Agalloch, a progressive black metal band from Portland, OR, roused the attendees of Maverick’s into a mosh pit during their first show in the nation’s capital. “I didn’t know anyone had heard of us in Ottawa,” said singer songwriter John Haughm. “It’s good to see.” He said this despite the fact his eyes were closed most of the time, even when wailing through some of the most skull-crushing riffs & thunderous drums. The lighting & dry ice matched their elemental influences well, reminding us that the best place to hear Agalloch is from a mountaintop.
On their The Serpent & the Sphere tour, the fourtet have birthed their fourth LP release as a beast with many backs. Definitely keeping to their prog-metal and neofolk, they also have heavy instrumental tracks and as close to rock as these guys can get. The intro to their show is an interlude on the new album, written & composed by Halifax-native but Ottawa’s own Nathanaël Larochette. The rolling thunder and the lingering smell of incense created a good ambience, and the veteran metal band is no stranger to atmospheric sound: wavering guitar, matter-of-fact drums and the perfect amount of archaic verses can go a long way. This 19-year-old band is still pushing itself to create serious sounscapes, and with their latest album they’ve succeeded.
Jex Thoth was my first experience with doom/stoner metal. They’re a quintet from Madison, WI who burned candles and incense throughout their set. The pungent aroma and the caped figure of Jessica Thoth at the helm brought a psychedelic atmosphere to the evening. They played pulsing songs like “To Bury” & “Son of Yule,” with the help of a synth set on “organ” and the vocalist’s voice wailing with power. Often I couldn’t tell if it was the synth or her voice, and her pitch was perfect. Many new fans made, because most had Jex Thoth vinyls under their arms once they stopped playing. There’s beauty in these tracks that could easily be rituals of the live wire music embodying a human host.
Local prog chamber folk group Musk Ox were stoked to be opening for Larochette’s favourite band in Ottawa that night. They played two of the longer pieces from their new album Woodfall, with Raphael Weinroth-Browne making faces as he plugged his cello with authority and Evan Runge of Larochette’s band Night Watch laid out the violin. I’ve never seen a cellist headbang before. Nine years ago, the leader of this group never thought he would be opening for his favourite band after he quit Carleton Univeristy to become a musician. “Whatever you want to do, just fucking do it,” he urged us before the end of his set. In his case, following your heart gets you to exactly where you want to be, and there’s something to be said for that.