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Live Report: Agalloch, Vektor, Jex Thoth @Underground Arts, Philadelphia (USA) – 29th June 2014

So, we have the progressive thrash band Vektor, doom metallers Jex Thoth and the let’s-not-put-them-in-a-genre Agalloch all in one bill? A very strange line-up indeed. They played at the Underground Arts in Philly, one of the city’s best known metal venues, which I surprisingly had not been to before. The venue itself is literally underground and has a, well…underground feel to it, but not run-down. It’s one of those small venues that kicks ass.

Agalloch NA tour 2014

Underground Arts

After an hour of waiting, the Philly local Vektor came on the stage. The singer looked like he just time travelled from the 80s with his curly long thrashy hair. They had a half hour set, but utilized the limited time to their advantage. Their set had some tasty thrash with all the right elements: crushing riffs, banshee vocals, and cosmic lyrics. There was more than meets the eye though. They slowed it down a few times from the intensity, and it got almost psychedelic at one point. Vektor delivered the goods as the first opener.

Vektor Setlist:
1. Oblivion
2. Dying World
3. Destroying the Cosmos
4. Accelerating Universe

Next on the queue was Jex Thoth, the reason why I was there. Jex had been on my list of bands-to-listen-to for a while and when I found out they were playing in Philly, I had to see if I like them. And behold, I did! Their singer Jessica Bowen has a very conventionally beautiful voice. She has the kind of pipes that would be featured in a James Bond title sequence. The band itself has catchy doomy riffs with proper use of keyboards. Jex‘s vocal melodies are often the highlight, sometimes going into epic doom metal territory. But they are not just pure doom, they also fall under the occult rock category, and sometimes stray away from that realm with songs like “The Places You Walk”.

When the band was setting up, candles were posted on stage, setting the mood. Jex entered the stage with a cloak, cigarette in hand. I could tell right away we were in for some theatrics. Her voice sounded just as it does in the studio, but it was her antics that were the highlight. She would constantly move her hands around as if casting a spell or performing a pagan ritual. In the middle of the set, she brought out a knife and used it to stab a piece of incense which she then lit on fire. She proceeded to walk into the audience and continued her strange behavior with some audience interaction. It almost seemed like she was going to sacrifice someone to the gods with that knife. During the whole set, she never talked to the audience, just sang and did her weird movements, which I liked. She was very mysterious and I can’t tell if it was all for show or if there was some seriousness in her witchery. Her antics added to the mystical sound the band conjures. “Raven nor the Spirit” and “Keep Your Weeds” in particular were spectacular and the band was on their A-game the entire time.

Jex Thoth Setlist:
1. To Bury
2. The Places You Walk
3. Nothing Left to Die
4. Raven nor the Spirit
5. Keep Your Weeds
6. Separated at Birth
7. Ehjä
8. Son of Yule

And now for the feature presentation…Agalloch. Out of the three bands, I was least familiar with them. They genre-bend, going from doom metal to post-metal to ambient folk and other categories. They set the atmosphere with plenty of fog and smoke throughout the show. I could not really get into them too much, though I did appreciate their soft interludes between songs, a throwback to the 70s with acts like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. I didn’t hate them, but I’m usually not a fan of harsh vocals, particularly with doom. The fact that the parking lot we had parked at closed at midnight and that the set was pushing after 12 didn’t help. My girlfriend and I left early due to that, but for me it was not much of a loss. There was probably about 15 minutes at the most we missed.

Agalloch Setlist:
1. (serpens caput) (pre-recorded intro)
2. The Astral Dialogue
3. Vales Beyond Dimension
4. Limbs
5. Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires
6. Dark Matter Gods
7. The Melancholy Spirit
8. Celestial Effigy
9. …and the Great Cold Death of the Earth
10. Into the Painted Grey
11. Falling Snow
12. Plateau of the Ages

I was thinking for a lot of the night why these three bands were put together, and during Agalloch, I realized why: you can’t pigeon-hole any of these bands into one genre. Vektor is thrash, but with progressive elements that vary it up. Jex Thoth is doom metal, but also occult rock, and they go outside those boundaries as well. Agalloch is all over the place genre-wise. This is common these days. Newer bands often are a culmination of different styles that have developed over time. This show is a good representation of the genre-bending in metal these days. I had a fun time at a new venue (for me), and I can’t wait to go back in September for Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.

More Vekor:
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More Jex Thoth:
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More Agalloch:
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Reviewer Spencer Maxwell is a filmmaker and devoted metalhead. Check out his films here and his metal videos here.

Spencer
About Spencer (124 Articles)
Spencer Maxwell is a filmmaker and devoted metalhead. His favorite genres are heavy and doom metal, with his top bands being Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Candlemass, Pentagram, and Saint Vitus.

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