Both black and folk metal can be particularly daunting sub genres for even the most seasoned of metal listeners to grasp. Agalloch is the perfect example of a band that has the talent and vision to combine both subgenres with numerous influences that you would not typically hear on a metal album or many albums within the spectrum of rock for that matter. The Mantle is a product of both curiosity and experimentation. The album transitions between multiple moods and phases yet never manages to get lost in the process. A timpani and acoustic guitar backed by a droning synthesizer slowly crescendo and build the very foundations of The Mantle. From the introduction into the first true track In The Shadows of our Pale Companions
there are not many of the signature elements that hint back to the clichés that black metal bands typically embrace.
The absence of relentless double bass drumming and blast beats are replaced by a slow and steady pace for the majority of the album. The result is even more haunting in comparison. Clean vocals appear alongside a unique heavier style of vocal that is remarkably similar to whispering. The guitars drift from acoustic interludes and passages into explosive climaxes that manage to retain all of the atmosphere heard in the softer sections. The bass guitar instrumentation is also extremely unique. The fact that the bass is audible could be seen as an accomplishment in itself as bassists typically do not play a large role within the realm of black metal. The bass lines rarely if ever mimic the guitars and compliment the songs extremely well. The Mantle also borrows a lot from post-rock when it comes to the near cinematic level of detail placed on atmosphere and structure. The tasteful use of sampling on the track The Hawthorne Passage
only adds detail and works surprisingly well.
Agalloch amplified everything that worked on Pale Folklore and embraced a vast selection of fresh elements. The effortless transitions between the numerous ideas and moods is what makes The Mantle such a brilliant and beautiful album. The Mantle has a lot to say and not every proclamation is heard on the first listen. It is a classic within and outside the genre and suit’s the landscapes that Autumn provides with perfection.