Agalloch/Taurus at Empire

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, August 1, 2012

For over a decade Agalloch has captivated metal fans with their material for over a decade and show little signs of slowing down. The band has always been hard to categorize as they have utilized elements of black metal, post rock, folk and even doom over the years and the sense of atmosphere created on their songs has been one of the reasons listeners have kept coming back. At the end of June the group released an EP entitled Faustian Echoes, which contains a single 21 minute song based on Faust. In support of the EP Agalloch is spending much of the summer touring around the US and has brought Taurus along with them as direct support. I had the chance to check out the tour when it came through Springfield, VA and was blown away by the performances.

Taurus is still relatively new, so a lot of people know the duo because of Stevie Floyd’s involvement in Dark Castle. I reviewed their debut release Life earlier in the week, and as it is the only material the band has written so far their set consists of the material in its entirety. Taurus takes on more of a drone approach than the other bands its members have been involved in, and I was interested to see how it would transfer to a live setting. As it turns out, there is not only ample use of fog but a looping video montage. I’m curious to find out what the footage was from as it looked like it might have been a Middle Eastern film, but the clips were well synchronized with the group’s slow droning and darker atmosphere. On record some of the droning sections felt like they went on for a little too long but this was not the case in person, as it seems as though the combination of the sound waves washing over you and the video helped to keep you entranced in what was happening. Stevie Floyd still has some downright intimidating screams and growls that are amplified live and drummer Ashley Spungin had a lot of power behind every hit which really brought the sound out. Near the end of the first segment (Life is divided into two parts) both Floyd and Spungin screamed without the use of microphones and it was loud enough that just about every attendee could hear. The performance as a whole really had a ritualistic feel about it and watching the duo it seemed as though they felt every note and beat as they were playing it. While the actual compositions have room for growth, the performance aspect of Taurus’ music is absolutely mesmerizing and their live show is already at a level higher than many other new acts.

By only having one opener Agalloch was able to perform a much longer headlining set, which is great considering how many of their songs push are ten minutes or more. What’s a testament to their ability to write catchy material and play it well live is how quickly the show went by, as when it seemed as though twenty minutes or so had passed the group had already been performing for an hour and a half and weren’t done yet. It seems as though this tour is a great way for established fans and newcomers to get oriented with what the band has to offer, as in addition to playing the Faustian Echoes track in its entirety they picked songs from each of their four full lengths and even threw in the Sol Invictus cover “Kneel to the Cross”. This choice of material gives concertgoers the opportunity to really experience different points in the band’s discography and they are able to still do justice to every song they choose to play (including “You Were but a Ghost in My Arms” which they just started to perform at this year’s Maryland Deathfest). The instrumentals sounded incredible, as they were at a volume where the extended melodic passages swept over you and kept you hanging on every note. Agalloch has always impressed me with their ability to move from soft passages to the harsh, biting feel that black metal is typically known for and they are able to accomplish these transitions on-stage without missing a beat. Vocalist John Haughm still sounds great, and although his harsh screams sometimes seemed as though they were going to be overpowered by the volume of the instrumentals he was always audible and gave an intense performance. I did feel that his clean vocals seemed a bit shakier in person than on album but it wasn’t to the point that it kept those particular moments from being enjoyable. This particular date was a matinee show and as it was set to end early the band wasn’t sure how much time they had to play, but after initially ending with “Kneel to the Cross” and finding out they had more time left than they thought Agalloch was able to play the last four songs in their full set. While this may have only been my second time seeing them perform after a first experience at Maryland Deathfest, it was clear from this show that the group is always well prepared for the road and give it their all on each stop. Check them out if you have the opportunity, as it will likely be an experience you won’t soon forget.



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