Kylesa, Blood Ceremony, White Hills, Lazer/Wulf Walters Houston May 16, 2013
Ever notice how some weeks just never seem to end? There's nothing worse. On those occasions when each and every workday feels scientifically engineered to kick your ass, Thursdays can be the longest days of all: the weekend is just far enough away to sadistically taunt you to your face without fear that you'll reach out and strangle it to death.
On Thursdays like that, when all you want to do is fast-forward to Friday, some heavy music and a few brews beats an evening at home watching sitcom finales ten times out of ten. Maybe 11. Luckily, Kylesa -- one of Georgia's top purveyors of experimental sludge -- trudged into Walters last night to stomp some mud off their boots, and brought a stacked bill along with them that was willing and able to sacrifice another workweek to Satan a full day ahead of schedule.
The first band up was proggy power trio Lazer/Wulf, a very loud band from Athens, Ga. The group's mostly instrumental material was powered by the thunderous drumming of Brad Rice, who beat the holy shit out of his kit for a small, appreciative audience of early birds.
Lazer/Wulf twisted tight, angular riffs into sinus-pounding epics, periodically punctuated by howling vocal notes and maniacal laughter from guitarist Bryan Akin. It was hard to tell at times if fans in the crowd were grinning at the band's unconventional songwriting or simply gritting their teeth to prevent them from being rattled out of their gums by Rice's bass drum cannonade.
When New York's White Hills took the stage next, it was clear right away that their set would be an altogether more stylish affair. The smoggy haze emanating from the band's smoke machine -- not to mention bassist Ego Sensation's red go-go boots -- complimented the group's sound perfectly: a fogged-out strain of dangerous '60s doom.
Though White Hills' intermittent vocals sometimes sank too deeply into the mix to be understood, W.'s wild, keenly felt wah-pedal solos cut through the smoke with ease, setting hips to shaking and knees to quaking as the room began to fill up in earnest.
The swelling crowd gathered close to the stage with wide-eyed interest as the next band appeared: Toronto occult obsessives Blood Ceremony.
As their name suggests, the music of Blood Ceremony drips with the eerie funk of black magic, thanks in large part to guitarist Sean Kennedy's Iommi-esque riffs and leads. The linchpin of BC's striking look and sound, however, is witchy front woman Alia O'Brien, whose powerful, lilting vocals were perfectly complimented by her pagan flute and organ playing.
It takes a special kind of doom-metal band to get heads banging along to flitting flute trills, but Blood Ceremony made it look easy. The audience unreservedly danced with the devil as the band previewed songs like "Goodbye Gemini" and the title track from their forthcoming album, The Eldritch Dark.
It was on the set-closer "Oliver Haddo," though, that all of the best elements of Blood Ceremony's sound came together best -- heavy organ, folky flute and Sabbathy stomp. It was so spellbinding that the crowd almost wouldn't let them leave the stage.
They had to move, of course, or else Kylesa could never have fit all of their gear up there. In addition to every guitar pedal known to God or man, the Savannah sludge savants also packed two drum kits, keys, a theremin and even a skateboard strung up with guitar strings onto the tightly packed stage at Walters.
All of that stuff produced quite the unholy, atmospheric racket on tracks like the new song "Quicksand," but it was the low string on co-front person Laura Pleasants' guitar that truly flattened the crowd of eager listeners. The crunch on songs like "Don't Look Back" from 2010's Spiral Shadows was unforgettably intense, testing the audience's eardrums and neck muscles by equal measure.
Ensconced behind their twin kits, drummers Eric Hernandez and Carl McGinley sounded like an entire tribe of primitive skin-bashers, providing a rigid backbone around which guitarists Pleasants and Phillip Cope buzzed like mutant hornets. The crescendoing heaviness of tracks like "Tired Climb" and "Hollow Severer" felt like slowly dropping an anchor into the abyss.
It was enough to drag Thursday straight down into the murky waters of the bayou and drown it. Thank you, Kylesa. TGIF.
Personal Bias: This week must end.
The Crowd: Open-minded metal geeks.
Overhead In the Bathroom: "She's gorgeous, man. I think I'm in love!"
Random Notebook Dump: The women rocked hard onstage and off last night, fellas. Blink and they might just take this whole heavy-metal thing over completely.