At this point in my life, doom metal is probably my favourite kind of music. The crushing, low-end riffs, the pummeling drums and the often equally destructive vocals are something I love. And yet, personally, I feel like Montreal doesn’t get enough doom metal shows sometimes. But on Friday, June 28th, that wasn’t the case. Conan landed into town all the way from the U.K. and joining them was Witchkiss and Aiauasca. In a small but packed Turbo Haus, I had no idea at the start of the evening that I was about to witness one of the best doom shows I’ve ever seen.
Kicking off the evening was local doom-metal band Aiauasca. Despite their social media offering conflicting reports on how many members are in the group (They’ve both referred to themselves as a four-piece and three-piece at different points), there were only two members on stage the 28th, Tony Ross on vocals and guitar and Jake Vallejos on drums. I had only heard of them by name, so I had no clue what I was in for, but I had imagined they would be crushingly heavy if they were opening for Conan. I was right. Within a minute of the slow, plodding, and somewhat meditative trance of their first track, I knew I was about to become a huge fan of this band. I can only describe their music as the deepest and purest form of doom metal. It was loud, heavy and pummeling in every possible way a doom metal band could be and there’s nothing else to say other than it fucking ruled. Do yourself a massive favour and check out their 2017 record Rise of the Molecule, and be sure to crank it as loud as humanly possible for full effect.
It was time for another heavy overdose of doom metal from the New York trio, Witchkiss. Their sound was totally grimy and sludgy and once again, within a minute of their set I knew this was going to be yet another awesome discovery. Despite being crushingly loud, Witchkiss incorporated some fantastically groovy riffs that had everyone in the room head-banging in unison. What made their sound really interesting was the trade-off between Scott Prater’s (vocalist/guitarist) deep growls and Amber Burns’ (drummer/vocalist) hauntingly eerie vocals reminiscent of singers like Chelsea Wolfe and Dorthia Cottrell from Windhand. Tyler Irish on bass provided the low end. Together, they were a cohesive unit and their blend of Atmospheric Doom was incredible. Head over to their Bandcamp page immediately and listen to their record The Austere Curtains of our Eyes.
It was finally time for Conan, and the second the lights dimmed, the band was illuminated only by dark blue lamps that barely gave off any light, setting the mood for an evening of evil-as-fuck sounding doom metal. Opening with “Prosper on the Path” from their latest record Existential Void Guardian, the venue literally vibrated with the punishing Drop F tones of Jon Davis’ guitar and Chris Fielding’s bass, backed by the relentlessly pummelling drums Johnny King. It doesn’t take long, at this point, to recognize why Conan is one the best doom bands around right now. The sold-out crowd was loving the hell out of it as Conan ripped through a career spanning set that included tracks like “Throne of Fire,” “Volt Thrower,” and “Hawk as a Weapon,” the latter of which caused something I never thought I would’ve seen at a doom show, let alone a Conan show, a mosh pit. The night concluded with a Conan staple “Battle in the Swamp,” and as they said their goodbyes, they gave us one last punch in the face in the form of one of their faster songs, “Paincantation,” a short, one-minute burst of speed doom (if such a thing exists). No one left this show feeling as if they hadn’t just had their brains and eardrums turned to mush, the only way to truly know you attended an incredible doom metal gig
At one point, I began to question the structural integrity of the venue, would we all be figuratively and literally crushed by this earth-shattering doom metal from Conan? Maybe, but at that moment, I don’t think anyone would’ve cared. On Friday the 28th, all three bands brought their A-game to Turbo Haus and anyone that was lucky enough to attend the gig was treated to what might arguably be the best metal show of the summer, at least when it comes to doom metal.
Written by Dominic Abate
Photography by Amanda Hiscock
*edited by Mike Milito