Live: Agalloch Stage A Sensitive Metal Moment at Le Poisson Rouge


Agalloch, Aerial Ruin, Daniel Menche, Worm Ouroboros
Tuesday, March 22
Le Poisson Rouge

Better Than: Drinking that bottle of questionably old red wine you found.

If you ever get stuck trying to figure out what metal to play for your non-metal (read: more socially functional) friends, Agalloch should be your go-to band from here on out. In recent years , the Portland quartet, who played their first-ever New York show to a sold out crowd at Le Poisson Rouge last night, have spearheaded a new, more mature breed of metal that recognizes the futility of constant, sometimes purposeless anger and seeks to temper it with beauty, melody, and themes (i.e. nature, Emerson and/or Thoreau) that go beyond gore and/or Satan. Tuesday night saw the dark folk masters lead a cadre of appropriately forward thinking (sometimes questionably “metal”) acts that featured such unorthodox traits as acoustic instruments and female members that didn’t just play keyboards.

Aerial Ruin, the solo project of the heavily bearded Erik Moggridge, led the charge with a James-Taylor-after-a-week-of-Xathur acoustic set, followed by the unsettling antics of drone/noise artist Daniel Menche. Kneeling on a table over his mixing board, lit by a single red bulb, Menche looked like a mad shaman as he conjured a truly disturbing 15-minute soundscape by looping the sounds of his own twisted howls, grunts, and self-flagellations.

Then the crowd was treated to the simultaneously sultry and crushing post-doom of Worm Ouroboros. Led by the beautiful duel vocals of guitarist Jessica Way and bassist Lorraine Wrath, Worm Ouroboros switched effortlessly from the most soothing of delicate jam segments to some of heaviest riffs on the evening’s bill. All well and good, but the crowd, with it’s unusually high density of bespectacled individuals, yearned for some dark epic folk metal.

Though Agalloch began their set with the speedy blast beats of “Into the Painted Grey,” it took less than a minute for their myriad influences to begin showing. Front man and guitarist John Haughm frequently discarded his blackened rasps in favor of a smooth croon, while lead guitarist Don Anderson dropped the typical metal distortion for some soft strumming and wailing, mournful solos. On songs like “Limbs,” “Bloodbirds,” and “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion,” the tasteful infusions of progressive and post rock invite as much loose-limbed swaying as they do fervent head banging. It was nothing if not a welcome change from getting repeatedly punched in the back of the head. Maybe that’s why everyone left smiling?

Overheard: “I hope pork pie hats never become acceptable in metal.” I also overheard the word, “precautionarily,” which offended me greatly.

Critical Bias: I wear glasses and can’t grow a real beard.

Most Metal T-shirt: “Heavy Metal Sex Machine”