Friday, June 12, 2015

Serpens in Cvlmination Tour 2015 Review

There are some bands who tour so much that you don’t mind skipping them when they come around to your town. Then there are other bands who tour so infrequently that missing them will cause years of regret and possibly a downward spiral into depression. Agalloch is one such band. They rarely do extensive tours and usually only do short coast stints and the festival circuit of Europe. It’s been three years since they last visited Phoenix (which I attended) and there was a nine year gap between that date in 2012 and their previous visit in 2003! Obviously with Agalloch being one of my favorite bands I have to attend any shows that they do in the valley of the sun. Even though we had temperatures exceeding 100F they managed to bring down the temperature by several degrees with their atmospheric and robust set.

I came up to the small crowd of metal heads for the tiny venue of the Rebel Lounge; appropriate for a band like Agalloch. Originally the Mason Jar, which Agalloch played back in 2003 and I had been there before to see Prong, the club was shuttered and turned into a gay nightclub. When I heard that Agalloch was playing the Rebel Lounge I had thought that they were playing the gay nightclub. Which is something I wouldn’t mind and would have definitely seen them in that particular setting.

I arrived early enough to pick up my ticket and went straight to the merch table to get the Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor EP on vinyl, which is the first time it was pressed on individual vinyl for this tour, and an Agalloch shirt to add to my collection. That brings up my Agalloch shirt count to three which one can never have enough Agalloch shirts. I headed over to the bar to get myself a pint of Kiltlifter but the bartender was nowhere to be found but I ended up striking up a conversation with a couple for a while. We shared our mutual love of extreme music – the guy was introduced to Agalloch and other extreme metal by his fiancée.

We talked through the first opener whom we were not even aware was on stage performing. The performer was a solo act that played droning, atmospheric electronic music. The mood of the venue started to feel more oppressive from the electronic drone. After about 20 minutes of it he stopped and made room for the next act. He never said a word as to who he is and he’s not on the main tour. I can only assume that he is a local act to open.

Helen Money was the next act and like the previous act, she is a solo performer. This time she had a cello accompanied by a laptop to generate her sonic soundscapes. It was more drone, atmospheric music that ventured into post-metal territory. That night was my introduction to her music and it wasn’t too bad. For me personally, I probably won’t listen to it on my own but anyone into that style of music should definitely check her out.

A bit during her set and afterwards, I had met up with some former and current coworkers. We conversed until Agalloch took the stage. They opened with “(serpens caput)” and proceeded with two more tracks off of the Serpent & the Sphere before playing “Limbs” from Ashes Against the Grain. Most of their set consisted of the Serpent & the Sphere but they rounded it out with tracks spanning their entire discography. They played the title track off of Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor and “...and the Great Cold Death of the Earth” off of the Mantle. Every song was executed flawlessly and with great energy. As well as touches of improvisation on some of the songs.

Probably the best moment of the night is when they performed “Sowilo Rune” from the White EP. This was the first time they had ever performed it live and will probably be the last time they perform it. They performed it as a special tribute to the passing of the great Christopher Lee. The White EP is my favorite album of Agalloch and I was ecstatic when they played it.

Closing out the set with the last song of the encore was “Plateau of Ages” from their most recent album. Three years is a long time to wait for just about anything but Agalloch more than makes up for the wait. I hope I don’t have to wait as long to see them live again but I will be patient as I know that the payoff will be great.

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