|Review: Agalloch - The Mantle|
Label: The End Records
Year released: 2002
Genre: Folk Metal
Review online: August 20, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 4.18/5 (83.56%) (73 Votes)
This is a band I should really, really hate, as Agalloch are everything I normally despise in music: they're pretentious and arty, they play long, obtuse songs with mopey, gloomy lyrics, they induce pants-wetting excitement in people who worship such wretched bands as Opeth and Katatonia. They're arrogant and snobby – I should hate this band. But I cannot argue, no matter what I would like to do, with the absolute mastery of this album. "The Mantle" manages to be a collection of virtually everything I hate, and yet it is a masterpiece. Inarguable, unequalled.
No one else sounds like Agalloch in the slightest. They have invented a sound so completely their own that when any other band takes inspiration from them (as Morgion and Enslaved both have), you immediately nod and say "there's some Agalloch there". I mean they might as well trademark this stuff. Who else could play Acoustical Doom/Gloom/Gothic/Atmospheric metal and make it work? In the hands of anyone else (witness Katatonia's hideous "Viva Emptiness") a formula like this would be awful. Another band would lay on piles of steaming keyboard feces and punch up the vocals. But the real genius of this band is their fearless trust in their songwriting. They just play, and even a fourteen-minute workout like the second track carries through on the strength of its hypnotic, melancholy harmonies. I guess what I mean is that despite everything, Agalloch do not rely on gimmicks, but just write brilliant songs with zillions of disparate parts that all come together. Even at over an hour, this album is too short, because when it's over, I just want it to keep going.
"Pale Folklore" was a great album, but it put me to sleep more than once. "The Mantle" never bores or overdoes things, never wears out it's welcome. This is just captivating genius from start to finish. Absolutely beautiful. A highly, highly recommended album.
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