(the End Records)
One normally associates a gloomy imagery of long winter days with that of Scandinavian lore than the modern Western world. Agalloch’s unique take on progressive doom is admirable considering they are an American outfit building on that established rustic sonic ritual.
The atmospheric quality of the Mantle incorporates elements of folk, prog and metal in a very layered fashion to craft a 70 minute journey into the dark transoms of the mind. Agalloch defy singular categorization on their second full effort and third release by building upon the black metal meets progressive rock elements which defined their early works to redefine themselves this time around.
The tracks blend into one another in a smooth flowing fashion creating the illusion of one long epic endeavor as opposed to several individual orchestrations. The Mantle however, is not the traditional concept record in the sense of being compromised of similar lyrical content per se. Rather, the thematic overtones of the instrumentation itself are the tie-in from song to song to keep the listener intrigued throughout the entire endeavor. It is more about the textures and tileling of sound which present the imagery and create cohesion, moreso than the words.
Even the vocal structure itself is less a vehicle for the delivery of lyrics and more another layer by which the gothic aesthetic of the album is attained. Somewhere between the harshness of the gruff growling and the calm of the clean vocals is an eerie similarity to that of the use of electric and acoustic instruments throughout the Mantle that might even harken most listeners to that of Opeth.
The lush extravagance the album is laden with can come across monotonous in the repetition at times but in order to accomplish the contrast between the elements presented it is almost a necessary evil. Once one relaxes in the wash of sound the breath of the Mantle can be fully experienced.
Pull out your black blanket and find a place near the Mantle of Agalloch to soak up the sonic tales they have to tell.