It is a new era in Canada. After ten long years under a Prime Minister who seemed generally pleased to have his photograph taken with Chad Kroeger, Canadians have elected a fellow who seems far more hip and/or with it. And while J.T. campaigned on a long list of important stuff, one item piqued the interest of our more mellow citizens; the legalization of marijuana. While we might be a few years away from walking into a corner store and picking up a bag of Purple Durple Brainsmush with our milk and eggs, I was certain that doom metal legends YOB and Montreal stoner sludge band Dopethrone would provide an appropriate soundtrack for this monumental shift in government policy during their show at Foufounes Electriques in Montreal, QC.
I was looking forward to watching local sludge-mongers Dopethrone perform live. While I have always been a fan of their filth-ensconced brand of drug-addled sludge, Hochelaga, the three-piece’s latest full-length record, has been a repeat play for me since it’s release, and has earned the band much-deserved critical praise. Immediately noticeable was how well guitarist and singer Vincent and bassist Vyk were able to reproduce their tone from the record; a crunchy, reverb-heavy sound that perfectly lends itself to sustained notes. Also, their amps were set to a volume that made my heart vibrate inside my chest cavity. While sometimes overlooked due to the minimalist nature of most sludge percussion, drummer Carl Borman’s playing was confidently in the pocket throughout the set. After opening with a few older tracks, Dopethrone ripped into “Dry Hitter,” a sinister-sounding substance abuse mantra that demonstrates Dopethrone’s ability to create atmosphere through dynamics. Midway through the track the guitar drops away, leaving a muted drum and bass section that makes the return to the main riff all the more impactful. The song also highlights Dopethrone’s dedication to big, tasty riffs. While the band’s sound is certainly caustic, their music contains a blues-informed groove reminiscent of New Orleans sludge giants EYEHATEGOD.
Near the end of their set, Dopethrone welcomed YOB frontman Mike Sheidt on stage to sing “Scum Fuck Blues”. I can only imagine how special that moment must have been for the guys in Dopethrone. As a fan of pretty much everything Mike Sheidt has ever done, I would have shat my pantaloons.
After a few more songs, the band ended the set with a bizarre cover of the classic Bill Withers tune “Ain’t No Sunshine.” While certainly novel, Vince’s uniformly raspy, black-metal style of singing felt a bit at odds with a song so tied to the vocal performance. Cover aside, this was an incredibly powerful set which clearly demonstrated why Dopethrone will be performing at both MDF and Hellfest in the near future.
Closing out the night were YOB, a critically acclaimed US doom metal outfit lead by the aforementioned Mike Sheidt. For almost 20 years YOB have been crafting some of the most interesting doom metal to come out of North America. There are an uncountable number of doom acts who pray at the altar of Iommi and follow the Smoke Towards the Riff Filled Land and who feel satisfied playing the same five power chords for 20 minutes. Unless you’re into a fairly intense session of hot knives, it can get a little dull. Therefor, YOB’s ability to weave intricacy and subtle textural shifts into their music creates an engaging, all-encompassing experience for the listener, and suggests the group is equally influenced by bands like Neurosis and Pink Floyd as they are by standard doom touch-point Black Sabbath. YOB opened their set with “Ball of Molten Lead,” a haunting dirge from 2004’s The Illusion of Motion. Similar to the preceding act, YOB’s music is drenched in sustain and reverb, but the tone is far more atmospheric and ghostly. This is not to suggest that YOB’s sound is restrained in the volume department. I can attest that my jimmies were in constant N64 Rumble Pack-mode, and as such my household may remain a one-child family. I was hoping that YOB would play a few selections from 2014’s Clearing The Path to Ascend, their newest LP and one of the best doom records released in recent memory. The tricky part with this particular desire is that the average length of a YOB song clocks in at around the fifteen minute mark and, as such, YOB would only be performing five or six songs during their hour and a half-long set. Thankfully, the band ended up playing two tracks from the new record, including the immensely powerful “Marrow,” a complex, melodic composition that is both intense and serene. Equally duplicitous is Sheidt’s vocal performance, which is both ethereal and incredibly raw and earnest, building on the atmosphere while also giving the song a cathartic emotional weight.
When YOB let their final note ring and said their goodbyes, it felt as though I was being shook from sleep. Where did the time go? Are they really done? Haven’t they only been playing for ten minutes? Why do my pants feel damp? It is truly the mark of well-crafted, long-form metal when you are able to so completely transfix your audience, even sans bong rips. Oh well, I guess it’s time to wake up.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Hugues Bouchard
*edited by Kate Erickson