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

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

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

The Power of the Riff

In six years, The Power of the Riff has earned some notoriety as a music festival full of raucous fun and more great bands than you can shake a stick at.  This year, POTR took place at The Regent Theatre in Los Angeles and as always was curated by Greg Anderson and Sam James Velde.  It usually spans two days, though I suppose this year it could’ve been called three days if you count the pre-show/party at The Complex with Deth Crux, Despise You, and Excel – a show which I still have a mural of bruises from attending.  

If you are unfamiliar with POTR but enjoy being exposed to a menagerie of punk, metal, and hardcore bands all at once, then this is definitely your scene.  While I was excited to see all the bands, there were most definitely some standout performances this year that I was grateful to catch – one of which was the band that kicked off the entire weekend, Crypt Rot.  

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Crypt Rot

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you have not given Crypt Rot a listen, do yourself a favor.  They really got the ball rolling at POTR and to be honest I was bummed that more people hadn’t arrived yet to see them play.  Even leaving aside my long-standing affinity for corpse paint, these guys (& gal) packed a fast, gritty set that really left me anticipating their new album, which is set to drop sometime early this year on Southern Lord Records.

Gag was another band that slammed into the crowd.  In a flurry, singer Adam Barnes stomped across the stage like a feral animal, throwing his seemingly pent up rage at the crowd.  Although Gag had thirty minutes to play, they finished in just over ten, like a tornado that arrives without warning and destroys everything in it’s path.  

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Gag

Bloodclot had the room buzzing a bit.  This group, featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age, Agnostic Front, and Cro-Mags, played their first official show that night.  They packed in the old New York hardcore vibe and energy but kept it fresh with catchy and somewhat melodic lyrics.  They have their first album dropping this year on Metal Blade Records and based on how well they were received, I’m sure many people will be grabbing a copy.

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Bloodclot

The final two acts to close out Saturday were Incantation and Wolves in the Throne Room.  Incantation was a blast to see live and the energy in the room went up threefold.  Given their long history, albeit wracked with lineup changes, they continue to maintain their position as one of the most notorious death metal bands on the scene.

Wolves in the Throne Room continues to be one of my favorite live bands, not just because I deeply appreciate their music but because they provide a refreshing challenge to photograph.  Bathed in cool blue light with fog swirling across the stage and into the crowd, WITTR provide a rich ambience, cloaked in layers that are dizzying to get lost in should you wish to.  As particular about lighting and presentation as Neurosis, they delivered a carefully crafted set, starting off with “Queen of Borrowed Light” and taking the crowd on roughly an hour-long journey.

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Wolves in the Throne Room

Sunday’s schedule had one less performance on the lineup to give ample setup time for Neurosis to get prepped, but that didn’t mean it was any less heavy-hitting.  Sunday saw the triumphant return of Nails, which was definitely a crowd favorite, and nearly the whole room was engulfed in a circle pit.  Guitarist Todd Jones said after expressing immense thanks to the crowd and all involved,  “God never came into my life but Minor Threat & Slayer did.”  It stuck with me since I have always felt the same way about music.

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Nails

Closing out the weekend was Neurosis.  I’m not sure what I can say about Neurosis that hasn’t been said before, to be honest, and words just don’t seem to do them justice.  But I will say, their presence on stage is powerful.  It’s both weighty and intimidating,since they are incredibly stoic and approach their music with a silent resolve.  Even so, you can feel years of pain and anguish flooding through their music, and that’s what originally made me fall in love with their work.

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Neurosis

Check out the full gallery of all the bands below! (click on the thumbnails to open gallery)

And a huge thank you to Greg and James for putting together yet another incredible event!

-Skc Photo-

Pre-Party at The Complex w/ Excel

 

The Power of the Riff at The Regent

 

Enslaved 25

I’m the type of person who thinks every show I’m able to attend is special – life is crazy and sometimes twisted and I never really know what tomorrow will bring – but when I say that seeing Enslaved at The Gramercy Theatre was special, I mean that it went above and beyond. Twenty-five years is a long time. Generally speaking, any relationship that hits 25 years and continues to function is probably doing something right, so it was great getting to see the full spectrum of their musical history represented in two unbelievable sets.

Each set was about an hour and a half, but the night began hours prior. In fact, that Saturday was part of a whole weekend dedicated to celebrating Norwegian music, culture, and art.  It was organized by By Norse, a label and promotion/events platform based in Bergen, Norway,  founded by Einar Selvik (Fimbulljod Productions, Wardruna), Ivar Bjørnson (Peersen Production AS, Enslaved, BardSpec) and Simon Füllemann (AISA – All Independent Service Alliance LLC, All Access Agency).  Friday night’s schedule took place at Scandinavia House on Park Avenue and featured a special performance by Bardspec as well as a workshop with Einar Selvik.

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Saturday’s schedule at the Gramercy began with an exhibition of Kim Holm’s artwork.  His portraiture of Enslaved beautifully captures the energy and movement you can only experience at a live show.  During the exhibit, one could also enter the main floor to experience Grimposium: Celebrating Enslaved 25, a discussion panel featuring Kjetil Grutle and Ivar Bjørnson.

Following the panel were two very special sets by Enslaved.  The first set featured all older material from their first albums such as Frost.  After performing songs such as “Heimdallr” and “Jotunblod” Grutle told the crowd “If you ask us to play older stuff during our second set, I’m going to punch you in the face.”  Towards the end they were joined by Einar Selvik himself, who provided additional vocals on “Havenless.”

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After a short break the band came back and played their second set, which contained all newer material and included Roots of the Mountain and Ruun.  Their most recent release, The Sleeping Gods – Thorn, came out in November of last year.  During both sets, Mike Holm was present to the side of the stage drawing the band as they played.  The artwork was available after the show near the merch section and each piece was signed by both Holm and the band.  For anyone that still wanted more Enslaved, they stopped by Rough Trade in Williamsburg for a two-hour signing session on Sunday.  

If you’d like to learn more about By Norse’s past and present events and projects, check out their website here.

-Skc Photo-

Enslaved