Written by: Marty Adem
Presented by: Neurotic Entertainment
If you wanted to get away from the usual drunken, bar-hopping green beer-induced vomiting shenanigans that occur on St. Patrick’s Day, then the show that happened at Coalition, located at the mouth of Kensington Market was the place to settle in for the night. The showcase featured by Neurotic Entertainment was made up of Dawn of Tyrants, Pale Mare, Gates, and Völur, demonstrating as always, Karina’s ability to curate a diverse range of talents that are guaranteed to put on a great show. The night got off to a bit of a late start, but this gave everyone some time to gather on this particularly cold night and grab some drinks, and talk about how great it was to have an event that did NOT include green beer. I think everyone reached a consensus on that one.
First up was Dawn of Tyrants, a relatively new band who fits well within the boundaries of death metal and black metal. Perhaps it was because they got off to a late start, but it seemed to me that their set was a bit too long. They played for what seemed like much longer than thirty minutes, and while some of the crowd was really engaged, the majority of people were restless and eager to hear the rest of the bands. As for their sound, it possessed a quality that is to be expected of a group that has just formed and which is still finding its own unique sound. While there were a few moments within that
The next group to follow was the (somewhat) newly formed trio of fiery local talent, Pale Mare, who are made up of Eytan Gordon (Fatality), Luke Roberts (Ayahuasca), and Tommy Gervais (High Life). I remember seeing them perform back in the summer outside of Coalition at a patio show. Already then, I was impressed by their sound and musicianship, but what occurred on the night of St. Paddy’s was a further developed and masterful incarnation of their summertime selves. From the moment they appeared on stage (all three of them shirtless), they had a unified, magnetic presence that overwhelmed the room. They are a band that rejects any labels that one might try to put on them, and I think that is actually what part of their intention is. Psychedelic, grinding, and technical, with elements of thrash metal thrown in, along with drawn out guitar, bass, and drum solos that layer over each other and which allow each member to show off his own talents - this band is riff-heavy, and is in full command of their abilities to play and suck you in. Even the drum sections are played in riffs, and are reminiscent of Luke’s own guitar playing style. As a newcomer to the drums, it’s incredibly impressive to see how fluidly he performs, and to hear how smoothly he transitions from section to section. It is exciting to see artists pick up new instruments and to witness further permutations in the expression of their creativity. Eytan and Tommy’s grainy vocals add a sludgy element to their sound that pairs perfectly with the warbling, warped sounds of their instruments. They also had moments where they demonstrated their subtlety and ability to play softly, adding another facet to the complexity of their sound. With such a powerful trio of musicians, it is no surprise that together they have forged some powerful sounds. I have no doubt that they will continue to put out more great tunes that keep one entranced. Rumor has it they have some exciting things coming up in the summer, so keep your eyes peeled, and your ears open!
Following on the tails of this energetic, charged performance, was Gates, a multi-instrumental musical project whose line up for the evening included Laura C. Bates on electric violin, Lucas Gadke on fretless bass, James Beardmore on the synthesizers, Joel Beauchamp on percussion, and Bryan W. Bray on guitar and vocals. Again, this is a musical endeavor whose skill, sound, and intention cannot be confined to any one name. ‘Experimental’ is a poor qualifying word that perhaps only tells one that yes, they experiment with different sounds and styles. But they don’t sound like a group that would typically fit into that genre. Let us delve in deeper.
They begin by layering colors, painting with sounds, and adding textures, beginning with the soft, translucent color of the background brought about by big, broad, brush stokes of guitar and synth. Unlike Pale Mare who seeks to grab you by the throat and pull you in close in a state of immediacy, Gates leeches and oozes into you slowly, into your mind, and then into your body. They permeate with purpose until you forget when your eyes are closed and when they are open; they are the masters of the tumultuous semi-dream-state where visions are the most vivid and most revealing of our true selves. Gates challenges you to allow yourself to let go of any preconceived notions about how you may react or even move. Sway and flow, and allow the mind to meander through another dimension in the continual layering of images as they grow in speed and change in hue. Guitar and bass fluctuate from sounding light and ethereal to gritty, muted, and feedback-full, while synth and violin provide gentle backing tones and harmonies. Percussion and drums swing from wild and free spirited (and yet with restraint!) to subtle and accenting, like tactful splatters of ink upon a page. I had listened to their latest release, Viscera a little while ago, and it was great to again hear some of the ideas that had been present in there, especially from ‘Conversions of the Three: Copal/Perils/Emanation of the Body.’ Their set included a full band interpretation of these experimentation's, including the crescendo to the zenith of the repeating guitar line that was superimposed with a screeching guitar wail over top. Other elements of Viscera were also present, including the muted hues of softer, more earth-toned and stretched out ambient parts, and the crazy, free-jazz sounding crayon strokes of grinding guitar and bass, pushing one further and deeper into the limits of the psyche. With each release, Gates demonstrates an admirable finesse; there are not many who can draw from so many musical genres, flavors, colors, and textures and combine them into such a beautiful mindscape that organically grows as its own entity. I look forward to their next performance and witnessing their evolution.
Finally, to finish off the evening, we had Völur, made up of James Payment (drums), Lucas Gadke (bass) and Laura C. Bates (electric violin). I had only heard of this group recently, and had not yet had the chance to hear them play. Their talents, however, had been lauded, and I can say, my expectations were quite surpassed. They are a band that works in perfect synchronicity with one another, like intricately jewelled cogs of a clock, playing off each other and passing off control of each section from one to the other throughout each piece. Their sound is, again, difficult to describe with any one word. One can tell that the roots of it are based in folk and mythology (as the name Völur would also suggest), but this is most definitely not just a folk-metal band. Their music crafts together an atmosphere of forests and dark, mossy, musk smelling caves where animals are lurking in wait of spring. Laura’s vocals have a fragile, quivering quality at times, as if the deity she is emulating is on the verge of tears. Her voice is beautifully haunting, and it is these tender moments which highlight the subtleties of sound that the band create. Then, in an instant, she is howling and screaming, fiery and full of strength, her voice filled with a barbaric rage. Lucas joins Laura in on harmonies as well, and has his own set of equally animalistic, guttural utterances, demonstrating to us both the range of sounds the human vocal chords can make, as well as the range of subtle emotions we can feel. Have we not too felt the pendulum swing between utter depression and blinding range when we have been wronged? The lyrics, and their expression are a knife straight into the heart – there is no pretense to their delving into the depths of despair, fear, and emotional intensity.
Their layering of heavy, lingering drums with wailing, and at times screeching violin, is anchored by the steady rhythmic melody of the bass, which joins the two instruments and interlocks them, creating a mystical tone that evokes a scene akin to ancient magic and pagan rituals. The lack of guitar is also, perhaps, what gives this trio their wistful, doom-like sound, and which allows a certain freedom within the heavy-sounding structure they have created. The violin is allowed to really shine forth from the intense mass of bass and rhythm and to create a separate overarching melody throughout each piece. Laura’s purposeful intensity with which she plays also adds to the power of the music that the group creates. I look forward to hearing how they continue to develop their dark, folk-based sound, and how they will mix in elements from other musical genres.
Truly, there was no better way to spend such a cold, commercial holiday filled Friday night. It was an evening that challenged the definitions of musical genres, and which encouraged the audience to become entranced and captivated by the performances on stage, allowing us all to delve a little deeper into ourselves.