I'm a relative newcomer to the world of black metal, but a diehard fan of other metallic varieties, whether it be stoner, doom, prog, or post/instrumental. What impressed me most about Portland's Agalloch, who played Music Hall in Williamsburg last Thursday, was their ability to plumb so many of these other subgenres and graft them organically onto their own post-black metal, owing a heavy debt to Scandinavia. The majority of their efforts seem to work like classical or prog-rock pieces, stretching out over substantial chunks of time and segueing between suites of varying intensity and dynamics.
A decade-and-a-half into their career, the band had plenty of material to draw on, pulling epics from across their discography and pleasing an appreciative, packed house. The set-piece for the evening was their latest EP, Faustian Echoes: a 20-minute, two-part tune inspired by Goethe’s classic tragedy.
My one quibble with the show is actually not with the band, but with what is a standard ingredient of black metal: namely, its waspy, trebly, satanic vocals (not to be confused with the Cookie Monster grumble). That said, singer John Haugm does not restrict himself to this conformist styling, and does incorporate actual...well, singing.
Generally speaking, the band’s music had me in its grips. I knew I was a convert when I packed the camera away and lost myself in the throng of metal revelers who were mouthing along to every lyric. After this show, I can easily see Agalloch’s albums taking up residence next to my stacks of King Crimson, Mastodon, and Neurosis. More pics on the photo page.