There seems to be debate as to whether or not the sophomore album from American maestros Agalloch, The Mantle, can be considered a “true” black metal experience. However, the record is one driven by an ominous yet naturalistic aura, heavy and dissonant guitars, unusual instruments, harsh roars and atypical song structures, so, for this list, it ticks all the necessary boxes.
Mixing blackened doom with progressive rock and European folk, The Mantle introduced many extreme metal traits that were so influential that, in the late 2010s, they’re now considered common within the subgenre. Such innovations as the quarter-of-an-hour, Gothic extravaganza “In the Shadow of Our Pale Communion” and the album’s four full-length instrumental tracks blew black metal’s potential for post-modern experimentation wide open. Lengthy songs and an emphasis on sublime atmosphere gave The Mantle an epic, cinematic atmosphere, influenced by musicians from Death in June to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman.
As a result, Agalloch’s second album is not only the band’s best, but also one of the most era-defining black metal albums of this century. Every extreme metal fan owes it to themselves to explore this juggernaut of bestial perfection.