I truly love metal tour packages because they often reject boring homogenous bills in favour of omnivorous showcases for the beautiful diversity of aggressive music. Last Wednesday, Club Soda hosted a wonderfully eclectic bill — the traditionalist death metal of scene veterans Obituary, sharing the stage with the elegant progressive doom of Pallbearer and the ecstatic blackened thrash of Skeletonwitch.
Florida’s Obituary were regal headliners, unleashing a career spanning set that acted as a brutal reminder of their astonishing consistency over a career that stretches back into the 80s. Their performance felt like a joyous victory lap, with vocalist and founding member John Tardy smiling through his gnarled growls, while guitarists Terry Andrews and Trevor Peres moved about the stage with abandon while perfectly executing those careening classic death metal riffs.
For this tour, the band decided to crowd-source their setlists using social media, tailoring every performance to the tastes of their longtime fans in each city they visited. I wasn’t previously familiar with the band’s music, but the song selection seemed to draw unanimous praise from those in attendance. The pit, a riotous tumbleweed of limbs, did not let up for the entire hour or so that Obituary performed. I can’t think of a better endorsement for a death metal band.
Unlike the headliners, Pallbearer did not conjure a frothy mosh pit. Though to be fair, their music doesn’t quite lend itself to that type of physical response. Theirs is the sound of deep, neck-muscle shredding head-banging — towering columns of sound sculpted by lurching antediluvian riffs. The band delivered a stately and elegant performance, though Brett Campbell’s soaring clean vocal melodies occasionally struggled to be heard over the low-end din. Joseph Rowland’s bass was particularly unhinged, the fuzzed-out tone of his nimble fills and root work occasionally swallowing the songs into a scuzzy vortex.
Their setlist de-emphasized Pallbearer’s softer, more melodic side, and instead capitalized on the crushing weight of their songcraft. New song “Dropout” was the notable exception, being a fairly straightforward rock-song opening with an uplifting sky-tearing lead from Campbell. And at around 5 minutes, it is one of the shortest songs and most accessible songs in the band’s repertoire. Overall, Pallbearer’s refined pace was a welcome respite in a bill otherwise marked by speed and savagery.
Before them, Athens Ohio’s Skeletonwitch were truly the evening’s highlight for me, despite barely being familiar with them. After tumultuous line-up changes in the last few years that saw them parting ways with their original vocalist, the band appeared revitalized and hungry – their performance celebratory and electric. New singer Adam Clemans had a compelling, charismatic stage-presence to match his impressive vocal delivery. Clad in white jeans, a leather jacket, and leather biker-gloves, Clemans had the air of a demon-possessed greaser and somehow managed to sell the look. He brought fire and brimstone to old Skeletonwitch classics like “Beyond the Permafrost” and newer material alike.
The band will be releasing its first full length in five years, *Devouring Radiant Light*, this summer, and they previewed it by playing the ambitious “Fen of Shadows”. The song is a bit of a departure from Skeletonwitch’s usual approach, injecting even more black metal ambience and menace into their sound, all while playing with heretofore unheard songwriting complexity. “Fen of Shadows” still builds to the band’s signature swashbuckling, galloping riffs, it just takes the scenic route getting there, indulging in mournful lead melodies and softer, melodic breakdowns. It’s a good look for the group, and I can’t wait to hear more from their new album. If their performance was anything to go by, Skeletonwitch seems to be on the cusp of a brilliant new chapter of their career.
It is a good time to be a metal fan, and this bill was a reminder of the tremendous richness to be currently found in extreme music. None of these bands are to be missed next time they come through Montreal.
Review + Photos – Jean-Michel LacombeShare this :