Oathbreaker at The Studio at Webster Hall

Now that spring is beginning to thaw the ground here in NYC, it seems like tours are popping up as quickly as the daffodils.  One such tour we have watched snake across the states is Oathbreaker and Jaye Jayle.  We were finally able to catch them as the tour wound down and stopped at The Studio at Webster Hall on April 8th, joined by Brooklyn natives Sannhet.

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Jaye Jayle

Jay Jayle kicked the night off with their On the Road-esque bluesy blend of rock.  Cloaked in amber lighting on a stage that left little room for movement, you can really hear the southern roots so deeply threaded in their music.  I’ve always felt their music would be the perfect soundtrack to a gritty, adventure-filled and nicotine-saturated movie – indie of course, not the mainstream variety.  It’s a sound that reminds me of small towns and late nights spent on the porch with an acoustic guitar and moths fluttering around the light, especially when they were joined by Emma Ruth Rundle.

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Sannhet

Sannhet was second on the roster bringing their experimental metal from the borough next door.  Paired with their custom light projections, it only took about two songs before I felt like I was in an instrumental trance and gave my camera a break so I could just absorb their sound.  Although I am not overly fond of harsh strobing lights, the moments where the band was just wrapped in their light projection and flitting in and out of shadows made the change in tempo and the use of the strobes make more sense.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition of light to sound.

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Oathbreaker

 

Closing out the night was Oathbreaker, on their second-to-last tour date before I would assume they will return to their native Belgium.  In lighting akin to the type of dark blue you expect when nearing the bottom of the ocean, they took to the stage.  Singer Caro, whose fluttering draped garments give her a somewhat blurred and watery appearance began to softly sing to the crowd.  As anyone who is familiar with Oathbreaker knows, the moments of peace and tranquility her singing brings are short-lived as she and the band suddenly shatter the calm and tear right through the crowd who wait with arms open.  It’s a strangely beautiful balance.
Check out the photos below!

-Skc Photo-

 

Jaye Jayle
Sannhet
Oathbreaker

On the Turntable – King Woman ‘Created In The Image of Suffering’

I think one of the best things about being part of the SGM fam is the freedom that we have, since we answer to no one but ourselves.  We are a group of women from all walks of life who join here to try to create something new and different, if such a thing is still possible.  We don’t allow advertising on our site, so we can post about anything, in any form, and that is something I genuinely cherish.  So in that stead, we thought it would be interesting to offer a couple of simultaneous posts.  Below you’ll find two reviews of the new King Woman album Created In The Image of Suffering.  I have teamed up with Pygopagus to offer our thoughts on this album, and we decided to showcase how far-ranging our opinions on it were, sort of a dueling pianos review. Check it out!

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Thalia Gore’s Review

It seems like every time I hear about a band lately, they are from the Bay Area.  I have yet to check out the scene, but I’ve definitely been meaning to stop by to check out some shows and see what the vibe is like over there.  The most recent SF band to come up on my radar is King Woman, as they have just released Created In The Image of Suffering on Relapse Records.  

I was excited to check out this album as soon as I heard of it’s impending release and the corresponding video for “Deny.”  This marks the debut full-length album from Kristina Esfandiari and the album is laced with her own personal demons lingering in the dark, hazy sound this trio creates.  

The album starts off with “Citious” the digital-only track that was an album bonus.  This track runs roughly one minute and slowly eases you into King Woman’s sound.  As the second track, “Utopia,” unfolds, you are suddenly wrapped in a gauzy and distorted doom womb.   

I like the fact that Esfandiari’s vocals are even with the music, not above it nor far below, creating a seamlessly woven balance. I really appreciate how haunting she can sound between the distortion and echoes.  Like she’s caught somewhere in the afterlife and is kind of okay with being there.

Sadly the album starts to lose me at “Hierophant,” at which point things start to feel too repetitive.  A chorus is sung one too many times or a riff harped on a little too often.  I think they have great potential and a genuinely unique sound, but I think come their next album they should delve a little deeper into the editing process.  Overall I think this is a great debut and I will be interested to see how their sound matures.

 

Pygopagus’s Review 

King Woman unveils their debut full-length album, Created In The Image of Suffering, and I hand the veil back. The first track, “Citios”, the digital only bonus track slaps you in the face with its cringe-worthy vibe of an angst riddled teen, with nothing to complain about, who just discovered how to make something “artistic” in Garageband. It didn’t feel like a bonus it’s more of warning for the quality of the rest of the album.

You often see the adjectives, “breathy, hypnotic and ethereal” thrown around when referencing female vocals with a similar, super on-trend vocal style. This album strikes me as a high school band trying their best to emulate Chelsea Wolfe for a Battle of the Bands in the high school gym. It’s contrived, from their look, the album name, the sound –  it’s all a little too on the nose to work or feel authentic. The vocals sound lifeless and without the effects and layering wouldn’t be record-worthy. The music itself is slow, repetitive and hugely uninspiring. I was particularly frustrated with the mixing of the record in relation to the snare drum. It’s so sharp that it’s jarring compared to the rest of the heavily sedated sounds.

As I listened through each track, hoping that I was nearing an amazing moment that would change things around, I got more anxious and frustrated by how unpolished the album is. The lyrical content, vocals and instrumentation is uncomfortably elementary. The hip thing that I would expect them to do is take all of their weaknesses and try to spin them into an intentional sound, but it’s not even possible, it’s just a fact that it is unpolished.

Debuting an album is a huge deal, and the work required to achieve it should be applauded. The courage to put yourself out there as an artist is fucking terrifying and in a sense I hate that I am that person who’s shitting all over it. But the reality is the only thing I like about King Woman is their name. This is an over-saturated market, and one that is blossoming with tremendous talent that transports you to a different place. In order to break into the scene and leave a mark they have to discover and embrace their own unique sound, because there is nothing unique about this album.

Least favorite track “Worn.” Say ‘break the bread’ one more time and see what happens.

Grab your copy from Relapse Records on CD or vinyl.

Sunn O))) at Union Transfer – Submerged in Drone

If you’ve ever been to a Sunn O))) show, you know that the environment overall can feel a bit like being submerged – sinking down to the bottom of a body of water, the pressure building up in your ears and on your body.  It’s beautiful, other-worldly, and about as heavy as you can get.  That’s what I felt as I experienced them for two nights in a row at The Knockdown Center in New York and then at Union Transfer in Philly.  I must be a glutton for their sound, since I signed up for the exact same double-drone when I saw them in Florida about a year ago.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to hear, see, and feel an experience such as this and even for people that may not find this to be their cup of tea, I still would say suck it up and go experience it, it’s transcendental.

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Big Brave

Sunn embarked on this tour once again with support from Big Brave, who hail from Montreal.  I’ve tried numerous times over the last year to describe the sound of Big Brave and words always seem to fail me.  I end up mumbling out thoughts and adjectives and then disagreeing with myself, and wind up saying “just listen to them.”  Between the heavy, almost tribal drums provided by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard, punctuated by distant yet commanding vocals from Robin Wattie, this trio really has a sound that is completely their own and impossible to ignore.  My respect for them has grown each time I’ve seen them live. I also love how self-effacing and grateful they seem towards their fans and towards the members of Sunn O))) – it just seems like they take none of it for granted.

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Big Brave

After Big Brave’s set at Knockdown, a brief transitional period and an intermission long enough to allow the room to fill with fog, a singular figure could vaguely be seen shuffling across the stage to take his place at the microphone waiting in the center.  It was there, alone in a sea of fog that Attila began singing.  In the stillness that ensued, no one seemed to notice the rest of the band taking the stage, until the lights lifted ever so slightly and more shadows began to emerge.  Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson then joined in with their heavily distorted and reverberating guitars which I immediately felt all the way to my marrow.  

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Sunn O)))

The next hour plus was a meditative blur, and I found myself torn between taking pictures and just closing my eyes and letting the waves wash over me.   Also the realization that if it were me on stage, I would constantly trip on my cloak, eat shit, and embarrass everyone in the band.  While I may have cat-like reflexes by day, by fog I am a shuffling nightmare of tragedy who will most likely take anyone nearby down with me.  

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Sunn O)))

Somehow these cloaked figures have learned the navigational skills that will probably elude me forever, and seamlessly disappeared and re-emerged in the foggy shadows as various combinations of members held the stage.  As the fog began to dissipate slightly, with a gentle nudge from Anderson, Attila disappeared to prepare for the final act – one I can’t help but stand in awe of every time I experience it.  If you have seen the mirrored cloak and spiked crown, perhaps you understand where I’m coming from and can identify.  It’s basically a work of performance art and I try to photograph it as such, waiting for just the right movement of Attila’s laser-clad hand or the moment when everyone on stage has their hands and instruments stretched to the sky.   

Check out the images below! (Click on the image to open gallery)

Big Brave

 

Sunn O)))

Mayhem at The Theatre of Living Arts – A Dark Ritual

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, being neighbors with Philadelphia is rad.  Show in NYC sold out or on a date you can’t make it?  Go to Philly.  Of course, this kind of requires a car, and being a girl from a small town where my car equals freedom and escape, I refuse to part with mine.  So roughly a week ago, after a quick trip down 95 I found myself waiting for Black Anvil to take the stage at The Theatre of Living Arts, the smell of incense beginning to waft through the air.

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Black Anvil

I must say, I really enjoyed the variety of black metal that was on this bill.  I think balancing an all black metal show can be tricky but this was definitely a neapolitan-esque  offering.  Black Anvil kicked things off, and I for one felt completely blown away by their performance.  Their live performance has so much more depth to it than comes through on their new record.  While the music itself is not one of my top choices, I still got so much more of a feel for their style that night than I had by listening to the  album.  If anyone is on the fence about their new work, I highly recommend seeing them live.  That can be said for a lot of bands, but for me it was really a night-and-day difference.

Inquisition was next to play, and even aside from my fondness for corpse paint and theatrics as I’ve previously mentioned, I really appreciated how just two band members were able to make use of so much stage space and keep the audience interested.  Guitarist Dragon paced back and forth across the stage like a feral animal caught in a cage created by their large on-stage banners.  He has a reverberating voice with an otherworldly sound, and I’m not sure if it’s a natural quality or processed somehow but it kept my attention.  Combine that with Incubus’s ferocious drumming and you have a Molotov cocktail of sound in your face.  

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Inquisition

 

Closing the night out was Mayhem performing De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and the crowd pulsed with anticipation as the altar was set up by stagehands, prepared to be haunted by none other than Attila.  The band took to a darkened and fog-laden stage and began playing so suddenly it took me a few seconds of standing in awe of these cloaked creatures to snap out it and get my camera up and firing.  

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Mayhem

Those of you reading this may not know me all that personally, so perhaps when I tell you I got goosebumps when Attila came on stage you’ll think I’m blowing smoke up your dress.  I admit to  being an excitable person, but aside from that I really respect and respond to  musicians that have such an unwavering presence onstage.  Later, discussing the show, a dear friend of mine said  “his performance style seems like a masterclass in black metal; but everyone is better off seeing him perform rather than trying to imitate.”  He summed everything up that I had been thinking but could not form into a sentence, and to me this stands true no matter which band you see him perform with.

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Mayhem

Of course, as always, my main goal is to attempt to capture the most evocative moments visually.  From his enthralling dance with the candles in front of him, either curling his hands gently around the flames as if they are old friends or lovers or gnashing his teeth and lapping at them, to the moments he reaches from the darkness, clawing at the air and extending a hand to the heavens, perhaps knowing it’s somewhere he doesn’t belong.  Some moments I cannot capture – like the maniacal laughter you hear as Attila bounds across the stage and into the shadows, only to reappear looming over the shoulder of bassist Necrobutcher. – but if you have seen Mayhem, perhaps you have witnessed them.

Check out all of the images below! Click on the image to open the gallery.

-Skc Photo-

Black Anvil

 

Inquisition

 

Mayhem

Metal Blade’s 35th Anniversary Show at Belasco Theater – Los Angeles, CA

My brother and I went to the Metal Blade Records 35th anniversary show this past week. Between the performances and the crowd, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. The most unique part of the night began when I noticed The Pit, that swirling beast made of heads and arms common to any metal show – what made this one surprising was the overwhelming female presence, half of the crowd at least. They were tough, blissfully in their element, and owning it.

I was entranced. I followed them outside for a smoke break and introduced myself. I asked to take their portraits, and they were all so down and so nice! One of them was so excited she dropped her beer. I bought her another one, and we talked about music and beer and how it sucks when no one tells you you have lipstick on your teeth. The whole experience made me remember when I was a lot younger and would let all of my aggression out at shows like this. There weren’t a lot of girls in my local scene back then, so seeing these ladies effortlessly breaking gender barriers was inspiring. No one questioned it because they we were all the same: metalheads having a blast seeing some of the best bands on earth. I gleaned enough POWER from the whole experience to last me a while. All of this to say, I bow in my heart to these babes forever! Power house to the max.

-Jessica Nicole Collins

On the Turntable – Power Trip ‘Nightmare Logic’

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Power Trip is a band I wasn’t familiar with prior to hearing their second album Nightmare Logic, which will be released February 24th through Southern Lord.  I was instantly welcomed into the album with a wall of delicious distortion followed by what felt like stumbling into a wormhole that took me straight to an excitement and energy right out of none other than Metallica’s first studio record Kill ‘Em All.

The songs are short, exciting blasts of energy and aggression. This is a common format in this type of album, but often such short songs feel unpolished, rough or too meandering, like unfinished ideas. Power Trip’s great skill is their editing of their own work, which results in a gorgeous mix of classic metal, thrash and punk. As an added bonus, there are so many glorious guitar screams, the kind that I long for but can usually only find in fantasy metal!

Each band member is incredibly talented, and together they have created a much-needed throwback sound with a modern twist – it doesn’t seem like they are just cloning a sound that works. I am most impressed with the energy sustained throughout the album, it is consistent and combative and even more so it sounds like the makings of an incredible live show.

In my opinion, lyrics are something that many metal fans are too forgiving of, by implicitly not expecting much more than vague threats of violence and male chest pounding/dragon slaying/etc – but Nightmare Logic is not only refreshing in its sound, but also lyrically. The band provides us with anthem after anthem inspiring us to fight back against oppression. This genre is not normally my thing, but I cannot tell you how jazzed I am to have an album that serves as a great collection of songs with a purpose that couldn’t be more relevant!

Recommended Songs: The entire album from beginning to end

Grab your copy of Nightmare Logic on Southern Lord here.

Photo by Skc Photo

-Pygopagus-

Sumac, YOB, & Neurosis at Neumos

The nice thing about living in New York City, for SGM’s purposes, is that we tend to get a lot of shows passing through.  One could argue that the tradeoff is, say, Chinatown in the dead of summer and the stench of fish and garbage, large rodents and indestructible insects, and subway cars ripe with all sorts of heavy air and unpleasant odors.  But let’s not think about summer in the city just yet.

There are also times, however, when a band or bands do a short run of dates in other parts of the country and the tour looks so tempting that you find yourself on travel websites at odd hours of the night looking for flights to places like Seattle, Washington so you can see the trifecta of Sumac, YOB, and Neurosis at Neumos.  

Is this scenario hypothetical?  In this case no, that is exactly what I did.  My only regret being that I inadvertently stumbled upon that gross gum wall while I was wandering around Seattle.  Note to self, enticing stairs descending to pretty cobblestone streets don’t always result in mysterious Diagon-like alleys.  Sometimes they lead to a lot of people, mostly tourists, chewing gum, blowing bubbles and taking selfies while you awkwardly twitch in revulsion and try to push through while inexplicably holding your breath for no reason.

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Sumac

 

So yeah, Sumac, YOB, and Neurosis at Neumos.  It was really something I wanted to experience, especially having heard so much about Neumos as a killer venue.  Sumac played first and compared to when I saw them at Saint Vitus, I felt like the energy at this show and for this particular set was on another level.  Maybe Seattle feels like home and the vibe is different, but it was palpable.  I always like watching the dynamic between bandmates and seeing these guys joking like brothers onstage and playing such intensely dynamic music together was really endearing.  The entire set had a very climactic feel to it, and when they struck their last chord it was like being snapped back to reality after a deep meditation.  Even the gentleman next to me couldn’t help but smile, look over at me and say “Man, that was transcendental!”  I could not have agreed more.

Up next was YOB, beautiful YOB.  One of the most zen metal bands ever to exist.  It’s so clear they love what they do and they love being on stage sharing their music with all of us.  Bathed in a warm kaleidoscope of light, guitarist Mike Scheidt removes you from the venue and the crowd and brings you into a rhythmic trance with him.  The unique mixture of worldly sounds, sludgy doom, and distorted vocals all creates the ethereal experience known as YOB.  It’s a feeling few bands are able to accomplish so sincerely.

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YOB

Last but certainly not least, as we all know, was Neurosis.  I’m still kind of amazed at what a difference the venue made.  I’d never been fortunate enough to see Neurosis in a venue this size and it was really refreshing.  I could tell the crowd felt very connected to the band and hopefully the band felt the same.  A low stage also meant they were basically standing right in front of me, so close it was almost difficult to shoot at some points, which I found comical.  As I’ve  come to expect from Neurosis, their set was well crafted, with a natural ebb and flow.  Their recent anniversary show in San Francisco is still in the forefront of my mind as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but this show was a close second.

Check out the photo below!

-Skc Photo-

Sumac

 

YOB

 

Neurosis