy folk influences sounded too good to be true. Although I had never heard Agalloch I was not hesitant in the least to spend ten dollars on one of their albums. After all the amount of praise they received from people who listened to them was very convincing. So without any hesitation I went to Itunes and downloaded The Mantle
. I look at this as one of the smartest music investments I have made.
Right away I was impressed with The Mantle
. The opening track “A Celebration for the Death of a Man” featured tympanis, which I found to be a very enjoyable addition to the song. The Mantle is full of folk influence. There are many heavy folk influenced instrumental tracks, nearly half of the songs on the album. Many tracks seem to flow together and be a part of the songs that precede them. An example of this is the way the opening track and the second track “In the Shadow of our Pale Companion” appear to be one song within themselves.
Aside from the tympanis there are many other unique instruments thrown in. In the song “And the Great Cold Death of the Earth” we have what sounds like a cello used in sections of the song. Acoustic guitars are also used a lot throughout The Mantle
. Acoustic guitars are even mixed in with heavier sections of the songs. Talent is also very apparent in The Mantle
. There is a great amount of creative guitar picking you do not hear anywhere else. Agalloch is for sure a unique band.
is an album with a lot of atmosphere in it. This album gives off the feel of being on a snowy mountain in an old lodge. I personally believe this is exactly what Agalloch was going for. Between the snowy album cover and the cold feel of the music this album is one of the best for setting a scene. And for some this may seem like an unimportant feature, but for me I really enjoy it when music gives you an image of what the song is about. The lyrics in The Mantle
seem to tell a story. Although songs seem to be about separate events everything in the end seems to tie together.
Aside from the great imagery and innovative instruments The Mantle
proves to chocked full of great songwriting. Agalloch proves most in this album that they really are like no other band out there. We have everything you could want in this album, from soft and haunting instrumentals to heavy and melodic songs. Although you can tell the album is definitely Agalloch songs never repeat themselves. With songs like “You Were but a Ghost in my Arms” is a haunting beautiful song we have unique tracks like “A Desolation Song” which is almost like an Irish Folk song. The Truth is The Mantle
is unlike any album I have ever heard.
As well as the musicianship the vocals really show off here. John Haughm’s vocals at clean are soft and a bit nasally, managing to fit in with the softer moments perfectly. Unclean vocals on this album also prove to be high quality. On harsh vocals John uses a higher scratchy scream which outmatches most screaming vocals. I even know people who do not usually like unclean vocals who can find themselves getting into Agalloch. And while some bands do not sound good blending heavy and soft it proves to be no problem for Agalloch. Without awkward shifts in songs Agalloch stays heavy and soft all at one seemingly at the same time in some songs. Overall this album is the perfect blend of soft and heavy without anything out of place.
Drumming also has a lot of talent behind it. In the track “I am the Wooden Doors” we have a double bass opening that sounds very nice. Aside from that drumming also keeps a perfect beat and never disappoints. Bass also has a good back to it but may be the weakest instrument in the album. I am not saying that the bass is terrible by any means but I guess I was expecting more activity. Sometimes it can be hard to hear the bass and it isn’t anything spectacular, yet it isn’t something so bad that it made the album less enjoyable.
Let me just say if you have a short attention span this album is not for you. If you do not like it when there are not vocals in songs this will probably boor you. On the other hand if you like innovative, chilling and one of a kind music this is just perfect for you. Like I have said even if you do not like heavy music you will most likely have no trouble getting into this. The music gives you an image and is my favorite folk metal album I own. If you like metal/folk/rock or good music in general I highly suggest this.
Favorite Instrumental Song
-The Hawthorne Passage
This is one of my favorite instrumental songs ever. It opens with some noise and hits into this really cool guitar line with an extremely neat effect. The song is about 11 minutes and gives the feel of traveling through a mountain passage. For an 11 minute instrumental the song never really drags and it quite catchy in some sections and calm and soothing in others. There is also some interesting percussion here and there. All together this is without a doubt the most standout instrumental track on the album.
-In the Shadow of our Pale Companion
This is the longest song on the album. It also happens to be my personal favorite Agalloch song. It opens up with a memorable yet simple guitar line and goes into some really good high noted strumming. There is more unclean vocals than the average Agalloch track here yet it still manages to be very melodic. And for a 14 minute track “In the Shadow of our Pale Companion” never gets boring. If you want to get into these guys check out this track and if you like it you will surely enjoy this whole album.
+The perfect blend of soft and heavy
+Gives off a lot of feel
-Due to the many instrumental tracks this is not for someone with a short attention span
-Bass was a bit lacking
Final Rating 5/5