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.