Thursday night at Rotture was Portland’s chance to catch Vhol, a group comprised of members of other heavy-hitters of such ridiculous stature that the temptation to call them a “supergroup” is almost unbearable. They prefer not to be labeled as such, however, and prefer to let the absolutely insane music they create speak for itself. Their self-titled debut album as caused a lot of hand-wringing and head-banging as music critics have taken on the burden of describing their swirling mix of black-metal, cross-over thrash, and hard-core coherently. Last Thursday’s show provided excited metal fans with a chance to see a relatively rare live performance as well as pick up signed test-pressed of their album on vinyl. All in all it was an incredible evening.
It was refreshing to see Aesop Dekker and John Cobbett get back to the business of creating darkly energetic music together after the breakup of Ludicra. Cobbett’s fingers relentlessly flew over the fret-board for the entirety of the set, anyone looking to be impressed with pure musicianship should have looked no further than his side of the stage. Aesop, meanwhile, was an absolute behemoth behind the drum set, delivering pulsating blast and burst beats underneath Cobbett’s furious staccato picking. Those of us used to seeing him in Agalloch also got a treat, while he sometimes gets to deploy blast beats with them he doesn’t often get to show off his double-bass skills, which were also notable on Thursday. Bassist Sigrid Sheie is absolutely the perfect musician to add to this sonic stew, with the ability to keep up with Cobbett’s constant melodic changes as well as Dekker’s upbeat tempos.
The one thing I was a little ponderous about was how Mike Scheidt would do as a pure vocalist, after years of seeing him behind the guitar in Yob. I’m happy to report that he knows that the feel of Vhol is completely different than Yob and adjusted accordingly, gone was the stoney, stoic shaman of Yob that occasionally bellows doom-laden fury, and present was a frantic, energetic headbanger with an unhinged energy and impressive vocal range. All parts of Vhol’s performance were on point on Thursday in Portland. Those who attended are no doubt wondering when the next time they will get to see this band will be, and those who missed out are surely ruing their poor decision making.
Atriarch is an acquired taste, I’ve talked with many folks that simply do not like them for whatever reason. I personally think those people are crazy, though I will admit that their live act is much more compelling than their recorded material. There is an atmospheric quality to Atriarch’s music that is simply hard to translate into recorded sounds, perhaps the vinyl should come with some sage leaves to burn. Another band that is hard to classify, their particular style of eclectic doom-rock certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. While Brooks Blackhawk and Joseph Wickstrom are eminent musicians who know exactly how to delve into the darkest depths with their instruments, for me the highlight of Atriarch sets is always the performance of vocalist Lenny Smith, who always looks about one second away from losing his goddam mind. Displaying a knack for going from almost incoherent and barely audible spoken word to brain-piercing howls within a single piece, Smith’s energy and unhinged demeanor make seeing Atriarch live a worthwhile journey.
Honduran are gaining some traction recently with the release of an absolutely killer album, Street Eagles. Paraphrasing another album reviewer, it is the perfect album for a shitty-day that needs a kick in the teeth, with blasts of hardcore, grind, and power violence all suckling from the same evil nipples. However, I am going to have to complain, but not about their set, which was fantastic and featured several cuts from their album, which was being released. No, I’m here to complain about the relative lack of movement from the crowd during their set. At no point was there even an inkling of a pit, or ridiculous hardcore invisible ninja fighting, or really anything besides head-nodding. Sorry Portland, that isn’t good enough. I’m excited to see Honduran in the future, hopefully in some rancid basement where I can get my face torn off. I’m also excited because I see them as a possible bridge between the well respected Eolian Empire crew/scene and a scene which often gets overlooked in our city, namely the power/thrash scene. I’m pretty sure no building could withstand a show with both them and a band like Raptor or Raw and Order on the same bill.