Death is, without question, the most powerful and pervasive theme throughout extreme music. While metal’s treatment of the subject frequently consists of anatomically precise depictions of creative vivisections or treatises promoting the total eradication of the human race, there are bands who explore the end of life in far more personal, profound ways. Two such groups were at Montreal’s La Sala Rossa Monday July 2nd performing music from their respective new records, each of which explore mortality in their own unique way.
I arrived at Sala Rossa at precisely 8:00pm, eager to escape the cruel, sweaty grasp of the heat wave and enjoy some of the venue’s sweet, sweet AC. Unfortunately, the event was running behind schedule, so after an involuntary 30-minute hot Yoga session in the hallway, we were finally permitted into the chilly embrace of Sala Rossa’s main showroom.
After acquiring beer and perusing the merch tables, I made my way to the front of the stage to watch Show of Bedlam kick off the evening’s entertainment. It was my first time hearing this Montreal doom/post-metal quartet and what I heard had me running back to the merch table to snag some records; a near perfect balance of colossal, swaggering Melvins-esque riffs (if The Melvins played exclusively at 50 BPM) and pensive, nuanced, post-metal atmospheric shimmer. Singer Paulina Richards was electric, writhing and dancing across the stage while delivering a vocal performance that ranged from wistful and subdued singing to tortured screams. The heft of those big, burly riffs was driven primarily by drummer Nick Richards’ gleeful sledgehammering, especially on opening “Blue Lotus;” I’ve never seen a person smile so wide while actively trying to drive his drumsticks through the floor.
Unfortunately, Show of Bedlam’s set was abruptly cut short after only two songs. While I can understand the promoters wanting to keep the show on schedule, the band’s sound was cut and the house music turned on without warning, which seems like a pretty crappy way to move things along. As such, I look forward to seeing a full performance from this group in the future.
Up next was two-piece funeral doom act Bell Witch, who performed their new album Mirror Reaper in its entirety. The single-track, 80-minute album is, in part, a tribute to founding member Adrian Guerra, who tragically passed away in 2016 at the age of 36. It is a challenging listen; glacially slow, musically spartan, and deeply sorrowful, Mirror Reaper feels like a purgatorial soundtrack to the prolonged march from this realm to the next. Despite the ephemeral nature of the music, Bassist/singer Dylan Desmond and drummer/singer Jesse Shreibman, who replaced Guerra in 2015, imbued their performances with stately, reverential emotion. Every drum hit felt deliberate and Desmond’s intricate, soulful playing added much needed nuance and variety. The interplay between Shreibman’s guttural growl and Desmond’s despondent, harrowing howl further drive the music’s liturgical atmosphere. The near capacity crowd, whose numbers were lamentably counteracting the effects of the air conditioning, were completely transfixed until the final notes rang out.
Closing out the evening was the Eugene, Oregon’s Yob, the legendary doom band that have been rumbling speaker cabinets for over 22 years. Frontman Mike Scheidt took the stage to thunderous applause, pumping his fists in triumph. Scheidt’s palatable exuberance is definitely warranted; he was diagnosed with acute diverticulitis in 2016 and had an attack in 2017 that was very nearly fatal. Yob began their set with “Ablaze,” the opening track from newest LP Our Raw Heart, an album that explores themes of human fragility and perseverance. One might expect that such themes would necessitate musical melancholy, but Our Raw Heart is singularly joyful, the expression of a man who has approached death and returned stoked on life. After the band ripped through the mighty, stomping “The Screen,” Scheidt thanked the massive crowd and the opening bands.
At this point, some dingdong screamed, “Thanks for still being alive!” Mr. Ding Dong, if you are reading this review, go fuck yourself, you classless turdburger.
The band continued through a spirited performance of material spanning their impressive discography. While the members of Yob are all talented players, Scheidt’s voice is truly the star of the show. Beyond baritone growling, Scheidt’s range, power and gravitas allow him to project with heart-wrenching emotion in the cleaner sections, especially on closing number “Our Raw Heart.”
With the exception of Keith Richards, death comes for us all. While loss is sad, it could be argued that it is our impermanence that drives us to create. At the very least, it was the driving inspiration to two of this evening’s acts. So…uh thanks, Death! Sick party, bro!
Written By Jesse Gainer
*edited by Danielle Kenedy