(Here’s Andy Synn’s review of performances at the second day of Oslo’s Inferno Festival. For his review of the first day’s inferno, go here.)
Day 2, and far more refreshed after a night’s proper sleep, we turned up at the venue a little before Agalloch’s set, allowing us to wander round the various stalls, tattoo showcases, and other assorted gubbins that act as an annex to the main festival. Highlights included some impressive tattoo work, a random assortment of rare/hilarious special editions (including a hugely over-priced and hugely amusing mega-box edition of the new and deplorable Morbid Angel album), and the none-more-metal selection offered by the infamous Neseblod Records stand. To top it all off we were even offered the opportunity to buy some of ICS Vortex’s old leathers. Truly the stuff legends are made of. But all these wonders were mere distractions set against the night’s impressive musical line-up.
Right from the start, Agalloch set out to reclaim and redefine the term “epic” with their tense and scintillating sound, expanding to fill the massive venue with a wall of sonic majesty, roots and branches reaching up to the heavens and penetrating deep into the loam of the earth. Cherry-picking the best tracks from The Mantle, Ashes Against The Grain, and Marrow Of The Spirit, the quartet painted the venue with sound and light, washing over the audience in tidal waves of lush, transcendent noise and focussed power – in particular, “In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion” was both utterly haunting and emotionally exhausting. Even some temporary technical problems were dealt with in an almost seamless manner, the rest of the band maintaining the pulsating heartbeat of ethereal ambience while frontman John Haughm dealt with his misbehaving guitar.
If you’ve never seen Agalloch live, I implore you to do so at any costs; they conjure an atmosphere as intense as any band I have seen (equaling, though not competing with, that of Triptykon on the previous night), but in a manner wholly unique to themselves. It’s the music of nature and nurture, layers and layers of melody and complexity that subtly, and unexpectedly, combine into something overwhelmingly heavy yet effortlessly organic. Continue reading »