Sunday, December 5, 2010

Skeletonwitch, Withered and Landmine Marathon @ Time to Laugh, Kingston, ON Nov. 26, 2010

I knew this was going to be a great night. How often do you get to see three bands of this caliber on the stage for $12? I would easily have paid $12 each! So in order to make things "fair" in terms of cost-to-enjoyment, I bought a shirt and vinyl from both Withered and Landmine. I got a 3/4 sleeve baseball style tour shirt from Skeletonwitch last time they were in town. So I ended up spending a bunch of money I didn't really have but it was worth it. However, my wallet wasn't the only thing that paid for it. A full 7 days after the show and I am still nursing a fairly painful bangover. (Special thanks to Chris Woodford of Toronto band Titan, for, to the best of my knowledge, creating that word.) Meh, some people pay for worse kinds of pain than pulled neck muscles. Like in Hostel 2, when the guy pays to kill the one chick and she ends up cutting his dick off with a pair of scissors. It can always be worse. Right, the show.
As usual I missed most of the first band. Fashionably late. I don't think I missed much with locals Ponderous Chain. They weren't horrible but they were brought down by the complete lack of stage presence displayed by their singer. This is metal, man! Put your fucking back into it! I do believe one  guitarist used to play for Rozea Haven and he's got some chops, so there is an upside here.
The other "beer band" on the bill was Darkness Rites. Pretty young band but they seemed to know what they were doing. Death metal with breakdowns but I wouldn't class them as metal/deathcore. Their singer was the polar opposite of the previous band's. He may have looked like a poser, but he had a pretty good set of lungs on him and he was VERY passionate. If I think my necks hurts, that guy is gonna need a team of Swedish masseuses to set him straight.
Landmine Marathon. This is where the self-induced bodily injury came in. I knew what to expect. I was quite well acquainted with their 2010 offering, Sovereign Descent. So when the band took the stage and singer Grace Perry started tearing us a new arsehole, (that lady can scream!) I (at least tried to) lead the neck-snappin' charge. Perry herself jumped off the stage a few times and engaged the crowd. At one point, she whipped me into the pit and tore another guy's shirt right off his back! That's fuckin' hardcore, dude. Despite having a shorter set, Landmine was able to rip out a mix of songs from Sovereign as well as some older tunes. I was a little rusty (ha!) with the tunes from Rusted Eyes Awake but that didn't matter. Their whole set was loaded with brutality. Their brand of doomy deathgrind is just as awesome live as it is on CD/vinyl/cassette (all formats were available). I'm not sure how many people knew who Landmine Marathon were at the beginning of the night (Let's be honest, most of the people were there to see Skeletonwitch), but by the time they left the stage, they'd gained plenty of new fans. And that's what touring is all about. Getting out there and getting the music heard. The merch table ended up being pretty busy but I did manage to get a shirt and a copy of Sovereign Descent on vinyl. In getting said vinyl signed by the band (Perry, guitarist Ryan Butler and Dylan Thomas, bassist Matt Martinez and drummer Andy York) I was able hang out with them for a little bit. I love when bands are approachable and easygoing. I tried not to be too much of a fanboy and since we shared some of the same views and interests, it was easy to talk about things other than music.(For example, how my daughter, Grace, insisted I tell Grace Perry that they have the same name. Spooky fact: my daughter was born the same year Landmine Marathon formed.) I sincerely hope Landmine is able to come back and play Kingston someday. They're the kind of band Kingston needs to see more of to help the fans embrace underground metal. Maybe next time I can stop moving my head long enough to actually SEE them perform. And maybe next time they can play "Steadfast Hate" because they just plain ran out of time. Right? (wink wink)
Speaking of not being able to see, Withered had all the stage lights turned off to set the mood. "Tortured blackened doom" doesn't call for flashy lights. It made perfect sense to create a dark and ominous atmosphere for dark and ominous music. Like Intronaut, the bass plays a central role in the band. And also like Intronaut, the bassist takes center stage flanked by both guitarist/vocalists. Being a bassist myself, I kinda like that setup. Again, I didn't SEE much of the performance as I did feel it. When I wasn't violently thrashing about to the driving black metal thunder, I was soaking in the soundscapes with my eyes closed. Like the time I saw Yakuza, the music goes so far beyond the visual that you feel the need to close off that input and let the sound penetrate. The blasts unleashed upon the masses came mostly from 2010's outstanding Dualitas. It was the first show by a more or less black metal band I've had the pleasure of attending. While I don't consider Withered your "typical" black metal band, by witnessing the raw force, emotion and passion of their set, I have gained a new level of appreciation for the genre in general. They are one of the first (that I know of) blackened doom bands to play Kingston and I felt like the crowd wasn't prepared for it. (Pre-Apostasy Behemoth came through once. I missed it.) I mean, there were people "into it" but I felt like saying "Come on people! It's fucking WITHERED!" Then again, I was one of the only people losing my shit when Jucifer, Psyopus, Cattle Decapitation, Yakuza, Terror and Intronaut played. (Not all at the same time!) I guess I'm just lucky to have a deep knowledge of great metal. It's hard to believe that after the aural pummeling doled out by these doom dealers, this now tortured soul was actually able to walk. The powerful and stirring set could just as easily brought me to my knees. (Bowing to the greatness, of course) Alas, there was some sah-weet merch to acquire. Besides, I wouldn't want to get trampled by the hordes crowding the stage for the headliners.
Ohio's Skeletonwitch are touring machines. Near constant touring as honed this band's abilities. By which I mean their ability to drink you under the table and still put on a killer show. These blackened thrashers know how to have a good fucking time! Master frontman Chance Garnette and Co have sharpened their live show to a razor sharp edge. They're tight, enthusiastic, and well, fun! Crowd pleasers to say the least. Back in July they played 3rd fiddle to High on Fire (NObody plays after HoF. Nobody) and Priestess but you'd never have known they were the openers. As headliners this time around, they were given more time to pound their catchy riffs and scream-along choruses into our eager eardrums. You can't help but at least nod your head or tap your feet. I've probably said this before but Skeletonwitch is fist-pumpin' metal. Cuz that's what you want to do the whole time. Throw your fists in the air in salute to a brand of metal that appeals to a wide range of fans. I saw fans there that looked 10 years old, and fans that looked like they were 10 years old when Black Sabbath first played North America. Long hairs, hardcore dudes, nerds (represent!), jocks, you name it. One of the most amazing things was that the bands they were touring with were just as excited as the people who paid to see them.That's when you know your doing something right. Rarely have I seen a crowd that unified. The band tore through a diverse set featuring tunes from their whole catalog. Whether it was a track from '09s Breathing The Fire or an older one such as my personal fave, "At One With The Shadows", the crowd gobbled up what the 'Witch was brewin'. It doesn't make much sense to have that much fun listening to songs about killing and dying but that's just what happens at a Skeletonwitch show. On CD, they feel much more sinister. But live, it's all about "having a good fuckin' time!" I guarantee you will. Skeletonwitch vowed to return but not without stipulations. Until they come back, we were instructed to "Drink beeeer! Smoke weeeeed! And eat some fucking pussy!" Sounds like a plan to me!
I was surprised that given the fact that some of the bands on the bill have a blackened element that there was no mention that show was on Black Friday. I thought that would have been a given. No worries, I got some shopping in and everything I bought was black!

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