Monday, August 10, 2015

Gig review: Agalloch, Crown

First review to resurrect this blog and what an event it was! I bought tickets for this gig way back in April and ever since then I was just sitting on needles with excitement. At first I was scared that I will miss yet another "Agalloch" tour and I was very well prepared to travel to see them no matter how far the gig would be. Luckily, by some twist of fate, they came as close as Hungary and it just became apparent that I will finally be able to attend their show. The experience ended up nothing short of perfect.

This amazing lineup performed in "Dürer Kert", a venue in Budapest, Hungary. The venue has already been mentioned before in a few reviews, those being Rosetta and La Dispute/Touche Amore gigs. Despite the fact that I was at that place before, it feels like the venue keeps growing and changing every time I visit. On this occasion the bands were playing in a different room, this one being much bigger than the previous one I saw. A rather simple rectangle-shaped room with a bar to the right, a big merch table to the left and a stage covering the entirety of the far side of the room. It is perfectly spaced and somehow you are able to see everything so well, regardless of where you are standing. This is especially made possible due to the fact that on both the left and right side of the stage there are some sort of steps which are a little elevated, so you can easily stand there and have full view of the crowd and the bands. 
Speaking of visibility, the light is dim, but just enough for you to see everything with ease and not walk over people or bump into things. The stage lights were beautifully toned blue and red colors, depending on the band which was on stage at the time, which really set an awesome mood for both acts.
Last, but not least, I have to praise the sound and the acoustics of the place. Even when you are not wearing ear plugs, the sound is extremely clear and you can easily distinguish every little detail of a given song. I had plugs for the majority of the sets, but at one instance I removed them and I was just mind-blown by the purity of the sound. 
But okay, now we get to the though part, the show itself. I don't know if it's hard to find the right words because I haven't been to a gig in a long time, because I didn't write for you boys and girls for so long, or simply because this concert was so damn amazing. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy what is about to ensue.

First in line was "Crown", a band hailing from France. Ah dear France, an indisputable European heaven where insanely good bands keep growing and constantly push the limits of your expectations. Whoever reads this blog even a little will know how much respect I have for this part of the world when it comes to music and this band just fits into that category oh so well. This project was born back in 2011 when they were a two-man project, or as they like to call it "man machine" since there's also a secretive third member in the form of a rhythm-machine. During their performance in Budapest they also had one more band member, so I'm fairly certain that they have evolved into a trio/quartet in recent years. 
The light on the stage became blood red and "Crown" took the stage, unleashing a beast bearing just a colossal tidal wave of sound which is just so damn hard to classify. At first you get hit hard with heavy riffs, even heavier drops and breakdowns, shrieking vocals and just overall massiveness of their tunes that can easily jump into the sludge/industrial genre. But then, all of a sudden, comes a brooding melody which creates some very doom-like ambiance all around you with slow eerie tones and melancholic humming. One might argue after reading this description that they sound like any other post-metal/sludge/doom band, but trust me that you're so very wrong. 
The vastness of their sound keeps expanding. I remember they played the song called "The Words You Speak Are Not Your Own" and it just blew me away with how diverse their sound was. There's this amazing apocalyptic melody making you stand on edge with tension before it finally explodes into your face with a sound so heavy it washes over you. The song is sprinkled with audio samples which immediately reminded me of stuff we got to hear on "Seeing Means More Than Safety" from "Jeromes Dream", a fact that basically made me fall in love almost instantly with what "Crown" is doing. 
Yet the vastness of their sound doesn't stop there. Some elements produced by their machine member are just superb in their own right. Aside of the crushing tones it spews forth, there are certain instances where it sounds all too electronic, like something that would come out from mixing "Access to Arasaka" and "Nine Inch Nails". 
Taking all these little bits and pieces and mashing them all up, the crowd was served with an amazing cocktail of 30 minutes of audio bliss. The mania of two passionate, shredding guitars, a deep, vibrating bass line, ever-changing vocals and a cold, calculated  and destructive machine just leaves you stunned. Their sound is completely different to that of "Agalloch", but it set the mood in such a great fashion that I couldn't have asked for a better support band. France, you've did it again. I definitely urge everyone to check these guys out, which you can do on their bandcamp profile here and get in touch with them on their Facebook page here.

There was a small break after "Crown" finished and my excitement was reaching a boiling point. At this moment I was just too thrilled to function properly and I was in no way prepared for what happened next. Getting closer to the huge speakers before the band came up I noticed that there was a big wooden log placed at the center of the stage, as well as a banner of a coiled serpent which adorned the platform. From then on the mood and the setting just kept intensifying. Light turned cold blue, smoke filled the background and small pots of incense were lit, sending out a calming, woodland aroma. Four figures climbed the stage in dim, misty lighting and the journey began.

What is there to say now, since "Agalloch" really needs no introduction. If by some abysmally unfortunate event you don't know about this band just stop what you're doing, stop reading my gibberish and do yourself a favor and listen to their work. This quartet formed way back in 1995 in Portland, Oregon and for a strong 20 year period they have been spawning amazing pieces of work in which they combine elements of black metal, neofolk and doom, inspired by the wondrous, cold reaches of Cascadia, or the Pacific Northwest if you will. There are simply no proper words for me to use to describe their work and to give it proper justice, since every little piece of sound they gave to the world has ended up being something of a masterpiece. Go listen to their discography and you will see what I mean. 
But back to the gig. The sounds of "(serpens caput)" filled the room with the same subtlety with which the above mentioned mist crept around the stage. It felt like the ambiance changed. We weren't standing in "Dürer Kert" anymore, but some ancient forest guarding aeon old secrets unspoiled by human hands. The melody was so pure and entrancing that the sudden transition towards the aggressive and fast "The Astral Dialogue" completely caught you off guard. Now, I have to be honest, although I knew the band released their newest creation last year, that being the album called "The Serpent & The Sphere", I didn't listen to it prior to the show. I'm not so sure why, possibly because my hopes about the music world have been turned to fears due to the lack of good material in recent times, so I was scared of a possible disappointment with the album. Hang me right now, because I was so wrong to doubt these people. Every millisecond of sound they created that evening was superb and the new, unknown songs just instantly grasped my love. The new material was everything I could hope for and even far beyond that. "Vales Beyond Dimension" was played soon afterwards and it just sealed the deal for me. 
I do have to say that listening to "The Serpent & The Sphere" now at home has a little different sort of feel than the rest of their material, which I mostly contribute to the production and technical aspects of the album. This is in no way bad, since it provides you with a different kind of experience, kind of stepping away from the clear, polished version of "Agalloch" and instead adding a little more of a raw kind of ambiance and possible rawer emotions.

They stepped away from the latest album for a bit and just exploded with "Limbs". Simply
remembering those first tones gives me goosebumps and now when I listen to it I have a newly found love for it. Flawless execution and just sheer passion with which they played made this just an emotional whirlwind. They transitioned towards "Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires" and just... damn. When I was writing the review, I had to step away for a little while and recollect myself because I have such a hard time explaining what happened to me at this point and I'll just be brutally honest. In all my time when I would think about "Agalloch" I always imagined that I would most likely cry if they would end up playing "Falling Snow", since this is my favorite song, but this exact thing happened to me when they played "Ghosts...". The intensity with which they performed the song, the sheer unexpectedness of the song being played at all, managed to take me back a few years back into my life and remind me of certain personal emotions which go along with this song. And it just crushed me. I never had teary eyes during a show, but there I was, basically crying yet feeling like the happiest person alive. This plain fact is more than enough to tell you how much this show and this band mean to me.
After this positive mental breakdown more songs were played, each better than the last. "Dark Matter Gods", "Hallways of Enchanted Ebony" (which by the way also made me cry), "...And The Great Cold Death of The Earth" rang through the venue, moving the crowd and evoking all kinds of emotions. The band itself seemed so swept away with the very tunes they themselves were creating, since you could simply see how passionately they move and react. There was just no stopping, no time to back down and take a breath, as if the entire set was just one world shattering epic unfolding right in front of your eyes and ears and body. "Into the Painted Grey" was the last song left ringing almost endlessly as they moved away from the stage.
But it wasn't over yet. They came back, ripping "Falling Snow" through the crowd. As I said before, I was almost certain that I would shed so many tears during this piece for various reasons. Just thinking about the lyrics and the melodies makes me shiver, simply creating a masterfully woven scene of death, desolation and passing. Yet hearing it live made me feel something different and unique, something I'll never forget. 

"The snow has fallen
And raised this white mountain
On which you will die
And fade away in silence..."

The ending moments which ensued after the final pieces of the lyrical section have been released into the air took all of those negative feelings I had and just threw me into something I can't really explain. The song just moved me so much in ways I can't explain and I simply felt alive. And I felt happy. Up to this point, I wasn't sure if I'll even write a review here and resurrect my blog, but the experience which they created for me with this song removed all those doubts and gave me a strange sense of purpose and determination. If "Agalloch" ever gets to read this, you guys are the sole reason why my writing is alive again. And for that, I thank you.
The last encore song was "Plateau of the Ages", but at this point the state of bliss and nirvana I had in my body was still keeping me in some far away place and I wasn't truly there for the ending song. Despite my semi-absence, the song was performed perfectly and a long, chaotic improvised outro was an amazing finisher to an otherwise mind-blowing show.

After it was all said and done, the band members were walking through the crowd, talking to people and giving away autographs and I felt honored to be able to shake their hands and give a huge thank you to them. This has to be one of the most amazing and emotionally intense shows I have ever attended and the memories will be forever sealed in my heart.
I'd just like to give a special thank you to my dear friend who accompanied me on this epic journey, since if I came alone and without her I probably wouldn't have had as nearly as much fun. It was amazing sharing this therapeutic experience with her and hopefully we will conquer more roads  and shows together.

Hope you enjoyed the review! It's good to be back.


  1. They (sadly) didn't play Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor. They played The Melancholy Spirit, though! But this is just a minor thing, thanks for this great review. It was a very special gig, probably my best Agalloch concert so far (this was my third). I got to talk with the guys after the show, they are all nice, humble, down to earth people.

  2. Really? Damn, thanks for correcting me! I was out of my mind that gig, I was convinced that they played it!

    Jealous of your three times seeing them though! This was my first. Also talked to them a little, they seems like such nice people indeed.

    And thank you so much for reading and liking the review! Means a lot!