I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t feel like going out last Thursday to do anything, let alone watch a show. The psychological and emotional toll of the previous night’s last-minute Tijuana drug escapade was charging interest, and coupled with the reeling existential fallout of the last U.S democratic party debate, I was in no shape for stimuli.
As fate would have it, a swift metal injection was just what the doctor ordered to pick my spirits up from the bedrock, the injecters being Salt Lake crust crushers Cult Leader accompanied by a bevy of heavy hitting local upstarts with everything to prove and only their self esteem to lose.
Basalte were the first to take the stage. This was my first experience with the group, and I must admit they put on quite the rousing performance. The band plays rather stripped-down, bare bones black metal, and they do a very good job of it. Their songs are long (between ten and sixteen minutes each), and take the listener through the gamut of dark musical landscapes. Basalte’s set never felt long or tedious, but rather like a musical exploration of all things dark and beautiful. During the show I mentally compared them to Deafheaven, minus the major chord usage but certainly of a similar vain. For those reading who might read that comparison and cringe, I’d like to clarify and assure you that Basalte are cut more from the “Trve” cloth than the hipster one, so fret not.
I had been to a Dark Circles show before, but unfortunately I was working it and didn’t get a chance to really experience the band. This time that wrong was promptly righted and damn, am I ever happy about that. Dark Circles are a glorious brick in the face of pure, unrelenting intensity. Their brand of d-beat/crust/blackened metal packs a punch, and is something to behold live. Their musical ferocity is underscored by their softer moments, which come in small doses and give you just enough time to catch a breath before turning it back up to eleven. It’s almost exhausting taking it all in, and the pace they set feels like you’re running a marathon. I spent a good portion of the show admiring their drummer Marc Tremblay who’s speed, precision, and creativity on a relatively small kit is a feat in itself.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Kennedy a couple of times before; the last time, the band was regrettably down a singer and possibly a second guitar player due to circumstances. Tonight, however, they were full strength, and went above and beyond the kind of show I knew they were capable of performing. Stylistically akin to bands like Norma Jean, Kennedy bring a lot of life into a style I once thought beaten to death long ago. Their music morphs from spastic to beautiful at the drop of a hat, and is a testament to the immense creativity of the group’s songwriters (I’m assuming guitarist Luca and Felix). Yet the band’s greatest strength is in their live show. I have rarely (if ever) seen a band give so much emotion in their playing, where you feel like you’re actually “watching” music. Every member seems entranced in their notes from the chaotic to the more somber, and it’s hard as an observer not to get enveloped by the performance.
Capping off the night in spectacular fashion was of course Cult Leader, who just released their debut LP Lightless Walk on the Deathwish Inc. record label. Cult Leader’s brand of metallic hardcore feels like the perfect amalgamation of aspects of all the bands on the bill into one superbly-crafted, terrifying machine of destruction. The weaving of doom/crust/black/punk music into their music makes listening to their songs a curious journey of brutality, intensity, and emotion that translates incredibly well live as they unfold. The palatable dynamics within and between tracks made it impossible to be bored and was the perfect ending to an already stellar show.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Isa Hoyos Ishca Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson