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Wolves In The Throne Room / A Storm Of Light / Krallice / Indian Live Review

by Mark Hensch

There were plenty of brief moments last Saturday where Chicago's Bottom Lounge could have left the Earth. Sporting a concert lineup intent on expanding psyches, the popular venue hovered between gritty reality and the shimmering possibility of transcendence.

In the spirit of true heavy metal, this is perhaps a given. At its best, heavy metal either offers shocking realism or utter escapism. It is a push-pull dynamic that has created tensions in the genre since day one, and they were fighting full force at last weekend's gig.

Up first were Chicago natives Indian, a band whose straightforward yet relentless bludgeoning was a revelation. I have liked these guys since first hearing them in 2005, and here is why at the end of the day, Indian simply likes f*cking people's eardrums into gooey puddles. Saturday was no exception, and for those paying proper attention Indian delivered a sadistic set delivering exquisite aural torture. Regardless of the song, the band delivered purposely slow and unchanging rhythmic brutality with all the patience of vivisection. In the midst of such abrasive repetition, Indian cleverly built up a lingering tension whose release never came. In a single phrase, songs like "Pigs in Your Open Wound" held nothing but murderous patience. For those willing to be stretched to the breaking point and left contorted, this was brilliant fare.

I wish I could the same about follow-up Krallice but it simply is not possible. Starting things off with an obnoxiously convoluted sound check, the band at last kicked into a masturbatory set of self-indulgence on par with the most narcissistic of pop celebrities. Between the nail-on-chalk guitars and the non-existent vocals, the band delivered a set which effectively lowered the bar for all that followed. Even worse, the group suffered from a black metal strain of Dragonforce syndrome, constantly striving towards needless technical showboating. The whole thing was exhaustingly annoying, the kind of lame so bad it wears one out just writing about it.

Thankfully, Brooklyn's A Storm of Light redeemed the evening with a set that damn near stole the show. The band's sound fit the venue perfectly, their wandering, ethereal metal floating freely through the air. Tranquil yet traumatizing, the exquisitely clear material was further rounded out by a surreal video package and haunting lyrics courtesy of a new female co-vocalist. Visceral and gripping, it was the perfect thing to catch people's wandering attentions prior to the main attraction.

And what a headliner it was. Wolves in the Throne Room unveiled material from their latest effort Black Cascade in stunning fashion, the set feeling less like a concert and more like a spiritual ritual. As multitudes of candles blazed in the smoggy background behind them, the band clawed their way through a feral set of emotional peaks and valleys. Picking a highlight is a difficult task all too often did the band outdo itself. "Crystal Ammunition," for example, echoed gloriously like the last gasp of an extinguished species leaving the Earth. Old favorite "Queen of the Borrowed Light," meanwhile, inspired not just rabid headbanging but full-on body spasms. Last but not least, the eternally mighty "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and the Roots" was a moment of primal communion, its epic dynamics pleasing all.

The end result was a stark, gripping show which left many tired with joy. As the final reverberations echoed throughout the cavernous room, I felt the peace of something magical having just occurred. Here is hoping the spell is still cast the rest of the tour.

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