Published Mar 28, 2011More than five years after they last played Ontario, Agalloch returned with a lineup that could not have been better aligned.
The self-described "heavy mellow" of Ottawa's Musk Ox quietly but passionately captivated the bodies beginning to crowd the stage. Nathanaël Larochette's solo classical guitar obviously resonated with the louder bands to follow. He teased the audience with a musical quote from the headliners and finished with a guitar duet, Agalloch's Don Anderson joining him for a rendition of their White EP track "The Isle of Summer."
In what seemed like no time at all, Worm Ouroboros took Musk Ox's place, nudging the already-hypnotic aura in a more unearthly direction. The San Francisco three-piece evoke '70s occult rock, the perfectly pitched ethereal harmonies of the lady singers hovering over the thick effluence of their bass and guitar and weaving a spell over the room. And then their sound would veer into something more rumblingly heavy before easing off again into a subsuming river of sound.
Agalloch stepped easily into the lingering atmosphere, now tangible in the incense smoke rising from the stage. They performed songs as old as their fourth written to one that vocalist/guitarist John Haughm described a favourite from 2010's Marrow of the Spirit. As the set went on, the band's music began to take on a life of its own, escaping its original contexts and structures and threatening the unpredictable at nearly every moment.
Throughout their set, through harsh vocals and long instrumental passages, the energy was constantly building until it vibrated through the entire space. Despite doing double duty (in Worm Ouroboros), drummer Aesop Dekker never tired, and Anderson looked to be bleeding music out his pores, singing along and almost literally bouncing off the walls.
The only sour notes came from the audience, with Haughm even telling some crowd members to "play nice." But it wasn't enough to undo the magic. From the show's opening minutes to its climactic conclusion, all three acts collectively immersed the venue in an irresistible otherworldly vibe.