Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bell Witch's "Mirror Reaper" & West Coast Tour | Unsane at The Highline: Dec 1 & 5

The holiday season arrives, and with it, the most culturally desolate stretch of the year. Thankfully, Seattle's paramount metal, hardcore and punk venue, The Highline have kept their calendar vital through the next month. Even with the eminent consequence of their host building's purchase by a Seattle "wine and lifestyle brand", the venue continues their strong programming into the next year. December sees a night of Philadelphia hardcore band, Plague Marks, open for Unsane, who have bolstered the duo of Chris Spencer and Dave Curran of The Cutthroats, with the addition of Vincent Signorelli of the 1990s incarnation of SWANS, into a powerful nose rock goliath. The winter tour rides on the heels of their first Southern Lord release "Sterilized", following a five year gap after 2012's Alternative Tentacles issued "Wreck". Also on the bill for December, The Highline presents a night of the darkest sounds heard issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. Foremost among them, Bell Witch in their new lineup with Aerial Ruin's Erik Moggridge, perform the monstrous and epic "Mirror Reaper". Born of the death of drummer Adrian Guerra, the album encompasses a passage through the Hermetic axiom "As Above, So Below", as a conceptual traversing of the dichotomy of life and death. Bridging recordings from their previous incarnation, and unused vocal tracks from that period with work of the new lineup, the album acts as a looming, Brobdingnagian titan spanning the two.

Joining Monarch on their North American tour, both Bell Witch and their opening act for the night, Usnea, were featured in this past summer's notable assembly of progressive black metal, doom and hardcore the week of Northwest Terror Fest. The festival showcasing the multitudinous offshoots of black metal's ongoing development as it has encompassed atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, blistering eruptions of industrial percussion, electronic textures and pure noise experimentation. What may be the epitome of this cross-genre hybridization can be heard in the dynamic solar magma of guitar riffs and rhythm-play of bands like Deafheaven. With other compatriots in the sound to be found in Oathbreaker, as well as the turbulent rock of Nothing and their fusion of metal drumming and spacerock blur as heard on 2014's "Guilty of Everything". From the fringe of the genre, taking the sound down more melancholy paths, there's the crushing shoegaze blues of outfits like True Widow. Representing the more traditional signifiers of what can be defined as metal, yet taking a darker, more distended approach to atmospheric construction, bands like Krallice, Agalloch, and Pallbearer exemplify the heavier school of blackness pouring forth from the Profound Lore label. A branch of a sound and scene Brad Sanders detailed in his piece for The Quietus, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", his article acting as an excellent opening unto the dark passageways of this genre's multitude of representations. These sounds further showcased in the past half-decade of The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus excellent curation, dominantly issued on the all-things-metal-and-beyond labels Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse.