The Sabbath-inspired White Hills slowly built with the help of hypnotic vocal samples towards big, sprawling songs that locked onto single notes with slight but precisely chosen variation. The riffing was interrupted by the occasional burst of indulgent noise guitar, which was transcendent when it worked and lightly obnoxious when it didn't. Some straight-up, classic heavy music, the songs exceeded the 7 minute point usually, but warranted it thanks to simply crafted yet affecting melodies.
Blood Ceremony followed, with frontwoman Alia O'Brien setting an eerie tone on vocals, organ, and flute. Prog rock and Jethro Tull waltzed with doom metal the likes of Sleep and Electric Wizard, with some heavy low-end and slightly trite fantasy-realm lyrics (subject matter included wizardry, "diabolical twins," and witch cults). It's some tightly realized acid folk mixed with first wave doom, and it sounded excellent in the context of the night. Many of the songs got some of the biggest responses of the night, and the band looked very happy to play to the appreciative audience.
By the time Kylesa rolled out for their gear-heavy soundcheck, people were already cheering in anticipation. With two drummers, stacks of random keys and widgets (including a skateboard modded into a theramin), and at least three guitars per player, it was an ambitious set even watching the set-up. By the time opener "Said and Done" pounded out, the audience was already thrashing violently to the gigantic sound. It was non-stop from that point on, and even the lighter songs managed to fill the huge space on the same level as the heaviest material. Some of their latest material, like "Unspoken" and "Don't Look Back," which can lean too shoegazey for this reviewer's taste, stood as the crunchiest riffs of the night. There was no room for anything less than a gigantic, unfaltering wall of sound.
It was a satisfying and long set, reaching back to some classics from Time Will Fuse It's Worth
that sounded especially powerful. Just watching the players attack each sound was engaging enough, but they also played in front of a giant illustrated backdrop and acid-trip projected visuals. The audience either moshed or head-banged intensely through the course of the set, never relenting because the band gave them no option. An excellent dual drum solo was laid down during "Scapegoat" and highlighted the necessary component to the group's trademark pummel, the simultaneous skin-pounding that added ridiculous heft to every track.
While the huge "Hallow Severer" seemingly closed the set with an epic slowed-down outro, the noise-inflected sheen that began "Running Red" seared into the audience's ears and slowly built to one of the night's many highlights. Finally closing out with "When the Horizon Unfolds," it was definitely an appreciated look towards older material. It all came to a triumphant climax, and the crowd seemed taken aback by the sheer intensity of the evening.
Critic's Bias: Kylesa suffered from similar drawbacks as Mastodon in their latest albums, in that the nods to psychedelica and shoegaze became more prominent then their initial hardcore/sludge roots. I am a huge fan of Static Tensions and have a tendency towards the records that preceded it.
The Crowd: Mostly white and bearded with black band tees, but there was a good showing of women, likely thanks to the fact that all four bands had prominent female players.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I'm going to push you when the next song starts so we can try to start a mosh pit like that guy in the white shirt."
Said And Done
Don't Look Back
Where The Horizon Unfolds