Both Josh and I were lucky enough to catch the massive Bell Witch/Primitive Man shows in our respective areas. Since these two shows fell in rather quick succession, we decided to combine our thoughts into a single post. These performances undoubtedly left an impact on us both, so let’s get into it, shall we?
Words cannot describe exactly how massive these sets were. Being up in Portland, Maine at one of my favorite small venues called Geno’s Rock Club, I arrived right as the second of two final opening bands was wrapping up. I felt a little bad that I missed the opening couple acts, as I usually make a point to see everyone on the bill, but the long drive and need for food shifted priorities a bit. That said, in a way, isolating my experience to the final two performances may have served to only enhance the overall impact of the show.
Bell Witch, touring after the release of their monumental doom metal marathon titled Mirror Reaper, played a set that must have lasted no more than 45 minutes, but seemed to carry on for an eternity. In a good way. There was zero break in their performance, filling every possible second with dread and the weighted darkness that defines their music. I can’t be entirely certain (I’ve never really paid attention to the name’s of their songs nor where they transition from one to another), but I believe this set was exclusively filled with passages from this most recent release. It’s hard to describe how burdening the music was emotionally, but if I had a say in how Mirror Reaper looked and felt live, this would be it. Both Dylan and Jesse, with all their ability to manipulate their instruments and multitask as a two-piece, performed with incredible precision. I had never seen Bell Witch before, but witnessing what they could do on stage without any additional support… was simply absurd.
And then there was Primitive Man. I saw these beasts open for Dragged Into Sunlight relatively recently, so I had an idea of what I was in for. For those that missed it, they also released a new album recently. And one of the best so far in 2017 in Caustic. As impressive and brutal as that album is, this set took things one step further. This trio absolutely crushes you. It’s a performance that is almost felt more than heard. From wall to wall in this tiny venue, you could feel the power pouring off the stage. I don’t know why, maybe because I’m a glutton for pain, but I cannot get enough of the immensity of their live show. You don’t walk out of it on a high like you would with some shows, but you leave feeling like you experienced something challenging. Something you could only put yourself through on the rare occasion. It’s a different kind of metal performance, and it absolutely kicks ass. They might be the heaviest band going (by straight definition), and their live show matches that.
This tour, given what both of these titans bring to metal, is one you can’t miss.
For once a great show on a SATURDAY. Everyone of you feel the weight of that sentence and know that beyond a shadow of doubt this was one that would not nor could not be missed. And being on a Saturday meant that the trip to Atlanta would be, for the most part, bumper to bumper traffic free (yet another plus). For this show I finally got to meet Cole, who many of you may know from twitter as @KVLTland and Avery Bradshaw (lead vocals, bass) from Giger, a Colombus, GA sludge/death/doom metal band. Shows are always more fun in packs, fact. After good conversation, good pizza and drinks it was time to settle in at the infamous Drunken Unicorn for the devastation we came for.
The Drunken Unicorn is a tiny venue with a big heart. When I say tiny what I mean is a friend’s basement kind of tiny but here it only means that everything is ultimately louder than normal and the stage is within arms reach nearly at all times. Locals Malevich opened the show with their brand of blackened hardcore to a steadily growing crowd. Unfortunately I was not familiar with them nor their material but from what I heard they fit nicely on a bill with Primitive Man. Joseph Turner (vocals) delivered an energetic performance and used every square inch of the stage while he and the rest of the band attempted to be first to decimate the crowd’s eardrums.
Primitive Man was up next and just as Corey mentioned, last time I saw P//M was opening for Dragged Into Sunlight so I knew what kind of power they were capable of. What I didn’t know was just how much of a difference a tiny venue would make on their ability to completely crush your soul. This band is HEAVY, and yes I know that word gets thrown around a lot and very casually in most instances but in this case it actually means what it’s supposed to. The tone set forth between Ethan’s guitar and Jonathan’s bass is simply on another level and the fury that Joe unleashes on his drums is something to behold. The thing about this band is they are just as comfortable playing sufferingly slow as they are at warp speed and that’s what keeps things interesting, just when you think you’ve figured them out they switch it up and kick you in the teeth, pull your tongue out and chew on it. Even though there wasn’t much in the way of moving around (we were packed in like sardines) I was fully drained by the close of their set. Just standing there taking in the intensity and feeling it square in my chest was exactly the adrenaline rush I remembered from last time only much louder and much more violent on every available sense.
Even though I was physically and mentally drained by this point, Bell Witch took the stage next and honestly I had no idea what to expect having never seen them before. I’ve listened to Mirror Reaper a few times and received it well enough each time but it just never fully connected with me for whatever reason. That would change after this show. Under a soft blue light Dylan and Jesse very unassumingly took to the stage and slowly got their set rolling with Dylan easing into his bass and Jesse laying his head down on the drums (my first queue this would be an all-consuming performance). As minutes ticked by they both took full form looking like an operatic duo, bass was played to the hilt like a violinist and the drums took their beating in the most dramatic way possible. As the duo progressed through quiet and loud alike, they fully delivered on their namesake, shapeshifting and seemingly able to change the environment in the room at will. Somewhere along mid-set it hit me, connecting in a way that I’d been hoping it would since Mirror Reaper‘s release. Myself and the rest of the crowd were completely mesmerized by the emotional heft of what we were all hearing and seeing. It wasn’t just doom metal played slower than normal, it was a complete package as the band not only played their instruments while switching between echoed to growled vocals but they made you feel every note of it from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Once their set was complete the crowd roared in approval but it was with a sort of hushed reverence I’ve never witnessed before. And they totally earned it.
On this night I found new friends and a new band I’ll be looking into, I saw Primitive Man even more nasty and vicious than my last experience and I connected deeply with an album I had struggled with to this point. So, all in all a great night.
Note: Corey’s pics cannot be topped so I left you with Bandcamp embeds to listen to while you gaze at his pics and relive our experiences with us.