Agalloch

support Velnias
author AP date 05/04/12 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

This is the second time in a week that I find myself in the cozy confines of Loppen with an appetite for extreme metal. And it is an appetite shared by many a Copenhagener; the venue is almost, if not completely sold out and bustling with grizzly metal dudes, hunched over bottles of Christiania beer on candle lit tables. This promises to be a good night.

Velnias

The evening's first act is Boulder, CO based Velnias, who take their name after the bestial god of the natural world in Lithuanian mythology. Their music brings together influences of black, folk, pagan and doom metal to create a soundscape rich in melody and nihilism; one that immediately grabs my attention and fixates me in front of the stage. Velnias have the distinct look and feel of a genuine metal band, and awash in murky shades of red, green and blue, their nature-bound lyrical themes of atavism and destruction of man truly come alive vis-à-vis expertly structured songs that sway between brightly clanging clean passages and towering walls of noise. Velnias seem to have some unique talent at writing and performing songs that put the listener (and watcher) into something resembling a trance; whether it is the delivery of the music with the utmost severity, the intensity of the music itself, or the sheer dimensionality of each song, one dares not look away while Velnias are on stage. They truly have the ability to appear fearsome, discomforting in their stern postures and threatening in their violent headbanging antics.

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Agalloch

It seems unlikely, but an even larger contingent of people seems to have amassed in front of the stage as Agalloch takes it. Aesthetically speaking the band appeals to my taste for droning, atmospheric black metal, but I must admit it takes some time to adjust to the harrowing shrieks of guitar toting vocalist John Haughm, especially against the backdrop of melodies and ambiance that I find to be strangely uplifting despite their depressive nature. But once the adjusting is complete, the beauty of Agalloch at last reveals itself to me. As epitomized by the band's moniker, a soft resinous wood with a highly distinct aroma, Agalloch, too, use nature as inspiration for their earthly sound, and throughout their set my mind involuntarily conjures images of desolate landscapes and ancient rotting forests so vivid I can almost smell their scent and taste their thick, moist air.

Sadly, the band's set is plagued by technical difficulties, most notably the absence of any clean tone in Haughm's monitor, so the performance is cut shorter than intended. But otherwise Agalloch seem unphased by the issues, and the performance could hardly be described as anything short of excellent, with Don Anderson's prominent melancholic leads and solos in particular leaving a lasting impression. About a month ago I said of the similar sounding Altar of Plagues that it falls just short of the magic bestowed upon audiences by Wolves in the Throne Room, but making such statements about Agalloch seems less appropriate; true Wolves in the Throne Room are a unique proposition within the ecological black metal genre, but Agalloch, too, practice it with a seldom seen finesse.

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Setlist:

  • Into the Painted Grey
  • Falling Snow
  • The Watcher's Monolith
  • Limbs
  • Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor
  • Our Fortress is Burning... II: Bloodbirds

--Encore--

  • Dead Winter Days
  • In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion
  • Kneel to the Cross (Sol Invictus cover)

Photos courtesy of Rasmus Ejlersen

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