Algiers is currently on tour supporting their exceptional 2020 release, There Is No Year, and hit Saint Vitus for a pair of shows; we caught the second night on 9/15. The album was released prior to the ravages of 2020 fully setting in, and it would be easy to look at the title and say it ended up being a telling prediction because the world as we knew it shut down. But that is far too simple a take and could never really be true because what a year 2020 was, with massive- and much needed- examinations of ourselves and our society unfolding almost daily as the year progressed. I couldn’t help but think of the opening lines of “Dispossession,” “Run around/Run away from your America/While it burns in the streets/I been here standing on top of the mountain/Shouting down what I see…” at many points along the way during 2020 and well into 2021.
This is a band that never shies away from their politics and the record serves as a powerful document of that. It is also a bonafide opus from a band that can’t be pinned down by any single genre label and that effortlessly infuses elements of gospel, post-punk, soul and experimental noise into their sound. While Algiers sounds incredible on a record, the best way to really experience the full force of their music is to see them play live, because it is exactly that, an experience rather than just a show. And seeing them in a venue like Vitus, where it is still intimate enough for them to interact with the crowd in a direct way, only enhances that. Rare is the band that can go so hard and be so captivating on stage and rather than tiring the audience out, leave them wanting more at the end of the show.
Openers and tour mates, Zen Mother, kicked off the night with a dark, brooding wall of sound. They are a “two-piece experimental, electronic rock project inspired by French composer, Igor Wakhevitch,” and are based right here in Brooklyn. I had been totally unfamiliar with them before this show, but they were a welcome discovery. Their sound was all at once heavy, harsh, operatic and doomy, but with a very measured control. They also dip very considerably into industrial territory and I even heard grunge elements at times, particularly in sweeping guitar passages that reminded me of 90s era greats, Hum. Their most recent release, The Ascent, came out in 2019 and is a sprawling body of work containing 31 songs and clocking in at almost two hours in length.
After their set I couldn’t help but gear nerd a little bit and asked guitarist/vocalist Monika Khot about her guitar, a DiPinto Galaxie, which I had previously never seen used in the context of heavy music, only in surf and much lighter punk rock bands. I asked if she had modified it to add Humbuckers to thicken up the sound, as DiPinto’s are almost always single coil models, but she said the she got the guitar “on eBay when I was 15,” and the only modification she had made was to paint it black.
Algiers at Saint Vitus
Algiers took the stage and very quickly hit their stride, not holding anything back. Singer Franklin James Fisher was in and out of the crowd more than once, while bassist Ryan Mahan shed his instrument multiple times to dance and channel the music through his body as though it was an instrument itself.
I had previously seen them in 2018 when they were on a run with Downtown Boys (I covered that show for Impose), and was completely blown away; I had not been able to get that show out of my head since that night and was thrilled to be seeing them again. As mentioned, their politics are at the forefront of the lyrics and this is punctuated and enhanced with voiceovers and the emotion that radiates off of Fisher. While I expected the set mostly to be made up of the material from the newest album, they mixed it up and played songs from across their catalog, pulling heavily from 2017’s, The Underside of Power.
Their set moved along in sonic crests and waves, at times more muted like the somber and soulful piano based “Hymn for an Average Man,” and pivoting to blistering at others with the driving electro infused guitar blast of “Cry of the Martyrs,” featuring Fisher’s vocals soaring to incredible heights. They paired this back to back with the equally rapid fire electro beat of “Walk Like A Panther.” The audience moved with the band throughout all of these tonal shifts, reacting emotionally throughout the set and engaging fully with the band no matter the mood.
Drummer Matt Tong is currently on paternity leave from the band, but they were joined onstage by fill in drummer Dante Foley of Mourning [A] BLKstar who meshed perfectly with the rest of the group.
As I said in that earlier review from the first time I saw them, Algiers had “left the air crackling with intensity in their wake.” That sentiment rang even more true on this night, as it is obvious every part of their performance is intentional and necessary in the totality of their presence. They very much lived up to this ethos of intention, closing their set with “Death March,” from The Underside of Power. Extending the song, they left a looped outro playing as they all exited the stage and walked out of the room, making their final statement of the evening.
Scroll down to see pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)