AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: NIKWIND/Witch Mountain/Hedersleben @ The Garrison, Toronto, September 15, 2014

Well, considering that Brockwind cancelled its North American tour–twice!–last year, I figured I might as well see the closest thing (which, in terms of founding members, is just as close as the other thing) in Nik Turner’s Hawkwind, aka Nikwind.  Mind you, my main reason for attending this gig was the touring support.  Witch Mountain is one of my favourite female-fronted doom bands going today, and since they reside on the other side of the continent, I’ll always make a point of seeing ‘em whenever they’re in town.  And hey, Nikwind puts on a pretty stellar show in its own right. ;)

I didn’t catch all of opening act Hedersleben, an experimental kraut rock band that may or may not actually be from Germany, but let’s just say they were kinda like Hawkwind in disguise.  (Foreshadowing much?)

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Much like the first time I saw em, a couple years back, Witch Mountain was touring in support of a new album that I hadn’t even heard yet.  (In fact, I just bought a copy at the gig.)  But while the songs were all new, they maintained that signature Portland style, and Uta Plotkin’s voice is still as amazing as ever!

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Now, I will say this about Nikwind.  Not sure what an actual Hawkwind gig was like back in the day, but they did a pretty decent job of recreating the atmosphere I’d imagine.  Frankly, I’m just glad I got to see someone play “Silver Machine…”

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Hmm, haven’t I seen this guy before?

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Note the “What Would Lemmy Do” container atop the bass head:

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09/14/14 PLAYLIST

ASG – Children’s Music (Blood Drive) 4:41

Sin Dealer – Thoughts (Sell Your Soul) 4:33

Missiles of October – Addiction (Don’t Panic) 3:50

Corrosion of Conformity – Brand New Sleep (IX) 5:54

U.D.O. – Dr. Death (Rev-Raptor) 3:46

Juggernaught – Train (Bring the Meat Back) 3:24

Buddha Sentenza – Tzameti (Alpha) 3:45

 

Windhand – Evergreen (Soma) 6:57

High on Fire – Last (The Art of Self Defense) 6:36

Hail! Hornet – Gifted Horse (Disperse the Curse) 2:26

Beneath Oblivion – Barren Earth (From Man to Dust) 9:03

ÖfÖ Am – Lasserre Baltz (The Beast Within) 2:13

Oh How It Ended – Old Man Jenkins (Welcome to Brown Rock) 2:40

 

Orange Goblin – The Fog (A Eulogy for the Damned) 6:46

Cowards – The Old City (Hoarder EP) 6:19

Dread Sovereign – Pray to the Devil in Man (All Hell’s Martyrs) 5:58

Lumbar – Day One (The First and Last Days of Unwelcome) 5:02

Roadsaw – Long in the Tooth (self-titled) 4:36

 

Grime – Down by the River of Dreg (Deteriorate) 4:32

Argus – The Coward’s Path (Beyond the Martyrs) 7:17

Dukatalon – Gate of Mind (Saved by Fear) 6:09

Beastwars – Mihi (self-titled) 3:42

Suns of Thyme – One Song (Fortune, Shelter, Love and Cure) 4:43

Biipiigwan – Crimson Sword (God’s Hooks) 3:40

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: WINDHAND @ Coda, Toronto, September 14, 2014

While Windhand opened a few Canadian dates of High on Fire’s last (non-Converse sponsored) tour, they only played places west of Winnipeg, making this their first Toronto appearance.  Now, I wasn’t quite as enamoured as most critics were with Soma when it came out, and seeing ‘em live didn’t really change that.  I’d still say they’re pretty good, but not great.  However, for a sludge/doom band, they sure do a lotta headbanging on stage, which makes for some pretty decent pictures:

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Heeeey maaaan, sweet dog leaf shirt!

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Hmm, not every day that you see a topless girl tattoo…on a woman:

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CROWBAR REVISITED: Sever the Wicked Hand (E1 Metal, 2011)

Though I’ve been waiting a long time for a new Crowbar album, I wasn’t too sure I’d be pleased with the end result. Their last few recordings were somewhat lacklustre, and then there’s that whole Hatebreed influence, as heard on Kirk Windstein’s two releases with Kingdom of Sorrow. (I’ll never forget seeing Jamey Jasta—not Kirk—singing “Self-Inflicted” and “All I Had” the one time I saw KOS live. Ugh…)

Alas, there is some of that hardcore chugging to be found here, but it’s kept to a minimum. Opener “Isolation (Desperation)” has a great winding sludge riff, and a classic Crowbar breakdown, but the chorus is karate-choppable. The title track is almost the opposite—fast-paced, pounding verses with a killer slow chorus driving in the final nail. That Windstein signature tone sounds just as evil as ever on this record, and compliments his hoarse vocals perfectly. “Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth” features both prominently; three songs in, and I’m not complaining…

“Let Me Mourn” and “The Cemetary Angels” are the so-called singles, released ahead of time on the internet. The former sees Windstein soar above a downtuned, mournful sludge barrage, while the latter is a barn-burning hardcore stomp that ends on a slow note. While not my favourite tunes on the album, both are pretty decent.

After a spiritual instrumental interlude, in the form of “A Farewell to Misery,” the album’s second half features more of the same, slow, meaty and heavy riffage serving as an anchor for Windstein’s anger, his words grounded in reality as always, with enough tempo changes to break up the monotony. Dude produced the record, too, which makes sense—it really sounds great.

Don’t get me wrong, the days of Time Heals Nothing and the self-titled are long gone, but if  Sever the Wicked Hand sparks a Crowbar revival, I’m all for it. In fact, I’ve already got my ticket to see ‘em with Saint Vitus, Helmet et al in Cleveland next month…

(Originally written for Hellbound.ca)

CROWBAR REVISITED: Lifesblood for the Downtrodden (Candlelight, 2005)

Lifesblood, being that it came out some four years after its predecessor—and almost six before their next album—is somewhat of a forgotten record. Like Sonic Excess, great title, but the tracks on here are a little less memorable.

“New Dawn” is fairly standard sludge fare, Kirk’s vocals barely a cut above a bit of a tribal beat. “Slave No More” picks up the pace with a winding riff that contains just a touch of chug. “Angel’s Wings” flies by in less than three minutes, combining some mid-paced thrash and super-slow-mo grooves. “Coming Down” moves along at a much slower pace, with some decent head-nodding action on a solid doom riff.

“Fall Back to Zero” is one of those odd ballads that occasionally makes its way into the Crowbar back catalogue. Sure, it’s all slow and spooky ‘n shit, but also a tad too long at six-and-a-half minutes. At least they toss in a heavy riff or two. “Underworld” brings back the breakdowns, while “Dead Sun” contains just a little more chug. “Holding Something” sounds pretty much like your traditional Crowbar tune, well maybe turn-of-the-century Crowbar, anyways.

“Moon” has a slightly lighter touch as far as sludge is concerned, with some gently-ringing notes begetting the breakdowns. “The Violent Reaction” lives up to its name with some fast-paced punk beats amidst a sea of hardcore breakdowns. The title track ends things on another lighter note. I even think I hear a piano or a pedal steel or something. That’s right, of the 50 minutes of music on here, we’ve got just about 14 minutes worth of ballads. Ugh.

CROWBAR REVISITED: Sonic Excess in its Purest Form (Spitfire, 2001)

Not just a great album title; it’s a pretty terrific record, as well. By now, Crowbar had honed its craft to the point where their signature style of sludge was finely (down)tuned and pretty potent, jam-packed with classic tracks, most notably opening number “The Lasting Dose,” which remains a live-set staple to this day.

“The Lasting Dose” starts off all slow ‘n doomy, caking on layer after layer of distorted riffage beneath perhaps the closest Kirk has come to death growls, though it’s still his signature voice. The chorus certainly isn’t cheerful, but when it comes to pain, Windstein knows what he’s talking about. “To Build a Mountain” is built up by chugging breakdowns, before planting a stoner/doom flag at the summit. “Thru the Ashes (I’ve Watched You Burn)” is about as pleasant as its song title suggests, a slow, mournful hymn to…well, sonic excess, I suppose. Hey, that’s what this record’s all about, right?

“Awakening” is another slow, sludgy stomper, Crowbar style, with riffs than weigh a ton and vocals that certainly spit a lot. “Repulsive in its Splendid Beauty” delivers more darkened doomy downstrokes, a slow-to-mid-paced stomper that oozes pure sludge. “Counting Daze” has an eerie, creeping riff leading into a windmill-headbangable chorus, nice ‘n slow ‘n heavy. After mellow instrumental “In Times of Sorrow” provides a not-so-much-needed break just past the midway mark, “It Pours from Me” rains down riffage like a volcanic sludge-ruption, with some super-slow-mo breakdowns mixed in for good measure.

“Suffering Brings Wisdom” displays no defter a touch, doubling down on the downtuned despondency with a crashing cascade of crushing riffage. (Try saying that sentence five times slow!) By contrast, “Failure to Delay Gratification” is pure punk rock fury from the get-go, d-beats aplenty, albeit not without those signature slow ‘n heavy breakdowns. “Empty Room” leaves listeners feeling no more than empty with its plodding pace, stark rhythmic patterns and typically cheery Windstein delivery. But hey, that’s what you’d expect after spinning Crowbar for 45 minutes, right?

CROWBAR REVISITED: Equilibrium (Spitfire, 2000)

Equilibrium might actually be the Crowbar record I revisit most often. Not that I can recall all of these tunes offhand, but I just love their crazy cover of Gary Wright’s 70’s soft-rocker “Dream Weaver” that closes this one out. They take a tune that’s super cheesy and make it all slow, heavy and depressing. I guess that sorta sums up what I like about the band in the first place…

“I Feel the Burning Sun” kicks ‘er off with some chunky, chuggy, sludgy riffage, this new-millennium issuing sounding fuller and more bass-heavy than their earlier recordings. The title track follows, another slice of bottom-heavy groove metal that still slows things down to a trademark doomy crawl with Windstein wailing overhead and some great breakdowns at the end. “Glass Full of Liquid Pain” leans more towards true doom with its winding, lugubrious riffage, while “Command of Myself” makes heavy use of the wah pedal for a downtrodden, slow-mo stomp.

“Down into the Rotting Earth” carries on in a similar style, with Kirk punctuating some pounding percussion with his mournful cries. “To Touch the Hand of God” actually begins with piano, adding an air of melancholy to the proceedings. In fact, it’s pretty much a piano ballad, yet it doesn’t sound out of place with the rest of the sombre tunes on the album. “Uncovering” brings back the sludge in a big way, with some aggressive chugs that stop on a dime, leading to a breakdown that wouldn’t be outta place on either Down IV EP.

“Buried Once Again” is another downtuned stomper, maybe a little bit of Down in here, too. “Things You Can’t Understand” is a pretty decent mid-paced basher with a refrain about mind-fucking, while “Euphoria Minus One” has some solid slow parts and vicious breakdowns. But really, man, it’s all about “Dream Weaver.”