When I said to keep the concerts coming, I didn’t expect to see another one so soon.
After taking the chance to see The Ocean and Leprous last month, I headed back to the El Rey Theatre to see a favorite band of mine, Amorphis. Other bands on the bill included Hoaxed, a band from Portland who released an EP last year; Sylvaine, who were on their first North American tour promoting Nova; and Uada, a band who I have listened to before but never got into. Given the range of metal genres across all the bands, I expected more people to continue to show up throughout the latter half of the bill. Thus, as soon as I entered, I headed straight towards the front, parked myself there, and held that spot throughout the night.
Now, although I had come to see Amorphis, I was curious about Sylvaine, whose music I had heard previously but hadn’t revisited since Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone in 2018. Perhaps seeing them live this night would finally push me to listen to Nova and see what I have been missing out on. This may be a bit of a spoiler regarding Sylvaine, but I was impressed with their set, and now I clearly intend to listen to Nova when I can.
The night kicked off with Hoaxed, whose quiet intensity and fun energy made them a delight to watch. Although they are a relatively new band, Hoaxed impressed the crowd, and their energy was matched as they played through their set. Although they did perform material off their latest EP, they also performed songs that have yet to be released. I found myself really into their music — they play a blend of stoner rock that reminded me of Daniel Lioneye, but they were not afraid to add slight Americana and sludgy influences here and there. I hope we see more of them in the future, especially since they have signed on with Relapse Records this past year.
After Hoaxed came Sylvaine, who stunned the crowd with their blend of black metal and shoegaze. Although I am familiar with Sylviane’s music, I didn’t expect the band to go from an ethereal choir of vocals and instrumentation to a blackgaze heavyweight in the blink of an eye. The first two songs of their set, “Nova” and “Delusions”, were on the quieter side, showcasing Sylvaine’s penchant for both melody and atmosphere. People unfamiliar with their music may have still been in conversation during those first songs, but the minute Kathrine Shepard shrieked during “Mono No Aware”, the attention turned and it immediately became quiet, with a strong cheering response that would soon follow. The crowd headbanged and reflected Sylvaine’s intensity back to them, enthralled in their presence and atmosphere. This is one of those instances where I wished Sylvaine played a longer set, which would have allowed them to showcase more of their music to a crowd that may have specifically come for fun death metal and ritualistic black metal. However, I am happy I got to see them play and hope they return to North America as a headliner in the future.
Next came Uada, which took up the mantle of ritualistic black metal. I am not very familiar with Uada at all — my only frame of reference is their debut, Devoid of Light, which I listened to years ago — but it’s clear that they have built their musicianship and stage presence since then. The minute “Purging Fire” started, the crowd got amped up, and those who knew the lyrics to their songs sang and screamed along. I also couldn’t help but be swept into their energy, headbanging along to the music when I wasn’t taking pictures. The band’s stage presence was electrifying. They were fully committed to providing a great show, despite a limited set. It felt like I was watching a ritual for the first time, especially with dimmed lights and the abundance of smoke and smells that permeated throughout. Of course, as their set progressed, the crowd became more and more kinetic, some even pushing towards the front of the barrier to get closer to the band. In the end, Uada delivered a fantastic live performance that left the crowd ready for the final act.
Last to play were the band of the hour, Amorphis, who started with the powerful opener “Northwards”. As soon as the song started, people started to sing along with the band, and I couldn’t help but sing and dance along myself. Amorphis is a band I have seen on four separate occasions, and they have never failed to disappoint. They made jokes, had the crowd singing and screaming along to the music, and they had everyone headbanging towards the end of the night.
Although most of their music came from Halo, they also played songs from Queen of Time (“Wrong Direction”), Skyforger (“Silver Bride”), and, surprisingly, a couple classics from the earlier years. Specifically, “My Kantele” (from Elegy) and “Into Hiding” (Tales from the Thousand Lakes). Hearing those songs live was a treat, especially for fans who may not have experienced them live before. In fact, when “Into Hiding” started, there was a noticeable increase in excitement, and that energy reflected onto the band. After they finished their last song, the folk ballad “My Kantele”, they left the stage. When the crowd eventually called them back, the encore was signaled by the instrumental portion of “The Bee”, which had the crowd headbanging and cheering. They finally closed the show with their signature “House of Sleep”, and you can bet everyone — from the front of the stage to the very back — was singing along as they brought the house down. It was truly quite an unforgettable night.
In short, all the bands, from the newest to the oldest, gave a hell of a show, each with a distinct sound and presence. They all promised and delivered excellent performances, and it made me appreciate just how fantastic and cathartic going to shows can be. I know things are not yet back to a baseline normalcy, but I will take this. I hope to eventually see these bands in some capacity again in the future. Kudos!
Hasta la proxima!