Do yourself a favor, and get some high-fidelity earplugs. I somehow forgot both my main pair and backup, so this was one of few shows in the last several years to cause new damage. Still, the sound was pretty well-balanced at Cafe Campus, and it was the first concert me and Phil would see there.
Because of this, we had one of those fun, where-the-fuck-is-Google-Maps-sending-us-and-why-didn’t-we-double-check-before-leaving kinda times. But we still got in to catch Musk Ox—the “neofolk / dark acoustic solo project of Canadian Nathanaël Larochette” (in the words of last.fm). It was a nice, mellow opener and Don Anderson came out to duet a little. Cool and interesting, yet not exactly right for my mood.
Worm Ouroboros brought a heavier atmosphere to the room. Alternating ambience against syrupy sludge, they had a unsettlingly pleasant presence—as if we had all struck a Faustian bargain in exchange for the dripping sweetness. The only caveat, as Mr. Eisenhauer pointed out, was that this would be better experienced lying down. Maybe in an opium den.
But we came for Agalloch. And we were hardly prepared for their gloriousness. Live, they were stronger than I had imagined. Everything just comes together, from their commanding stage presence to the incense permeating the air. There was much played from Marrow of the Spirit, beginning as the album does with “They Escaped the Weight of Darkness”—ethereal woodwinds mixed with natural ambiance, which spilled right “Into the Painted Grey”. But my favorite moment of the night was “Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires”, echoing its unique dance in their extended first set, which also included the first pair of tracks from Ashes Against the Grain.
They concluded with two of the finest from their early material: “Dead Winter Days” off of their debut Pale Folklore, and ”In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” from their sophomore set, The Mantle. As a recent Agalloch convert, I didn’t notice, as Phil did, that they played a veritable “best of” collection this evening—possibly because it was their first time playing Montréal. Spoken as someone with little previous knowledge, they execute beautifully and harmonize unexpectedly. I liked what I heard before, but am an absolutely true (tr00?) believer now.
But anyway… AGAIN: do yourself a favor, and get some fucking high-fidelity earplugs. For a show that “wasn’t all that bad” in terms of overwhelming volume, my ears have been really ringing for days. And even though my memory sometimes lacks (for various reasons), after 15 years and hundreds of shows, I can confidently say this is the worst aftermath yet. Now that I understand Agalloch more completely, the inability to listen would be downright tragic. So first, keep an eye out for your ears—involve other organs, if necessary—and get Marrow of the Spirit, which found its way onto more than one 2010 list on this site.
They Escaped the Weight of Darkness
Into the Painted Grey
The Watcher’s Monolith
Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires
Our Fortress is Burning… II: Bloodbirds
Dead Winter Days
In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion