It seems like doom, sludge, and post-metal shows have been few and far between lately. Needless to say that when I saw the lineup playing at La Vitrola that Friday night, it was enough for me to leave the comfort of my couch and brave the bitter cold February weather.
After climbing two long flights of stairs (reminding me that I should spend less time on that couch and more time at the gym), I entered a completely empty venue. Excluding the musicians and staff, I literally was the first person to show up. And it stayed that way for another 30-40 minutes, forcing the set times to be pushed back. I took advantage of the wait to down a cold one and visit the merch table where I got myself a sweet Rhino t-shirt.
This was the first time I was catching a show at La Vitrola, and the venue has quite an odd arrangement, to say the least. Located on the top floor of a building on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, it has a small stage tucked in a corner in front of a very Lynchesque red curtain. What’s weird is that directly next to it is another, unused, bigger stage that looks like it’s bolted in (probably the reason why they left it there).
Aulnes took the stage around 9:00 pm in front of a sparse audience. The Sherbrooke-trio played a mix of sludge and doom metal, and rare enough to be noted, they sing in French. They seemed a bit nervous that night, barely moving or interacting with the audience, but the intensity of their show more than made up for it. Their sound reminded me of Crowbar, which is fitting given that frontman Martin Bolduc kind of looks like a younger Kirk Windstein. The sound was excellent for a venue that small and I even took out my earplugs to fully appreciate it, obliterating my eardrums in the process.
The room was still two-third empty with something like 60 people in the audience. Next up was Montreal’s post-metal band Rhino. Having listened to their album Footnotes before, my expectations were high to see how it would translate on stage. These guys channel bands like Cult of Luna and Isis pretty hard, and they do it exceptionally well. Lead singer Simon Blaquière visibly took pages from Johannes Persson and Aaron Turner’s book, not only regarding vocal proficiency but for stage presence as well. Same could be said for the musicians, who displayed a lot of skill and energy. They got the good old post-metal formula (slow build-up/heavy breakdown) down perfectly, and I had a blast watching them through their 30-minute set.
It was a hard act to follow, but Mississauga, ON’s Hammerhands knocked it out of the park. I was expecting some run-of-the-mill sludgy band, and, unsurprisingly, they first started by dishing out the expected crushing riffs and pachydermic drum parts. And then, out of nowhere, started playing this slow bluesy song. Think Tom Waits, but heavier, and with terminal throat cancer. Add that to some goofy stage antics and dumb jokes, and I was sold!
Due to the shows starting behind schedule, and having to get my ass in the last metro home, I only got to catch the first couple songs of Montreal, QC’s Black Love. Which is a shame, because they sounded great, even though post-hardcore isn’t usually my thing. I’m sure I’ll catch them next time!
In the end, I don’t understand why so few people showed up (insufficient promotion? Niche genres? Cold weather?). Despite that, all of the bands gave their best that night and more than deserved to play in front of a packed venue.
Written and Photographed by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Danielle Kenedy