Wednesday is a weird day in the schedule of my life. The girlfriend's children go to their father for increased religious indoctrination and dinner, and she and i go out for a drink and maybe some shopping at the local farmer's market. We worship at the altar of commerce and booze, while they pursue a more conventional altar.
But this all leads to me to have most Wednesday evenings free to pursue opportunities that might not be so conducive to the continuation of my relationship, such as loud heavy metal performed live. (My girlfriend still tells about the time in 2014 i took her, on Valentine's Day no less, to see "a band where the guy growled instead of sang!")
So a quick request to any weird bands that i might enjoy who think about coming to Atlanta: Wednesday is the best day for me. Just something to keep in mind.
One thing that i have noticed about metal shows is that there is a high level of professionalism. I have been to see lots of indie rock bands who show up late and play sloppy and sometimes even forget to bring merch. Not so with metal acts -- shows start on time, bands play when they are supposed to and for how long, and merch is plentiful.
I, however, was running late -- i could not find my reading glasses and i couldn't go to a concert and expect to text or take notes or see the images on the back of the camera without them. I looked and looked and finally found them on the top of the toilet tank. Ugh. (Is there a correlation between eyesight diminishment and the onset of senility, or was i just being flaky?)
So i was running late, and i got to the EARL at 9:05. First act Lazer/Wulf, a local band, were gearing off. I have seen them a few times before and liked them, so i was kind of bummed to miss their performance. But: the show moving at a timely pace on a work night was a good thing.
The second act began to set up and i grabbed a space near the front. I knew nothing at all about this band except that they were a 2-piece band of bass and drums. I was worried that the band would be something like Ed Schrader's Music Beat, an act whose stoned whimsy wore thin after a few minutes.
But Bell Witch were something else entirely. The bassist played a 6-string bass through a metric ton of pedals. The drummer had a simple kit set up, but the drums were a little bigger than usual. Both had vocal microphones.
At some point while the drummer was still fussing with things and the crowd was chatting, the bassist started playing. His hands flew across the strings, both hands moving up and down the fretboard creating a melodic sound that was not stereotypical bass.
He played as the crowd chatted and the drummer waited. His playing was intricate and masterful, and i liked watching him play.
And then, suddenly, when i was distracted by the bass playing, the drummer joined in with a few scattered hits. The crowd took notice at that point, since with the addition of drumming, it was obvious that the set had begun. But that was it for a while -- masterful basswork flying all over the place and scattered drum hits.
Eventually the drummer leaned up to the mic and did a slow, almost quiet, black metal growl. His voice was a faint rumbling alongside the bass and drums. The bassist eventually sang some as well -- his voice a higher pitched chant, like some old Catholic noise.
And that was it: bass guitar, scattered drums, subtle growl, chanting. But it was entrancing. I just stood there watching, lost in the interplay.
When the first song faded i looked over at the clock and saw that i had been watching for 21 minutes. And yet, it never seemed like it was going on too long. There was something there, something that just worked.
Bell Witch went on to play two more pieces, i think. They played for about 40 minutes all told, just blending those few elements. The songs never became dense, and everything moved at a glacial pace. The band was like watching Low on one of their early tours cover Black Sabbath.
When their 40 minutes was over, i immediately headed back to the merch area and asked their merch girl what they had played. She said it was all off their latest record, Mirror Reaper, so i picked up a copy of that on the spot. It has been a while since an unknown band performed so strongly that they really impressed me, but Bell Witch did. I suppose that it helped that what they were doing was totally unique. I have never heard anything like that before, but there were elements of a lot of things that i have enjoyed in the past, just reinterpreted, taken to a logical conclusion that i had never contemplated before.
By the time they were done and i had walked my new vinyl out to the car, it was about 10:20pm. If the night had ended there i would have been happy, but i still had another band to look forward to, Yob.
I first came across Yob in a very odd way: a review of their album Atma on a now-defunct Buddhist Blog. You see, Yob leader Mike Scheidt is a fan of "Eastern wisdom" and he incorporates Buddhist concepts into his lyrics. I read the review and got intrigued about a band that crossed two worlds that i myself cross between.
Atma came out in 2011, and since then i have occasionally listened to the Yob records i have. I get in moods were listening to metal occupies my time, and then i get in moods where other types of music seem to dominate. There is some sort of ebb and flow and work in my consciousness...
Yob were the reason i came out to this show. I like how Yob seem to take all sort of metal elements and throw them into a blender: they make proggish concept records, their song are slow and doomish, at times Scheidt growls and at time he sings sweetly and melodically, and at times Yob even thrash a little... It is a good mix and i like what they are doing.
Yob took the stage and started playing at about 10:36pm. At least, that is what the clock at The EARL showed. They played to a pretty good crowd -- The EARL was not empty but people were not stacked like cordwood either. And that is good, because apparently the EARL's AC needs some work. It was approximately 150 F inside the club -- everyone was dripping sweat and the air was thick with humidity... Ugh.
Yob are a three piece, with Scheidt on vocals and guitar. He is an older metal guy with long long hair and lots of tattoos.
He is joined by long-term drummer Travis Foster, who does not look very “metal” in that he is not covered in tats nor does he have long hair. He is, however, a good drummer from the slow grinding metal that Yob seem to do. Yob is on their third bassist right now, Aaron Riesenberg, who looks, i swear, like a 20 year old James Hetfield. Riesenberg is pale with long curly blond hair and beefy muscular arms. He lays down a nice groove under Scheidt's guitar.
They played until 11:40 or so. I left when they were on their final song and i could barely stay awake in the heat. I know that they played The Screen off of their new album, because Scheidt uses a really strange gritty effects pedal that is rather distinctive. I recognized a few songs from Atma and The Great Cessation, but i am terrible with song titles.
The crowd really got into it -- lots of slow head-banging and people kind of shuffling/dancing. Yob play doom metal, which is the equivalent of slowcore, and it really isn't possible to dance to that sort of thing, so people kind of shuffle around.
I enjoyed this show a lot. I am glad i went. Bell Witch blew me away, but Yob were really enjoyable too. I would go see either band again. On a Wednesday, of course, and preferably in the winter next time!