Sumac announced a North American tour with supporting acts Dälek and Infernal Coil a few months ago. The Montreal date finally rolled around, and I knew the music fan within myself would be disappointed if I missed such a sonically-varied night.
Photo credit: Claudia X Valdes
While the three groups on the bill play highly different styles of music, they all share one aspect in common: noise. No, that’s not my half-humorous way of creatively uniting the trio by generalizing music to “noise”. Be it grindcore (specifically death/grind for Infernal Coil), experimental hip-hop, or atmospheric sludge, all three groups play on the fringe of their respective genres. So, while it was certainly an easy task to identify who attended the concert in support of who, the entire audience was united under the fact that we were all dedicated music lovers (as none of the groups have achieved any sort of major fame). While I may have came for Infernal Coil’s live full-frontal assault, some came for the lo-fi beats from the Dälek duo. I’m sure those in support of the hip-hop group were more reluctant to enjoy the death/grind aspect of the show, but it definitely caught people’s attention.
I don’t know if it was because this was my first show that wasn’t strictly metal, or perhaps the de-soberizers flowing through my veins, but I met a lot of friendly people. I usually tend to stick with myself when I attend concerts, but I ended up exchanging contacts with a handful of headbangers by the end of the night.
Anyways, on with the show. Infernal Coil took the stage first and sure as hell made sure nobody was sleeping before Dälek came on. My encounter with the band actually preceded their performance, as I spent some time talking to guitarist/vocalist Taylor about their tour, the varied lineup, and the Canadian/United States currency exchange rate (managed to swipe their newest LP nearly two weeks early and at a United States-based cost, not a Canadian rate which would have been more expensive). Anyhow, the quartet delivered a set of demonic screams, blast beats, and more blast beats. While I enjoyed the show, you could easily tell who wasn’t! Their highlight was when one of their guitarists raised his arm in hopes of an equal retaliation from the audience, but upon only being met with minor support he swiftly turned his raised fist into a thumbs down, I thought that was really funny.
While their performance was top-notch in terms of energy and vibe, there were a few mixing errors resulting from Taylor’s vocal sound and the general guitar output. Although you could clearly hear their primary vocalist’s voice, when Taylor’s backing effort was displayed his microphone volume was far too low within the mix (I could barely hear him despite his hellspawn-looking facial expressions; I don’t think he could have screamed any louder or his eyes would have popped out). The drums also tended to overpower everything else, but they do play a death/grind style so I’ll let it slide as a creative choice. Other than these two flaws however, their performance easily made up for the $20 ticket.
Dälek, the experimental hip-hop band from New Jersey, took the stage second. Hold your horses… I know that Chuck Schuldiner would be spinning in his open casket if he heard that Infernal Coil opened for a hip-hop band. However, as touched upon above, the “noise” factor shared by the two’s music justified the appearance. I, for one, am very open to all styles of music and tend to enjoy most, and I believe that everybody should be that way. I thoroughly enjoyed Dälek’s portion of the show with their dissonant beats and club-like atmosphere. I was even tempted to pick up one of their records, but ended up throwing away the thought as I was worried I only enjoyed their music in concert. I won’t dwell as this is a metal-focused site, but I highly recommend seeing such a group in concert; be open, friends.
Finally, Sumac made their appearance around 11:00. The trio is labelled within the atmospheric sludge subgenre which I have never heard of prior to looking at their page. While seemingly contradictory terms, I think such is a good way to describe them. They definitely play a more abstract style of metal which focused on various peaks of drastic transitions. They would focus on very drone-like slow riffs which were bended and twisted in every which way imaginable, but would always eventually switch into a weep-inducing melodic section that contrasted very well with the lack of direction that fell prior. You could tell the band members were extremely into their music, as their bodies would contort affectionately in accordance to the sounds flowing from their instruments. Furthermore, the lead singer’s growling approach to his vocals made those transitions even more pronounced and thus enjoyable.
My one complaint was that Sumac’s sound was so unnecessarily loud. They were easily blowing the past guys out of the water, who were already louder than usual as the venue was essentially a mid-sized box (perfect for sound to bounce infinitely from wall-to-wall infinitely. Sumac however decided to offer free facial surgery, and after two songs I decided to sit outside and enjoy the show from there. Funnily enough, their music was infinitely more enjoyable from behind a brick wall, as you could comfortably listen to their music. I was even joined by someone I met prior who had the same feelings. Guys, kids are stupid and they go to shows without earplugs; don’t obliterate the audience’s hearing, we want to enjoy your music. The drastic volume shift kind of ruined their performance for me, as even with the help of earplugs my head began to ache.
Despite a few bumps and snags along the way, I believe that the concert was very successful, especially considering the highly-varied lineup. If you told me I’d be going to a grind/hip-hop/noise show I would have never believed you, but that day came. Catch the trio of bands on their tour if you’re a music lover, none of the groups will disappoint if you enter the door open-minded. Just don’t forget earplugs.