One can wonder if a rock band truly exists when it seldom performs live and its albums are released in four-year intervals. Agalloch formed in 1995 in Portland, Oregon, and has released five albums, the most recent being the recent The Serpent & the Sphere, a concept album meditating the nature of creation and the substance of the universe. Agalloch presently consists of John Haughm on vocals and guitar, Don Anderson on guitar, Jason William Walton on bass and Aesop Dekker on drums.
As it has done at every show since its debut, Agalloch began the concert at Irving Plaza tonight with Haughm lighting incense at the foot of the stage. A moment of centering was accompanied by “(serpens caput),” a mesmerizing goth-folk guitar instrumental from the band’s current album, searing through the venue's speakers. Fog filled the stage and back lighting left the figures on stage looking like silhouettes (this continued throughout the show, such that much the audience never clearly saw the musicians' faces). Moments later, the band launched into "The Astral Dialogue," a dense, dramatic epic also from the band's current album, complete with growling vocals, progressive arrangements, clean and scorching guitar riffs and double bass drumming. Unlike typical metal shows, however, the band's music had movement that wrapped around passages of sludgy gothic doom, meditative shoe-gaze ambience and folk metal. Even when the music was slow, it roared. There was usually enough of a backbeat to keep the headbangers busy, but enough diversity in the music to keep progressive music lovers enthralled. Fantastical lyrics opened and closed many songs, but these extended compositions were primarily instrumental. Throughout the performance, Agalloch's musicianship remained tight and flawless. It was a shame that we could hardly see the band.
Visit Agalloch at www.agalloch.org.