Agalloch - The Mantle review
|Release date:||August 2002|
01. A Celebration For The Death Of Man...
02. In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion
04. I Am The Wooden Doors
05. The Lodge
06. You Were But A Ghost In My Arms
07. The Hawthorne Passage
08. ...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth
09. A Desolation Song
In the true musical lineage of Opeth and Katatonia, Agalloch is one of these mystic and melancholic bands, excelling at playing a smart blend of Doom Metal and few elements from Melodic Death Metal, such as the voice a la Dark Tranquillity. Established as one of the best combos in their style and one of America's most interesting bands, Agalloch was founded in Portland, Oregon in late 1995. After a couple of demos, they scored a deal with The End Records in 1998 and their debut album Pale Folklore was released in 1999. In 2001, a limited MCD entitled Of Stone, Wind and Pillor was released and they then worked on today's chapter, their second full-length album, The Mantle. Agalloch is composed by John Haughm [vocals, guitars, drums], Don Anderson [guitars] and Jason William Walton [bass].
Let's get to the main idea: The Mantle is a 70 minute long masterpiece. Supra-melancholic, beautiful melodies all along, only a few bands managed to imprint this decaying hope in my mind before, propelling Agalloch to the status of geniuses of longing. The omnipresence of acoustic guitars generates an handful of desperate feelings throughout the songs and the intro called 'A Celebration For The Death Of Man…' is actually a beautiful recurring theme [In 'In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion', 'The Lodge' and 'And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth']. These two elements transcend The Mantle.
After introducing the theme, the epic 'In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion' is on the menu. It's beautifully done and it's one of these pieces that gets better and better every time you listen to it. Slow acoustic guitars doubled by sad electric guitar lines make this song a pure jewel. A terrific break occurs after 6 minutes into the song, and then, it gets even better! Just for that track, it's worth buying the album. You know like for Opeth's Blackwater Park. Most of the time, you're led to imagine things while listening to music, with Agalloch, you don't have to as they did it for you; and suddenly it rains in your mind.
'Odal' is an instrumental track, undeniably heavier and less gloomy. Nevertheless, it remains stunning. It serves as a good break on the album before the incredible 'I Am The Wooden Doors'. This one is another masterpiece, dark, though faster than track number 2. Here the wide use of acoustic guitars gives a terrific folk feeling to the song. The different voices of John Haughm [clean, death, black] transforms the track into a must-listen.
Another instrumental piece, 'The Lodge', follows 'I Am The Wooden Doors'. It's apparently a reprise of the opening theme, adding another degree of bleakness to The Mantle. 'You Were But A Ghost In My Arms' is full of variations and it sounds like another "coup de maitre" to me!
'The Hawthorne Passage' is another epic instrumental track [more than 11 minutes] and once again these majestic acoustic guitar lines enchant the listener and drive him towards despair. Black is beautiful, indeed. Some of guitar work sound like Pink Floyd, when I told you that Agalloch were geniuses, remember? The song fades away after 6 minutes or so to reappear morphed into a beautiful butterfly of melancholy.
'…And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth' could be considered as the ballad of the album. It's a remarkable song once again and all the previously pinpointed elements of Agalloch's music are there. That is simply breathtaking.
The Mantle is concluded by 'A Desolation Song', which achieves to mesmerize the listener, even after all the other songs. It's an outro in which an accordion helps the acoustic guitars. Once the track finished, the only thing you want to do is play the album over again and again.
People, what is wrong with you? The Mantle should be selling like bread, number one on the US charts. And for a good reason, it's a mind blowing album, from beginning to end, a painting of despair, a bleak view of a sad world, an outstanding piece of art at your fingertips. There is no way out, you got to have this album and then admire Agalloch. And you can count on them for the future, as a new EP surfaced in May 2004.
Written on 03.06.2004 by
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|Agalloch are a band that I have only recently started listening to, but they are the first band in a long time that I have fallen in love with instantly. Most of my favourites have grown on me overtime but there was something about The Mantle that captured me immediately.
I tend to listen to cleaner vocal songs, although there are death metal bands I like, but I thought I would be put off by Haughm's raspy blackened vocals. Instead I found them really beautiful the way they weave in and out of the music. That was the thing that struck me most about Agalloch: the beauty of it. The general formula seems to be power chords on electric guitar with gentle twangy acoustic melodies over the top. This works really nicely and the juxtaposition of the heavy and the soft is mirrored when Haugm's vocals become more tuneful. The first time this occurs is in "In The Shadow of Our Pale Companion"-the magnum opus of the album and Agalloch's best along with "Not Unlike the Waves" four years later. The rasps and whispers build up to an epic sounding tuneful cry which gives me shivers every time. The vocals then vary between these two styles, as well as monotone almost talking and whispers through the rest of the album, in a very fluid way. There is no clean verse to harsh verse pattern; it all blends into each other.
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