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Agalloch, John Haughm live at Mostovna, Nova Gorica, Slovenia, 31st July 2015 – live report

Agalloch, John Haughm live at Mostovna, Nova Gorica, Slovenia, 31st July 2015 – live report:

Live report written by: Ines

The USA based atmospheric black metal extravaganza under the name Agalloch, who have been steady players in the field of dark and ambient music for twenty years now, hit the road on 28th July and went on a journey through European venues in so called Serpens In Cvlmination European Tour MMXV. The tour, which ends on 24th August, was set to be performed with French doom/sludge metallers Crown by their side, but unfortunately due to personal health issues, Crown’s shows were cancelled in the first portion of the tour. So when Agalloch stopped in Slovenia, in a small venue of Mostovna in Nova Gorica on 31st July, John Haughm stepped in as an opening act. To be honest, I’ve always liked Agalloch, but listened to them more as background music, as their eerie, ambient tunes were always a great atmosphere makers, but when I found out they will be performing in Slovenia, I felt really eager and enthusiastic to see what they can offer on stage. The only down point here for the Slovenian fans was probably the venue, as Nova Gorica is located in the far eastern part of our small country, but I’m sure those who were really wishing to experience them live, gladly made the trip. So did I; as I travelled 200 kilometres in one way. But in the end, it was more than worth it.

Due to work-related responsibilities I sadly missed out the bigger portion of John Haughm’s performance, as I arrived quite late, but still managed to catch a moment of it. The solo project of Agalloch’s frontman was started in 2011 and has already released three full length albums and three EPs in the short spawn of four years. From what I still managed to see and hear, his ambient noise/post-rock coloured musical style made a really nice introduction into the night, as his music flowed nicely around the not-so-filled venue. The ambiance of his music with accompanying light show and fog effect, alongside his charismatic visual appearance laid a solid foundation for following Agalloch show, so I believe not many were too disappointed of Crown cancelling the show. As the hour was nearing 22:00, you could see more and more people filling up the place, as Agalloch were set to start. But I guess in Slovenia’s it’s a part of concert culture for shows to start with delay, so the band finally took over Mostovna at 22:28. When the first notes of "The Astral Dialogue" from their 2014 album The Serpent & The Sphere filled the place, blue lights enlightened the room and a whoosh of fog came from the background, the audience swiftly came together and filled up the venue quite nicely. The sound was more than solid and the band seemed to enjoy themselves as their energy nicely reflected throughout the entire evening. The opening track of the evening liquidly transformed directly into "Vales Beyond Dimension" from the same album and then Agalloch took the crowd down the memory lane with "Limbs" from their 2006 album Ashes Against The Grain. At this very moment I could really see and feel the heat rising up, as the audience seemed to greet this with great enthusiasm. After the three song-lasting, bombastic atmospheric warm up, John greeted the audience and apologized if his opening act sucked and so he gently, a bit comically, broke the icy barrier between the band and the audience. Then Agalloch just transitioned into a whole new dimension of mental state and went absolutely deranged and took us all with them on a wild, mesmerizing, almost shoegazing odyssey of atmospheric movement and primal metal energy. With "Ghost From The Midwinter Fires" from their 2010 Marrow Of The Spirit they continued to entertain the crowd, which was well warmed-up by now and you could see people dancing, moving, head banging and showing metal horns all around the place. The band seemed to really feel the positive feedback and gave back all they could. I personally dissociated my mind from my body when one of my favourite Agalloch tracks, "Dark Matter Gods" (also from their latest album) had its 9 minutes of fame. Even though I was standing in a corner, enjoying every moment of the show in a completely static position, my feelings got the best of me and had my body moving alongside this hypnotizing melody. Then it was time to travel back to the past again with "Of Stone, Wind And Pillor" from the eponymous 2001 EP and "Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony" and then John again paused for a second and gave the audience what they needed, as he announced "...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" from their 2002 critically acclaimed and fan favourite album The Mantle. As soon as the crowd heard the words The Mantle, all hell broke loose and their showed reached the climax. The audience was cheering and applauding and the band engulfed the energy and pulled in a royal flush with an astonishing performance of this classical piece from their rich musical repertoire. Wrapping it up in the heat of the moment with "Into The Painted Grey", the band left the stage after about one and a half hour of vibrant and intense show, but the fans weren't ready to let them go and loudly started to cheer for an encore. It didn't take much to get the guys back to the stage as they gladly came back, thanked the crowd and hit us with "Falling Snow" and "Plateau Of The Ages" for the grand finale. After two hours of absolutely breath-taking performance, Agalloch really called it in. With their lengthy, ambient musical pieces all in all there were only 11 songs they performed in the night, but it was more than enough. The set list was nicely set to promote their latest album with four songs and a mixture of older songs the audience seemed to deeply cherish and enjoy. The lightshow, which filled the venue in gentle shades of green, blue and white and fog-effects, really gave the entire show what it needed, to create the necessary atmosphere, which would fit with Agalloch’s unique and sensational music. The energy of the entire night was much more obscure and ambient-prone than metal, but of course we did not forget we are at a metal show.

My feelings? I was kind of struck and bedazzled, I still am, because seeing such a great act perform live really helps me to see them in a whole new light. As Agalloch nicely shift from sounding strong, passionate and tenebrous to reaching atmospheric heights of serenity and strange melancholy, seeing them deliver the exact same dynamics on stage even with a stronger tone, than on albums, made me respect them even more. I believe anyone who came to the show left content and with a smile of a face, being a part of an excellent, emotionally charged and edgy performance. At the end, I would also like to thank the promoters at Mostovna, who have showed a great deal of respect and cooperation by giving us accreditation and for their immense kindness at the entrance. Unfortunately, the band was not available for an interview, which was a bummer a bit, but hey, at least I have an excuse to go see them again, when they come near, don’t I? Before I finish: if you’re a fan of atmospheric black metal and even if Agalloch aren’t placed high on your list, go see them, if you can. It’s a show you’ll remember for a long, long time. I still get goose bumps now when I put any of their albums on, as I immediately shift back into the state of mind I was, when I they were there, in front of me. And please, accept my deepest apologies for not delivering any noteworthy photo material, as I admit, I broke my camera a day prior to the event. But in the end, believe me: there are no photos or words that could match the dense ambient of Agalloch’s live performance.

Agalloch setlist at Mostovna, Nova Gorica, Slovenia on 31st July 2015:
01. The Astral Dialogue
02. Vales Beyond Dimension
03. Limbs
04. Ghosts Of The Midwinter Fires
05. Dark Matter Gods
06. Of Stone, Wind, And Pillor
07. Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony
08. ...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth
09. Into The Painted Grey

Encore:
10. Falling Snow
11. Plateau Of The Ages