Agalloch are on a bit of a roll at the moment. They have just completed sets at German festivals and Bloodstock and are now embarking on a European tour of which tonight’s gig in Glasgow is sold out. As I had not seen the band live before and I was dying to see if they lived up to the hype.
Support for the tour are Crown and they are just back after having to pull out of the first week due to a medical situation. The scene was set, the lights were moved to red, and they did not change for the whole set. It made for a moody and eerie atmosphere which sat well with their music.
I have heard a few people talking about this band, and their brand of music, but I have to admit I struggled a bit with them. I am old school, and when I hear a drumbeat I want to see a drummer (as long as there is no drum solo!). I am also not a fan of sampling in any shape or form and for me with this type of aggressive music it just does not come together.
I cannot fault the musical ability of all involved, but even watching the full set, I could not get into it at all.
We go from red lighting to blue for Agalloch. Once again this did not change for the whole set (trying to make this photographer’s life that bit more difficult), but I have a feeling this was to do with the setting and possibly the inherent feelings the colour blue instils in you. We had the usual ritual of lighting the incense in bowls before the band came on. Is this to drive out any negativity so you can do nothing else but enjoy the show? That I do not know, but it focused everyone from the off, and built the tension until the band took the stage and burst into the eerie, pitch changing “The Astral Dialogue”
The doom commenced, but through all of the dark, gloomy and ferocious playing you pick up the fact that this is no normal, run of the mill doom metal band. They are not sticking to the proven formula. They throw everything at you, the tempo changes, the texture of the songs, the sheer quality of each member. The fact that pretty much every song is well over 5 minutes, which fixates on the music rather than the vocals or lyrics. It is a guitarist’s wet dream from start to finish.
“Vales Beyond Dimension” goes to confirm my above thoughts, and all you can do is stand in awe at a band who know what they want after five albums. I now know why this gig sold out some time ago. I am not a massive fan of guttural, screaming vocals throughout, so the band have even found a way to compensate for the likes of me, with the vocals only there to accentuate the atmosphere and tell the story wound around the music.
As “Limbs” starts its slow weaving tale I am lost to the Agalloch gods. Free will has left my body (only letting me grant some form of self when I go for a pint) and I am completely submersed in the show. The songs pass by, building a tapestry of sound like a Lord of the Rings story for my listening pleasure. For me everything was building to the pre-encore song of “Into the Painted Grey”.
This song is a masterpiece, 12 and a half minutes of metal hierarchy. If you want Blackmore, you got it. If you want Iommi, you got it. If you want venom and even “The Devil went Down To Georgia”, it’s all here, spliced together with heavenly (or should that be demonic) guitars and some truly intense bass and drums. They could play a kazoo in the middle of this, and it would work. I am sure I was standing there with my mouth wide open in sheer awe at parts of this song. I just did not want it to end.
When the band come back on for the encore, we find out they are quite the whisky connoisseurs, as well as musical enchanters, as they run through their favourite brands. This band is a one off that is for sure. I can guarantee you have seen nothing like them live before. You may have seen similar, but nothing that can compare to what I witnessed tonight. In fact I dare you to go to an Agalloch gig and not enjoy it. A first rate show, and one I will not miss when they grace these shores again.
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Review and images: Ritchie Birnie