Agalloch - The Mantle
The End Records
Depressive Dark Metal
9 songs (68'33")
Release year: 2002
The End Records
Reviewed by Alex

Having listened to newest Agalloch’s full length The Mantle I could write the copout of a review. “Fans of Opeth, Katatonia and early In The Woods should check this band out”. I’ll try not to go for an easy way, but forgive me in advance if my review will be full with references. While the comparisons are definitely valid, this Oregonian band sounds like no one else in particular which is a great testament to their originality. The End Records is a label that has a knack for signing just such bands.

While nobody approaches Opeth in complexity of their compositions (and no one ever will), Agalloch is certainly close, at least in terms of tracks length. Who gives a damn though if the result is natural and organic music! Layered, superimposed guitar work takes center stage. Back from my classical music training I remember that a particular set of chords completely characterize a certain key. In their slow, deliberate, thoughtful progressions Agalloch seem to touch upon all the right chords for the minor key they have chosen for a given track. The solos are lengthy, drawn out, weeping and mournful. Instead of riffs, acoustic guitar chugging is used to create the framework and maintain rhythmic structure. One could even say that the guys overindulge in the acoustic guitar. Yet it helps them to over exaggerate the doomy droning style they are after. Plus, it adds to the atmosphere of the whole album as if performed by the campfire started by the Natives. Half the tracks, in fact, are long instrumentals with little or no percussion. The band definitely transcends the boundaries of the genre incorporating some Ambient and even New Age elements. Non-traditional instruments, like bells, whistles, windchimes are used. I specifically have to comment on the excellent contrabass lines.

Two faster (or should I say more aggressive) tracks I Am The Wooden Doors and You Were But A Ghost In My Arms are blast percussion driven. However, the bass is very low in the mix and the snare is too timid. This probably has something to do with drums being handled by a guitarist. Those two songs reminded me of Katatonia circa Brave Murder Day and In The Woods circa Omnio immensely. Up front haunting melody, sometimes handled by an acoustic or classical guitar, blackened, but not very raspy vocals. Haughm’s clean vocals are quite monotonous. I liked the harsher approach much more, but this lack of emotion in clean singing is probably intentional in order to accentuate the stillness of Agalloch’s music.

Does anybody remember when Opeth was called “forest metal”? At the time I couldn’t quite understand what the term was about. Now I do, only it applies to Agalloch. Unlike Opeth’s Agalloch’s music is stationary, almost motionless. Opeth takes you on the walk through the forest, Agalloch makes you stand with your head up looking at the giant trees swaying in the wind. In this sense the cover art is very fitting. Black and silver, it has images of a beautiful but abandoned palace with animal statues. It is about life, however it is frozen in stone. Even those water fountains seem to be still.

The album definitely has to catch the listener in the right set of mind. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere, don’t pop Agalloch in your player. You would think this is boring. However, if you want to ponder about the meaning of life and self-reflect, pick it up, by all means.

Killing Songs :
I Am the Wooden Doors, You Were But A Ghost In My Arms, ... And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth
Alex quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Agalloch that we have reviewed:
Agalloch - The Serpent & The Sphere reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Agalloch - Faustian Echoes reviewed by Milan and quoted No Quote
Agalloch - Marrow Of The Spirit reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain reviewed by Misha and quoted 80 / 100
Agalloch - Pale Folklore reviewed by Nathanael and quoted 90 / 100
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