I like to think of myself as a fairly serious extreme music aficionado. As a kid, I stayed up late to watch the Pepsi Power Hour on Much Music, hoping to catch a Slayer music video. My collection of uniformly monochrome band merch could clothe a small army. I have smug feelings about my record collection. So while I style myself as an omniscient heavy metal scholar with an encyclopedic appreciation for metal’s limitless sub-genre landscape, I have a shocking confession: I’m not really into traditional black metal. Yes, I fully acknowledge that bands like Mayhem and Emperor are super fucking necro, and helped create a unique sound and aesthetic; it’s just not my flavor of Satanic jam, you dig? That said, a huge swath of my aforementioned awesome record collection features bands who incorporate black metal elements. As such, I was excited to head to Montreal’s Turbo Haus to check out TOMBS and Black Anvil, a pair of bands from New York who each inject an (un)healthy dose of black metal into their music.
Up first were local Montreal classic metal rockers Metalian. Metalian have been active for over a decade, and it is evident that they’ve used this time to hone their technical and songwriting skill to surgical sharpness. Their music is a mélange of groovy, Thin Lizzy-style blues rock and fist-pumping, ball-rocking classic metal epic-ness in the vein of early Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Lead singer Ian’s powerful voice is capable of sustaining a volley of over-the-top falsetto sections while also handling guitar duties. Speaking of the guitar, the lead coordination between Ian and second guitarist Simon was spot on, and the double Flying Vs were a nice touch. While some might think it odd having a classic metal band open for two decidedly grim acts, I believe this was a great choice. First, the contrast acted as a sort of amuse-bouche, priming the audience’s aural palette for something completely different. Secondly, I don’t care how fucking KVLT you think you are; real metalheads like Iron Maiden and, as such, almost everyone should be into Metalian.
Up next were NYC black metal band Black Anvil, the band I was most looking forward to seeing this evening. In 2014 I picked up a copy of Hail Death, their latest LP, simply because the cover art looked gnarly. It turned out to be one of my favorite albums of that year. While clearly rooted in black metal, Hail Death eschewed the genre’s normal penchant for raw (read: shitty) production in favour of full, crisp sound that highlighted Black Anvil’s intricate, thrash and death metal-informed songwriting. The band emerged covered in what appeared to be blood and ripped into their first set of tunes. While the small room combined with a claustrophobic pile of amps and some early feedback issues made it difficult to pick up many of the fine details that endeared their recorded material to me, Black Anvil compensated by serving up plenty of satisfyingly-caustic vitriol, fueled chiefly by vocalist Paul Delany’s tortured screams. While the tunes contain plenty of blasting, Black Anvil regularly employed massive shifts in tone and tempo, busting out big, doomy slow parts or rollicking, Motorhead-style riff sections, as evidenced on tracks such as “Eventide” and “My Hate is Pure.” Guitarists Gary Bennet and Sos seemed to hit their stride mid set, pummeling the audience with a tone that could only be described as MEAN. While I was bummed I didn’t get to hear “Seven Stars Unseen,” Black Anvil delivered a forceful, scowl-inducing set.
Before delving into closing act TOMBS‘ set, I feel it important to mention the incredibly attractive couple that proceeded to make out in front of me all night. Now, I know what you’re picturing – corpse paint ruined by saliva, spiked bracelets digging into pasty skin, dreadlocks interlocked like some sort of black metal version of the Na’vi mating ritual – but these two love birds seemingly walked right out of the pages of the American Eagle Fall catalogue. And you know what? God bless ’em; not only did they seem to be having fun mashing their perfectly sculpted faces together, they enthusiastically headbanged along to all of the bands. You go, you hot twenty-somethings!
Okay, on to TOMBS! Similar to Black Anvil, the Brooklyn-based experimental metal outfit’s sound is clearly rooted in black metal, but TOMBS incorporate a far wider range of influences, including sludge, hardcore, and post-metal. The metal snob within me was a tad concerned when I saw a keyboard on stage, but singer / synth player Fade Kainer’s playing is far more complimentary to the main guitar riff, creating complex, discordant overtones that provide additional texture to TOMBS’ sound. Lead singer/ guitarist Mike Hill’s low, booming growl is reminiscent of Neurosis‘ Scott Kelly, and was a great counterpoint to Kainer’s raspy BM shriek. The band’s set, which included tunes from their most recent full length Savage Gold, was both frenetic and oddly hypnotic, with tracks blending seamlessly from one to the next. This is not to say the tunes were overly similar – far from it; TOMBS’ use of melancholy, spartan post-metal sections in between the heavier blast beat sections built incredible atmosphere while maintaining an unwavering hold on the audience’s attention.
Oh, and Guess what? On top of taking in a great show from three excellent bands, I’m fairly sure team American Eagle went home and had mind-shattering, hot people sex. Decent!
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson