Agalloch
The Mantle


5.0
classic

Review

by ManaYoodSushai USER (8 Reviews)
July 7th, 2013 | 21 replies | 1,986 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Agalloch masterfully transport you into another world, The Mantle...

8 of 8 thought this review was well written

The Mantle, the second full length from Agalloch, is nothing short of a master class in atmospheric folk metal and indeed atmospheric music in general. This album transports the listener into another world full of desolation and disparity, a place close to death and void of life, The Mantle. The album artwork conjures up an image of a remote, forgotten tundra, and is perhaps the archetypal setting of the secluded wilderness that The Mantle is meant to represent.

The first thing to note about the album is that it is an experience you can fully immerse yourself in, with tracks blending into one another which helps sustain the incredible atmosphere this album creates. The atmosphere is defiantly tainted with strands of ancientness, and has a ritualistic and natural influence, but most prominently it would be the remoteness that fully stands out, and this can be confirmed with such lyrics as “forgotten landscapes” and “here on the edge of this world”. Album opener, “A Celebration For The Death Of Man…” starts the ball rolling in majestic style, with a grandiose acoustic riff featuring a beautiful chord arrangement. In many ways, this riff sums up The Mantle, as it returns as an outro to the second last song “…And The Great Cold Death of the Earth”, which smartly links the two tracks together, as does the use of ellipses in the song title. This emphasizes that The Mantle is a journey and has a start and an end. This riff is just one of many hauntingly beautiful acoustic passages that dominate the whole album. Most notably is the introduction to “The Hawthorne Passage”, the acoustic led “The Lodge” as well as the spine-tingling “Odal”.

“Odal” introduces a key point in that the album is very layered and dense as well as extremely diverse in the types of instruments used. For example, “The Lodge”, a great melancholic acoustic piece effectively implements a cello into the mix as well as the rather strange deer skull percussion which makes an extremely unique noise and helps bring the track closer to the natural world. Similarly, “A Desolation Song” uses the accordion and the mandolin to produce a reflective ending track that almost seems to look back at the events of the previous 8 songs and tie them all up. This leads into the lyrical side of the album which seems to be telling a story about the destruction of the earth and also a story about the “desolation of love”. The mixture of emotions portrayed in the delivery of the lyrics are exceptional, for when John Haughm, the vocalist cries “Why did you abandon me!” in the uplifting “You Were But A Ghost In My Arms” he says it with such vehemence that the lyrics instantly have another dimension to them in that they are believable. Furthermore, the clean vocals are monotonous and are chanted but perfectly compliment the music, and sometimes, dare I say it, have sing-along moments. This is shown especially with the opening vocals of “You Were But A Ghost In My Arms” and also the chorus of “…And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth” in which Haugm sings “life is a clay urn on the mantle, and I am shattered on the floor”, which also furthermore emphasizes the absence of life on The Mantle.

Powerful moments also litter the album. The intense build up and crescendo of “In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion” delivers head banging results and the little guitar flourish that ends this passage is one of the most beautiful moments in music. However, the most powerful moment of the whole album arrives with the song “The Hawthorne Passage” an 11 minute magnum opus which also showcases a tasteful influence in the form of the Pink Floyd-esque passage after the introduction, in which an odd drum beat is accompanied by a soaring solo. However, when the atmospheric soundscape appears towards the end of the song you know you’re in for something powerful. The soundscape is harsh and miserable, and is fully supportive of the song’s subtitle, “a song for a grey city” as shown in the liner notes. But then out of nowhere, hope appears in the form of a feeble guitar gently playing. It builds up, and up, before exploding into a miasma of heavy guitar, bass, drums, and joy. Such a moment is reminiscent of the ISIS track “In Fiction” where the guitar builds up into a moment of pure ecstasy and power. The same is prevalent here, and is a testament to the power of music.

The Mantle is one overall experience and does have its twists and turns. From the lively and double bass heavy “I Am The Wooden Doors” to the delicate and atmospheric “The Lodge” there is a wide range of dynamics coursing through the veins of this album. However, although dynamically different in some parts, The Mantle is still able to sustain its grip on the listener, as the desolate landscape it conjures up is always in the background of the listener’s mind, regardless of whether they are experiencing an uplifting passage. Through gentle acoustic work, full on powerful riffs, and moments of extraordinary beauty and power, The Mantle is a masterpiece in toying with extreme emotions of happiness and darkness, and all the while its tracks remain in unity, bound together as one.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ManaYoodSushai
July 7th 2013



90 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm quite proud of this review, my longest so far! any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Eunuch
July 7th 2013



1236 Comments


oh boy. The album cover is clearly a statue of a moose. How the fuck does that conjure up images of a remote forgotten tundra lol.

Artuma
July 7th 2013



12031 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i don't really feel being transported to another world while listening to this but it's still an amazing album. sweet review anyway, pos'd



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PumpBoffBag
July 7th 2013



327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

good effort dude album rules hard

JesusaurusRex
July 7th 2013



58 Comments


" oh boy. The album cover is clearly a statue of a moose. How the fuck does that conjure up images of a remote forgotten tundra lol."

Well it makes me think of Canada so

PumpBoffBag
July 7th 2013



327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love that album cover. So simple but so effective; the muted colours, soft focus of the background etc. really ethereal and haunting

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2013



15881 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great album, nice write up

Digging: Nemrud - Journey of the Shaman

sideburndude
July 7th 2013



2782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review and such a great album

Gard3n
July 7th 2013



281 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Never gets old. Classic album.

Hawks
July 7th 2013



35349 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

5 yeah.

Digging: Brutal Truth - Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses

Motiv3
July 8th 2013



8921 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hawks, I thought u were the one who said the Mantle dragged compared to the other Agalloch albums?

Anyway, this is classic.

Arnaud
July 8th 2013



171 Comments


Not an easy album to write about and you did it perfectly. Great review for a perfect album

ManaYoodSushai
July 8th 2013



90 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thankyou Arnaud! I tried to encapsulate what I felt about the album and it looks like it worked out!

NeroCorleone80
July 8th 2013



28668 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Rules

Digging: Howlin Wolf - Howlin' Wolf/Moanin' in the Moonlight

Hawks
July 8th 2013



35349 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Dude Hollier I said that like 3 years ago, I've had this 5'd for a pretty long time.

Vakarian12
July 9th 2013



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

5 is the only correct rating

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NeroCorleone80
July 9th 2013



28668 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nah, a high 4.5 is

tochtgenoot
July 10th 2013



4 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great review, a classic and timeless record indeed!

ManaYoodSushai
July 11th 2013



90 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks tochtgenoot!

Dodecahedron
July 26th 2013



970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great review for what is probably still my favorite album ever.



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