Friday, March 28, 2014

Concert Review - The Ocean, Scale the Summit, The Atlas Moth, Silver Snakes - 3/27/14 at DC9, Washington, DC

I was looking forward to this show all month. The Ocean is one of my favorite bands; no one matches them in mixing together heavy and beautiful to explore the transcendental aspects of the universe. A month or two ago I also fell in love with Scale the Summit (and with their album artwork). I checked out The Atlas Moth a few days before the show and was looking forward to them, too. Silver Snakes didn't really do it for me, though - I couldn't take the metalcore vocals.

I headed out a bit late, driving through DC was slow, and it took a while to find parking (and to walk the 5 blocks from where I parked to the venue), so by the time I got there it was after The Atlas Moth's originally slated set time and I thought I had missed them. A few sort of metal looking people were hanging out in the downstairs bar. I headed upstairs to find that The Atlas Moth was actually just about to go on - everything had been pushed back about 40 minutes.

It was already very crowded (the show was sold out) so I ended up standing way in the back, by the merch table in the corridor from the stairs to the floor, and with lots of tall people in front of me, I couldn't see much. As awesome as it was that a band like The Ocean was playing this little venue, the sucky thing about the little stage in the corner set-up is that when it's crowded, you can't see anything unless you're right at the front. There was a TV screen right by where I was standing, so at least I was able to see the band in miniature.

The Atlas Moth launched into their churning, atmospheric riffs, and I found them surprisingly loud and clear for such a small venue. The guitar melodies and vocals were clearly discernible (even if the screamed vocals were indecipherable anyway). The loveliest atmospheric parts had a trance-inducing effect similar to Alcest's music, although much of the music was just layers of slow and heavy - a sludge band that took it into their heads to make music of beauty and whimsy. They didn't blow me away but were certainly as enjoyable as I expected.

After The Atlas Moth finished, I gave The Ocean a bunch of money (they were selling CD's at 2 for $20, which seemed like a pretty good deal). I had intended to give into the hipster vibe and get a shirt from Scale the Summit if they had one with (last year's album) The Migration artwork - but the ones they had didn't use the green and blue colors that I love so much on that album cover.

It was definitely a very hipster evening, with plenty of bearded dudes and barely a 5% score on the Long Haired Dudes Scale of Metalness (inspired by my friend S, who was not there - he wouldn't have been able to handle the hipsters). The short-haired headbanging for The Ocean was an interesting sight - it made it look a lot more like some kind of cult religious experience. I'm not even sure any members of any of the bands had long hair; a bit disappointing, as I love to stare at guys with long hair holding guitars.

I claimed a spot in the center of the floor, and eventually the instrumental band Scale the Summit came on. They started out a bit thin and quiet, and also the lights were still turned on above the stage, making them look rather sterile. But as soon as they launched into the faster section of the song - I think it was "Dark Horse" - they got much heavier, and the lights went out. Considering their very melodic sound, I was surprised by the way they thundered. There were actually relatively few slow, quiet segments, and quite a bit of fast, furious playing. I also hadn't realized that they were apparently co-headlining with The Ocean, because they must have played for about an hour. I felt like they played a lot from The Migration, but I'm not great at naming their songs, so it may just be that I listened to that album too much :P

Finally Germany's massive progressive metal project The Ocean took the stage, under blue lighting that did give them a rather underwater look. They played (their 2013 album) Pelagial in its entirety, which was a pretty epic experience. I knew (thanks to their comments last summer about the Summer Slaughter tour) that The Ocean considers themselves a very extreme extreme metal band, but considering how profound and often beautiful their music is, I couldn't really see them as extreme - until this show. When the crowd suddenly got going at the start of "Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams" and the whole front half of the floor turned into a furious pit, I was like, oh shit - they were right, this is ****king extreme! It was pretty amazing, and the bouncy pit for the fast part of "Bathyalpelagic III: Disequilibrated" looked like so much fun, I wished I didn't have so much stuff with me so I could join in, even though I'd probably get broken in half. The crowd kind of calmed down after that and there wasn't much moshing for the rest of the show, but still, it set the tone. The other highlight was probably the singer crowd-surfing - while singing - during the encore. As far as sound, it was also amazing. The quieter parts, which evoke the ocean with sounds of bubbles, flowing melodies or long floating tones, sounded even more watery due to the resonance of the live playing, and the heavy parts were crushing. There was something odd about the screamed vocals at times - they seemed perhaps higher and rawer than on the album - and there was one segment where the drums seemed out of sync with the guitars and it was very jarring, but now I can't remember which song it was in. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience. I only regret I was so tired by the end I was practically passing out, awesome music notwithstanding :/

So the show was about as awesome as I expected. I am so glad that not only did I get to see The Ocean, but got to see them up close and personal, and got to see them really tear the place up, at a venue that small. Wow.

Next show: Combichrist on Apr 4.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Face-Melting Friday Melodic Metal Edition - Cassandra Syndrome, Iris Divine, Dogs and Day Drinkers, Fair Skies - 2/28/14 at Sidebar, Baltimore, MD

I'm on a quest to make my kid into a little metalhead :) As part of that, I took her to a show organized by my friend Bobbie at the Sidebar in Baltimore: Face-Melting Friday, Melodic Metal Edition. The lineup changed a couple times before the show, but I was still excited to see the bands. I'd heard good things about Iris Divine and Cassandra Syndrome, and heard that Dogs And Day Drinkers were folk metal, so I figured they'd be fun.

We got there before they were even ready to start selling tickets, although there were already people milling about inside. Shortly we were asked to form a line, inside. We met up with S and some other friends, and staked out a spot near the front, since besides being rather short and needing to be close up to see, Iz also just plain likes to rock out at the front of the crowd :D Unfortunately, this meant I had to wear earplugs, which I felt seriously dulled the sound. (I never wear earplugs. Why bother going to live shows if you can't hear the thunder of it being played live?) Partly for this reason, I don't feel like I got a very in-depth impression of any of the bands.

Not too long after we got in, the first band, Fair Skies, took the stage. I didn't know much about them besides a friend's comment that they were "power metal but not really." They did have soaring power metal vocals; I got some serious Stratovarius vibes from the vocalist during their second to last song, "More Than a Memory." The music had a bit of an oompah beat in the beginning (something that seems to happen occasionally in power metal) but settled into more of a NWOBHM sound as the set went on.

Next up were Dogs And Day Drinkers, all the way from Chestertown, MD (home of the schooner Sultana :D ). They were supposed to be folk metal, but they didn't actually seem to have much in the way of folk melodies. They perhaps had more of a Viking metal sound, with songs about drinking and war and science fiction. The vocals were average, rather like I think I'd sound if I tried to sing. Their take on Priest's "Breaking the Law" was decent. The crowd was pretty excited for them and there was a bit of moshing.

After that was Iris Divine. They were very proggy, but not in annoying way. The guitarist seemed to have a bunch of pedals that gave his guitar a synth-like sound, and they might have had some synth piped in, too, I couldn't tell. Unfortunately some drama happened during their set so I zoned out a bit and even had to go outside to deal with things :(

Finally, Cassandra Syndrome ended the night. I don't know how I never got into these guys earlier! I think I heard a song or two several years ago but somehow didn't get interested. I definitely should have seen them earlier. They featured lovely soprano vocals - I didn't know we even had a band around here with vocals like that! Their music was pretty straightforward heavy metal, with nice solos, but it was the vocals that really made it for me. So beautiful.

I enjoyed all the bands, although I would have preferred to hear them without earplugs. But Iz had a great time up at the front, dancing for Fair Skies and Dogs And Day Drinkers (and also taking some photos with her Leapster, which I should try to retrieve before she draws all over them :) ). Even though she got pretty tired and cranky by the end, it was still a great night, and everyone was telling her what an awesome little kid she is :D I'm not sure if I'll be able to make the next Face-Melting Friday since it's the day after The Ocean, but I can definitely see these face melting shows becoming a regular social fixture for me and Iz :D

Next show: Hoping to go to a locals show on March 8. After that, Children of Bodom, Death Angel and Týr on March 21. (The Fillmore's website seems to have the wrong date for this show, saying it was Feb. 28 O.o)