Before writing about the myriad of awesome bands that appeared on this bill headlined by doom lords COLTSBLOOD, it must come as a forewarning that the venue which this gig took place in was severely ill-equipped for mixing the sound of some of the bands properly. The quality of the overall sound for each band hampered the clarity of the songs they played, leaving much to be desired in so many respects. But having said that, it did not stop any of these acts from taking to the stage and laying waste to the crowd in a dark void of blackened grimness.
Kicking off this hefty bill were CRIMSON THRONE, where they wasted little time with speeding right into the thick of things with brooding chords that eventually swelled into an onslaught of tremolo picked riffage. One thing that may have been left wanting was the stage presence. With genres like black metal, there isn’t much room for stage theatrics alongside with the ‘ethos’ coupled with the music. However, taking on a rather rigid, albeit stoic stance onstage with little to no crowd engagement made the show a bit awkward to watch. Yet, the crowd were surprisingly uncooperative as well, giving praise in between songs but very little else. Despite this however, this band clearly demonstrated they knew how to create bleak soundscapes interwoven with the claustrophobic roominess provided by venue. A ravishingly grim experience in spite of how poorly mixed and woofy their sound came out at times, but its’ difficult whether to fault them for it or the venue itself.
Up next came the more post-metal influenced group UNDERDARK, and with them came a much more animated stage presence (that is, on behalf of the vocalist commanding much of the limited stage space). Following a similar musical path to their opening precedents but with a less visceral emphasis on faster sections, drawing more attention to progressively swelling chords filling much of the air. Creating a mood befitting the term melancholy, adding in clean tones alongside the biting, cold distortion. However, reactions from the crowd remained the same, eliciting commiserations in between songs and sadly not much else. There were clearly elements of enthusiasm within the playing, but that unfortunately didn’t translate towards the audience much.
Given the composition of DAWN RAY’D being a three piece band gave them a distinct advantage in projecting their music in light of the overly saturated sound-mixing. Having just two string instruments (one of which being a violin) meant that there was a lot of audible space to fill on part of the electric guitar. And for what it is worth, the guitar came out very sonically defined with crushing distorted tones whilst still being able to ring out the definition of each note with clear articulation. In a sense, it felt like watching a full ensemble play, with each part finally getting the recognition it deserved. Allowing each song to flow from punishing, fast paced tenacity, to melodic sections provided by the violin playing. Better still, where intervals came requiring all instruments play on top of distortion, it still came out crisp and clear. This all came to fruition with a much more mighty display of passion on stage. The guitarist grimacing towards the audience whilst shredding away, and the singer barking forth raspy vocals whilst headbanging away. As well, there was actually a period of actual communication with the audience (even if it was a rather unwarranted speech about safe spaces). A much fresher performance in light of the rigidity that came before.
And now came the cream of the crop, with renown blackened doom titans COLTSBLOOD taking the stage, all would be laid waste to the punishingly heavy mass that is their wall of sound. Well, that is if you could have actually heard the guitar over the unending audible destruction that the bass guitar caused. With the style of which COLTSBLOOD play involving melodic, single string guitar plucking, it of course makes sense to have an incredibly beefy bass sound so as not to diminish from the heaviness. However in this case, the bass was so loud and so crushing, it was immensely difficult to pick out the six string guitar’s higher frequencies on top of the sonically chaotic bass attack. So much so it begged the question as to why they even had a guitar player on stage with them.
Another drawback that came with this performance was the length of COLTSBLOOD‘s allotted set. Having only just enough time to play a meagre three songs, this demonstrates the pains of having a doom band alongside a rather packed lineup. As a result of this, they could only fit in Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness, Mortal Wound and Grievous Molestation, the usual go to songs from their discography. Headlining a lineup from which they could have easily blown the crowd away, they sadly left the audience questioning “well, is that it?” Well to be fair, the bass certainly blew them away for certain.