Our loyal Vault Hunters seemed enjoy it so much the last time we tried it, so we decided to get the ‘Dream Team’ back together for another show review. This time, though, everyone was in the same place at the same time – namely Black Circle Brewing Co. on June 17. The weather outside was hotter than Satan’s taint, but the beer inside was perfect thanks in no small part to the tap takeover by WarPigs Brewing – Canyon of the Skull guitarist Erik Ogershok just happens to be one of the brewers there.
And what about the bands? Read on to find out what Jessie and Clayton had to say about each of their sets, and make sure to check out the rad pics from Lindley, the newest addition to our team of photogs!
C: I’ll get to talking about the bands in a minute, but I want to take a second up front here to give some props to Black Circle Brewing Co. A lot of us were really bummed out when the 5th Quarter had to close. and while I don’t think there will ever be another venue in Indy with quite the same…‘ambiance’ that 5Q had, Black Circle is doing a hell of a job of stepping up to fill that void. Great sound, a good-sized stage with a decent lighting setup, and a very chill atmosphere. What did you think of the remodel?
J: It felt a lot less claustrophobic. Before, the bar bottlenecked listeners in front of the stage, and the traffic between the bathroom, bar, and patio was often distracting. The bar moved back substantially, creating a wide open space with plenty of room to move around and some extra seating. I think this had a positive effect on the sound quality, too. My only regret was that it was too hot to have the windows open, because I love open-air.
C: It was too damn hot to do much of anything, but they did a good job of keeping the temperature pretty comfortable inside.
Have you seen Spirit Division before? Much to my chagrin, I have to admit that even though (full disclosure for the readers who may not know) Chris is the longest-tenured member of the Vault team aside from B and I, this was my first time seeing them live.
J: Yeah, I’ve seen them several times. They keep getting better each time I see them. What did you think of them?
C: I only have No Rapture, their last album, to go off of, but I really think that Andy, their new guitarist/vocalist, is exactly the jolt that they needed. His guitar seems to play a larger role in their sound than it did on their last album, which leads to some nice interplay with Chris’s bass. I really like what he brings to the band vocally as well. Chris has had some bad luck in terms of lineup stability over the years, but I’m hoping this one sticks for a while. I’m really looking forward to hearing Forgotten Planet when it drops.
J: The two touring bands, Giant of the Mountain and Canyon of the Skull, had quite a bit in common, and not just similarly themed names. Both are from Texas (Dallas and Austin, respectively) and both are two-pieces with very impressive drummers. Just watching Randi of GofM work had me exhausted. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief when they entered melodic sections and not just out of compassion. Cody’s vocal style is more brutal than my usual predilection, and paired with his highly technical guitar parts it was on onslaught. If I hadn’t seen them in person, I would not have guessed them to be only two strong.
C: As a black metal dude, I was all kinds of impressed with Giant of the Mountain. Honestly, even though two-piece lineups aren’t all that common in black metal (at least not live, anyway – there are plenty of two-piece studio lineups in black metal), a lack of bass is pretty common. I had the chance to talk to Cody for a few minutes between sets, and it sounded like they’ve had bass players in the past but recently decided to just stay a two-piece. The thing that impressed me about them the most, though, was the way that Cody was able to play those techy solos with Randi backing him on drums. You’ve got to be crazy locked in with your drummer to be able to shred like that without a bass to keep you from spiraling off-key or out of time. I need to spend a bit more time with their new album, which just came out last week.
J: They did have great chemistry on stage. You could tell that they were deeply tuned to one another. I can also understand how staying a two-piece would keep their style focused-in and tight.
C: They’re also married, so that may have something to do with the chemistry part of it.
In spite of their similarities in composition, Canyon of the Skull could not have been any more different stylistically than Giant of the Mountain. I’ll admit, though, that while I enjoyed their set, it was more of a mixed kind of enjoyment, if that makes any sense. Adrian is a fucking beast behind the kit – possibly the best drummer I’ve ever seen live. I do kind of wish Erik’s guitar had been a bit more present, though – a slightly thicker tone, perhaps?
J: I found the guitar riffs to be very hypnotic, even monotonous. This isn’t something I’m opposed to, but it makes more sense to me in drone metal that is down-tempo with a more enveloping sound. When the melodies are so simplistic, they need balanced out with some kind of extreme or stylistic flair. So I agree, a more substantial tone would help put Erik’s repetitive motifs in context. I was blown away by Adrian’s prowess behind the drum set. His style is so dynamic that it felt like the drums were the lead rather than guitar.
C: I talked to Adrian for a few minutes after their set, and it seems like that’s more or less the way the band sees it as well. The way he described their approach reminded me quite a bit of modal jazz – there’s a loose structural framework with some room for improvisation that Erik plays within, and then everything that Adrian does on the drums is improvised around that. So no two CotS sets are ever quite the same, which I think is pretty rad – there’s not a ton of improv like that in metal, at least not that I’m aware of.
J: That’s really neat. I never would have guessed that, mostly because of the point you made about improvisation being somewhat rare in metal.
Thorr-Axe closed the show with a bang, didn’t they? They have put a tour under their belt since last I saw them, and the confidence and experience has done wonders for their stage presence. I can’t wait for their next album to drop. I think it will be really well-received and hopefully get them noticed and signed to a label.
C: That might even be understating it. I don’t know that I have much to say here that I didn’t say in our last show review, especially since they played the same set both times. I don’t know if it was because they followed a pair of two-piece bands or that Black Circle is a bit less cavernous a room than Indiana City, but they sounded abso-fucking-lutely massive. Sathanas help any band that has to follow them while they’re this hot.