It takes an outstanding lineup for me to get my ass halfway across town to Bar Le Ritz, especially for a show that starts after 9PM on a weekday. The weather was cold and gloomy, the perfect setting for a night placed under the banner of oppressive metal with sludge prodigies Primitive Man and doom metallers Bell Witch.
After a long metro ride, I got to the bar which was already starting to get pretty crowded. I don’t know what was up with the lighting, but the stage was so dim it was hard to see what was going on. If that was intended to discourage people from having their phone up during the show, I have to say it was a bit overkill. It certainly made it difficult for yours truly to take pictures for this review.
The task of kicking off the night fell to local black metal act Spectral Wound. I’m not a big fan of black metal, so I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. However, they did manage to catch my attention. The singer (I couldn’t find the names of these guys anywhere) had serious vocal chops, and the drummer delivered impeccable blast beats like there was no tomorrow. The only thing that could have been improved was the stage presence; other than the singer the band looked rather petrified.
It was getting hard to move around when Primitive Man took the stage. The Denver, Colorado trio looked ready to inflict their brand of nihilistic, misanthropic heaviness on the more-than-eager crowd. Ethan Lee McCarthy’s guitar and Jonathan Campos’ bass deployed a wall of sound that could be described as fucking massive, probably just a few notches in heaviness under a band like Sunn O))). Now don’t get me wrong; I love sludge metal, but there’s something about their music that didn’t really translate live. Maybe because of their static stage presence, or the monotonous nature of their sound, in any case I found myself wanting to check my watch more than headbanging.
It was getting pretty late when Bell Witch started playing, and a few people were already leaving. Personally I was looking forward to see the Seattle, Washington based duo play their last album Mirror Reaper in its entirety, which consists of a single, 83-minute-long (!) song. Despite their apparent minimalism, these two dudes manage to create amazingly rich music with just a six-string bass and a drum kit. Bassist Dylan Desmond is an effects wizard, using a pedal rack that looks more like a NASA contraption. Bell Witch plays a brand of doom metal that’s excruciatingly slow, evoking a sense of emptiness and despair while at the same time being ethereal and ambient (think Esoteric rather than Candlemass). Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman shared vocal duties, with the latter delivering some sick death growls. This band is seriously hypnotizing to watch, and I was approaching a trance-like state when I realized I needed to book it if I didn’t want to have to take a cab home. Too bad!
Written by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson