There was a calm before the storm as I made my way to The Cabooze in Minneapolis. Down the dimly lit streets there was a brooding sense of winter encroaching upon us as the first major snowstorm was just hours away. This was a fitting sense to the diverse line up of metal bands set to perform tonight, each bringing their own dash of bleakness to the mix.
The Cabooze was decked out with some holiday lights on the banister that leads up to the balcony where a Christmas tree was adorned in lights. It made for quite the juxtaposition of what was to come with a night of gloom and doom, sometimes abrasive and at other times a soothing dirge. The opening band was Phlegethon from Ham Lake Minnesota. They packed their short 25 minute set in with a barrage of cacophony and technicality with their musicianship. Intertwined with those intense moments were passages that brought on an unnerving eeriness. There was no live keyboard player tonight but the written and recorded segments were well suited for the music and this further propelled the sinister vibe that washed over their performance. Get out and support this local Minnesota metal band next time they have some gigs lined up.
The night continued with a 30 minute set from Boston’s Wilderun. Keeping with Phlegethon’s dynamics they kept that going further but with a less caustic approach. There was still guttural vocals belted out along with some soaring clean melodies. The foot stomping riffs kept coming from one song to the next from singer/guitarist Evan Anderson Berry and guitarist Wayne Ingram. The dual guitar approach brought a full sound, whether that be during the fast paced riffs or the more mellow moments.
As someone that grew up on Opeth, one of the pioneers of progressive death metal, I was drawn to Wilderun’s eclectic mix of sounds and their dynamic songwriting. They did perform a new song off their upcoming album which is due for release next month. Their discography will be one I’ll need to delve further into in the days to come.
The fog washed across the stage as members of Abigail Williams maneuvered their way through it to find their place with their instruments and begin their musical onslaught of black metal. As the hooded band members peered through the haze they pummeled the crowd with 45 minutes of intensity and fervor.
The final song to their set was titled Final Failure. Despite the name, a drumming failure it was not. I was blown away by the vociferous performance of the outro to that piece. Seven minutes into the song after an intense crash of guitars it slows down a bit before a long raspy string of screams backed by blast beats and multi-tracked buzzing cellos composed and performed by Kakophonix. As the rest of the band walked off through the smokey haze the drummer was left to amaze us all with a frenetic performance that was in stark contrast to the slow moving and weeping orchestral sounds that hovered over the top of it.
Growing up on a number of Century Media bands and similar record labels has brought on such a fondness for those groups. While Finlands’ Swallow the Sun wasn’t always part of the Century Media family it hearkens back to moments of great musical exploration for me. During a time that laid a foundation which has played a pivotal role for some of the musical preferences I have to this day.
There was an intrigue with these bands from far off lands and the slight glimmer of hope that someday they might tour North America. As time went on, these bands began to curry favor stateside and amass a fan base here. Soon followed by the thrill and astonishment that these amazing and inspirational bands with a solid following back in their homeland would be playing shows in smaller and more intimate settings when they come to North America.
As the lights went dark at The Cabooze there was the sound of a cold howling wind that emanated from the speakers. The imagery of a windwept and harsh winter came to mind as the beginning of A Plague Of Butterflies segued into a song off their new album, The Flight Of Your Life. This brief recording of the song played out as the band walked out to the cheers of the crowd before they broke into their set. Their new album Moonflowers just came out less than a month ago and it was great to see a number of those songs in a live setting. A few of my favorites from their catalog made its way into the setlist such as Firelights, New Moon and Falling World. It’s been far too long since I was able to catch this band live and the wait was worth it.
Unfortunately the crowd was on the lighter side but we all got a wonderful performance from Swallow the Sun. The more the word spreads the larger the crowds will become, the talent and quality is there just as the audience should be in the tours to come. Simply put, this band deserves more of an audience as the are masters at what they do.
The new album has a bonus instrumental version where all the songs have been reworked in a classical setting by the Finnish group Trio N O X. In an unusual approach, this version of the album was released prior to the full band version that also features Trio N O X. The melodies of the album were all out on a beautiful display to whet of the aural palate of the Swallow The Sun faithful. It serves as the perfect companion as we hunker down from the recently fallen snow now that winter has finally staked its claim here in Minnesota.
Setlist: Moonflowers Bloom In Misery – Enemy – Rooms And Shadows – Falling World – Cathedral Walls – Stone Wings – The Void – New Moon – Firelights – Woven Into Sorrow – This House – Plague of Butterflies – Swallow