26 March 2009
Pelican/Wolves in the Throne Room/Tombs/Early Man/Via Vengeance @ The Sets 3/25/2009
To begin, let me qualify this review by saying this was my first time at The Sets, and I was thoroughly let down. Between the poor planning (to me, when the headliner ends at 12:30, but the show didn't start till about 8:30, and it's a Wednesday night, that's poor planning) and mediocre sound (I know getting good sound out of post metal bands that rely on distortion as a part of their sound is hard, but the mixing was unacceptably muddy at many points during the night), I struggle to say I'd come back to see bands here unless I was really desperate to see them.
Via Vengeance was the first act of the night and, like most post metal bands, the music is fairly simple technically, and it's the atmosphere that really matters. Well, this band didn't have the best atmosphere development, but I don't think you could expect anymore of a lone musician playing guitar and drums...at the exact same time. Via Vengeance is a band comprised of only one member, and he simultaneously plays drums and guitar. Most people struggle for the coordination just involved in drumming! Whatever technical failings this one-man metal band may suffer from are easily overlooked in the entertainment and novelty of that one-man band.
Early Man was next up and thanks to the records I keep, I know I had seen this band previously (the name did sound familiar), but I can't remember exactly where. The thrash metal sound these guys have is fun and definitely got the crowd going, but I felt it was a little bit out of place in an evening dominated by atmosphere-centric bands. I may, however, merely be projecting my antipathy towards thrash onto these guys unfairly. Like I said, the crowd liked it...who am I to judge?
Tombs I had also seen previously...I believe last October in New York. On CD, this band is certainly not bad, but they don't particularly stand out either. The songs have a tendency to run together and the album can be tiresome played start to finish. But where that hurts on album, the band is able to exploit it to their benefit live. From the beginning to the end of the set, there was not a moment of silence, and the net result was a 30 minute post metal influenced soundscape that kept crowd interest and energized the venue.
Wolves in the Throne Room went beyond the typical atmosphere bands tend to strive for, that being an aural atmosphere. They brought in candles and a fog machine, and with the fog machine working overtime, within 5 minutes of the start of their set, the entire venue was clogged in a deep fog penetrated primarily by those candles and the blue LED on one of the guitars. Normally, a physically foggy atmosphere wouldn't really add much, but when you're dealing with black metal, you can't help but begin to visualize yourself in a dark Scandinavian forest with a very occult feel as the music is played. As a band with quite epic songs, they only played three and, alas, my knowledge of their discography is almost non-existent, but the songs were quite enjoyable. Wish they're had a longer set.
Pelican played a set of too many new songs for my taste. The song they mentioned being from their new EP sounded good, so I may have to check that out, but in general I'm a man who takes Australasia or Fire over Echoes any day. As a result, the set list was rather lacking. In addition, the fact that they started at 11:15 and didn't finish until 12:30 didn't help their cause as I got crankier and more tired. They also played a cover of a band named Earth that was completely underwhelming. The riffs and ideas could certainly have been enjoyable, but there was a severe lack of substance for how much those riffs were recycled. I was bored after 3 minutes and then they played the same riffs for another 3. All in all not as good as previous performances, but then that could entirely be an issue of setlist preference...and sound preference (as mentioned, venue sound was quite mediocre).