(photo credit: Brooklyn Vegan)
This is a journal of an impromptu musical experience that made me think of the ocean.
There is a venue in Seattle called The Black Lodge. Other than someone’s back yard or basement, it’s probably the most underground metal venue in Seattle. It’s BYOB and the calendar of shows spreads mainly by word of mouth. There was a show planned there for the night of March 26, but within the preceding 24 hours or so there was a change, and the bands scheduled to play there were added to a pre-existing line-up at a different venue, The Highline.
Not knowing anything about the original Black Lodge bill or about the last-minute change (the word did not reach my mouth), I was simply interested in seeing the bands who were already lined up for The Highline, which included Today Is The Day and Black Tusk. I showed up with two friends and discovered to my amazement that the first two bands I would be hearing were Ash Borer and Aldebaran (we got there too late to catch the opening act, Fight Amp).
I would have killed your mother to see those two bands had I known they were in town. Your mother was spared, and I got to see them anyway. It was an experience I’ll remember for a long time. I wish I had brought my camera, but like I said, this was an impromptu experience.
True story: Many years ago I was on a sailboat that left the western coast of Scotland bound for the southern end of an island in the Hebrides called Islay. Under normal conditions the passage should have taken 2-3 hours. We never made it.
We ran into a storm with a Force 10 gale that had unexpectedly changed direction and broadsided us in a fury from the south. After 5 or 6 hours of trying to make headway on our charted course we gave up and turned north, finding shelter in a cove on the island of Jura, just to get out of that black fucking storm.
I’ve always found the ocean to be beautiful. On that trip, I experienced like never before, or since, how vast, overpowering, and brutal it can be, but it also made me feel tremendously alive. I attribute that to the mega-dose of adrenaline that the body serves up when you feel your life is in imminent danger.
I thought of that experience after listening to Ash Borer at The Highline. They played for 30-40 minutes (I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the time). They played three songs. They never said a word to the audience. They started playing, they moved from song to song without much break, and they left. And mostly it was like a massive ocean storm, with howling wind and big white-capped walls of sound flooding the audience at intense volume. I wasn’t in fear of my life, but I did get a mega-dose of adrenaline.
There were moments of respite from the harrowing guitars and blasting drums, not many, but enough to make the music a dynamic experience. There were melodies in the music, but not as discernible as on the band’s recordings. The thrumming of the bass rose and fell in the mix, and the band’s vocal duo were more audible than on the records; they shrieked like larval Aliens were bursting through their chest cavities.
It was one of those musical experiences where you get so caught up in the songs that you think and feel nothing else, and when the music stops, you stumble around in a daze.
Ash Borer don’t tour much, and they don’t seem to play outside the West Coast when they do. But if you ever get the chance to see them, don’t miss it.
And in other Ash Borer news, the following statement appeared earlier this month on the band’s blog about their latest release, Bloodlands (reviewed here):
“Due to plant-related manufacturing delays of the vinyl, and the unfortunate leaking of our new material, we have chosen to make Bloodlands available digitally through Bandcamp for those that wish to support the band. Available immediately. A limited tour edition of the LP will be available in Europe, along with a cassette edition released by the band in conjunction with Psychic Violence Records. Link to purchase and stream below.”
It would have been difficult to find a greater metal contrast to Ash Borer than the Portland band who played next. Where Ash Borer was a frenzied assault of black metal power, Aldebaran delivered a narcotic dose of funeral death/doom.
They also played for 30-40 minutes (I still wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the time). They played one song. They also never said a word to the audience. They started playing, they finished, and they left.
I thought of the ocean again. Not the ocean in a raging storm, but the feeling of immense latent power, the feeling of being surrounded by something vast and alien, a slowly heaving immensity under a moonlit night sky.
Tim Call’s slow drumbeats and cymbal crashes came down like concrete, and his intermittent vocals were gargantuan, ranging from ultra-deep slow roars to ghastly whispered exhalations. The music’s bottom end could be felt deep in the gut, and the slow melodic guitar variations were thoroughly hypnotic. It didn’t take long before the heads of most people in the audience were moving in a slow bob, up and down in the rhythm of the song. Several people near me had their eyes closed, feeling it.
I stumbled around in a daze after this set, too, with the morose melody continuing to echo in my head. Another amazing experience.
Aldebaran’s most recent release is the 2012 album Embracing the Lightless Depths. It’s up on Profound Lore’s Bandcamp site at the link below. Aldebaran and Graves At Sea are playing tonight at The Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, CA, and tomorrow night at The DNA Lounge in San Francisco.