L’Astral is a great venue: intimate, with great sound, and a small balcony if you want to sit down. I’ve seen some great acoustic shows there, as well as comedy and jazz shows. I was a little shocked when I heard that this trio of groups was booked to play there.
When Washington State’s Wild Throne started, they were pressed to the front of the stage by the headliner’s gear, though this didn’t seem to slow the band down at all. This trio shot some high-shredding, high-pitched, fast-paced, eighties-inspired thrash metal at the crowd. They produced far more noise and mayhem than a trio has any right to. “Fear Yourself” and “Harvester of Darkness,” the title track from their new album, were standouts that got the crowd jumping.
Miami’s Torche were next to try to snuggle into the front of the stage, even more of a feat for a four-piece. Again, they delivered like pros. This band is filed inside the sludge metal folder, but to pigeonhole them as such is to do them a great disservice. The guitar work here is fantastic and shines through, and there are moments that veer into Pete Townsend levels of creativity (and I don’t say that lightly). Sludge also isn’t supposed to be energetic or this much fun, to which the songs “Loose Men” and “Bishop In Arms” will testify. They are great entertainers. Vocalist and guitarist Steve Brooks looked like Jack Black and Bob Ross mated and he got all their best attributes. He even got on his knees and stuck his tongue out in Mr. Black fashion.
The final act of the evening was the Norwegian collective of madmen known as Kvelertak. They’re in that awkward phase of touring one month before the release of their new album Nattersferd, but that didn’t stop them from busting open the set with two new tracks from the album, “Dendrofil For Yggdrasil” and lead single “1985.” Thanks to the miracles and wonder of the internet, the crowd seemed unfazed, many of them familiar with the new stuff. Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik hit the stage in an owl helmet covered in lights, looking like Satan had invaded Mardi Gras.
This band is known for their live energy and the amount of noise their four guitars can make. Some early sound troubles were quickly rectified. Watching Hjelvik run around the stage was like a watching a madman take flight: it didn’t always make sense, but you cheered him on nonetheless.
The rest of the setlist was heavily centered around their eponymous debut album, including fan favorites “Mjød” and “Blodtørst.” The crowd was visibly feeding upon the anarchy on stage, forming multiple circle pits. Their name in Norwegian means “chokehold,” and they certainly had their audience in their grip.
After an encore of new track “Heksebrann” and “Kvelertak” (the song), in which Hjelvik waved a huge black Kvelertak flag over the crowd, it was time to go home. Everyone had a look of exhaustion on their face, but a smile to accompany it. The three bands brought it hard at this show, with three very different styles but one great result.
Written by Richard Brunette
Photography by Randy Smith Captura Camera
*edited Kate Erickson