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   AGALLOCH
The Mantle
2002
The End Records
http://www.theendrecords.com/html/agalloch.html


rating: 5/5

1. A Celebration For The      Death Of Man
2. In The Shadow Of Our      Pale Companion
3. Odal
4. I Am The Wooden      Doors
5. The Lodge
6. You Were But A Ghost      In My Arms
7. The Hawthorne      Passage
8. …And The Great Cold      Death Of The Earth
9. A Desolation Song

After hearing so much about the Agalloch records I decided to check their latest effort "The Mantle", especially because so far all of The End Record releases I've heard have become my favourites. The first thing that surprised me about Agalloch is the fact that they are from the USA. All the bands playing similar music I've known till now were coming from Europe. This kind of atmospheric, emotional music was the speciality of mostly Northern-European bands before.

I was never a fan of bands who played depressing, suicidal music but I always liked the melacholic, sorrowfull, emotional kind of stuff by bands who captured the dark beauty in them. The music that makes our spirits wander into other worlds, that gives us clear visions, in short, that could touch our inner selves. There are only a few bands who could live up to my expectations because most of these albums containing such music I have found boring or too depressing or just too slow for my taste. If they don't want me to fall asleep while I'm listening to their cds they had to put together something that was moving and standing still at the same time, at that I could close my eyes and forget about time and place, where I could feel mighty and tiny at once. Bands who can do that, create an atmosphere where you feel you are a part of the music.
With Agalloch one more name has been added to my short list.

The 70 minute long album is kind of a mixture of rock, doom, folk, avantgarde and even a bit of black metal, not to forget about their neo-folk influences either. It has faster and slower parts but it's melodic all the way. The songs are long, letting their compositons open up for us, to complete themselves. They are engaged to each other softly, turning the album into one musical piece. You can't interrupt its flowing without breaking the harmony of the album.
The second track "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" represents the whole album, bringing out almost all the styles the album is built upon. Atmospheric black metal parts find their places next to the progressive rock elements together with the acoustical passages and with their doom influences. It starts slowly but vibrating then it softens with the sound of acoustic guitars roaming into some minutes of aggressive sounding black metal. And so on till the song closes with the sound of thunder. The essence of the album has been put into this 14 minute long song. The thunder turns into melodies and "Odal" begins, one of the instrumentals on the album. Half of the album contains just instrumental songs, giving back the real power to the music. The power that speaks without words, that is leading our souls to lonely journeys and that offers a little shelter in our everyday life. And "Odal" became a favourite musical piece of mine on this album. It's beautiful and it makes you longing for more, it's strong and mellow, makes you feel the loneliness but it also gives you peace. A nice piano passage and howling wind closes "Odal". I like also very much "The Lodge". This light, instrumental song starts with footsteps in the snow and the sound of the electric and acoustical guitar is supported by a cello, creating a very specific atmoshpere. Feels like we are in a dark forest where the old trees are whispering with each other, alone under the star filled sky. "I Am The Wooden Doors" and "You Were But A Ghost In My Arms" are the two example of the band's metal roots, influenced by bands like Ulver, In The Woods or Katatonia. In the song, "And The Cold Death Of The Earth" you find the conclusion of the music and the message of the album:
"Life is a clay urn on the mantle
And I am the fragments on the floor
Life is a clay urn on the mantle
And I am the ashes on the floor
We are the wounds and the great cold death of the earth
Darkness and silence, the light shall flicker out. . ."
Acoustic solos and atmospherical musical passages are playing on our emotions but to make sure you understand their message they are deepening it with the mournful voice of the contrabass. "A Desolation Song" is the title of the last piece of music on the album and all I can say it was the best decision to choose this song for closing "The Mantle". It's slow, soft but filled with sorrow for remembering. Feels like having a never healing wound. "And forget about the useless (fucking) hope..." It's the song of a tired man who still holds a small glowing anger.

'Unusual' instruments have been used on the album such as a mandolin, bells, whistles, windchimes, accordions and trombones to combine their sound in the atmospheric melodies. The used vocal styles are also ever changing through the album. The growling and shrieking vocals are deep without having an aggressive edge, the clean vocals are simple and nice while the whisperings are melancholic and ghostly sometime to help to picture the lyrics and the music in our head.
The cover fits to the mood of the album. Black and silver, with an animal statue. It's one of the timeless, frozen moment of life. Timeless, just like the music.

We don't use colours to describe a music but while I'm listening to "The Mantle" I see the different shades of grey everywhere.

submitted by Katalin 30.01.2003

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