Days Of Darkness 2017, Day 2


Event: Days Of Darkness Festival 2017
Written by: ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 19.11.2017


In case you missed the coverage of the first day of the festival, my write-up of Saturday the 28th is right here.

DAY TWO: ARMY OF DARKNESS

As scheduled, I inexplicably woke up during the morning hours, went to church, and informed the Vatican about the inappropriate Halloween costumes that had been spotted in the area the previous night. Afterwards, I returned home, realized that somebody had elbowed me very sharply in the back during the previous evening, and began a week of stunning back pain. Fortunately, I would soon be too occupied to notice; having begun Saturday with Evil Dead II, it seemed our only option was to continue with Army of Darkness. Once again, my concert companion and I had deemed it prudent to trim the festival around the edges, intending to arrive late and leave early like only the most fashionable of customers.

Also, this time I remembered to take pictures. I have given you three. I'm not the best photographer in the world, but these pictures have recognizable shapes in them that are relevant to the function of the evening, so in that regard they stand head-and-shoulders above the rest of my concert photography.

PART I: "PLAY THE SLOW ONE ABOUT WEED!"

It seems that Le Matos withdrew from the day's line-up at the last minute, and while the exact repercussions of that decision remain unclear to me (since the proposed alternative schedule didn't seem to survive enemy contact), what I do know is that Bongripper got a slightly longer set. I am 100% certain that, rather than actually add more songs (or snippets of songs, given their track record) to their set list, they elected to fill their extra time with static feedback, because there were several song-sized periods of time spent entirely in the thrall of nondescript noise. This was an acceptable arrangement. Soon after our arrival, Bongripper trooped onstage to general acclaim that included the above comment, which drew an amiable admission of guilt. I don't believe that anything on Saturday had quite prepared us for the sound of Bongripper; we'd had some heavy, crushing soundscapes, to be sure, but nothing like the monumental, all-encompassing, bass-heavy bulldozer that this American drone-doom quartet belched forth. For roughly an hour, Bongripper plodded through titanic walls of impenetrable instrumental doom, stirring up suffocating blankets of fuzz and distortion. Getting lost in waves of sound has rarely been easier; I couldn't tell you which songs they played, only that Bongripper provided one of the best sets of the weekend.

PART II: "SOMEONE'S GOTTA FILL OUT THE MIDDLE"

Following up Bongripper's staggering set seemed an impossible task, and for that reason I was glad that I had no expectations about Unearthly Trance, another band to whom I was a stranger. By comparison to Bongripper's immense field of droney doom, Unearthly Trance seemed merely a run-of-the-mill sludge/stoner band, and it wasn't long before I felt I had gotten the full picture of the band's sound. Not every band on the bill could be groundbreaking, we agreed, and this band in particular represented the solid, unremarkable sludge metal that we could listen to without forming much of an opinion. After 20 minutes or so, we were content that we had gotten from Unearthly Trance everything we could expect to receive, and thus decided to break for food.

PART III: "I'M GLAD WE CAN JUST LEAVE"

On this day, upon exiting Rams Head, we were not greeted by endless hordes of costumed people, but by a much sparser group of relaxing metalheads taking a break in the evening air. The comparatively drab scenery was certainly less entertaining, but at the same time, we no longer faced the unpleasant prospect of having to circumvent the enormous line to get into the cul-de-sac that the party had brought with it (the line, that is, not the cul-de-sac, and it was a line with apparently no pity for the unrelated concertgoers, who had to utilize alternative means of egress and ingress). With relative ease we stalked out to find a restaurant and wait out the rest of Unearthly Trance and the first part of GosT.

PART IV: "METALHEADS WILL MOSH TO ANYTHING"

GosT proved to be Sunday's answer to Saturday's Perturbator, a one-man electro-thingy project whose computerized pulse created a stunning diversion from everything else on the bill. This fellow cut a much more menacing figure than Perturbator's MC, exchanging the hooded sweatshirt for a hooded cloak of some description and presiding over us from behind some faux-iron latticework. His laptop even sported an upside-down cross that I'm sure was a construction of black duct tape. Overall, GosT had much more in common with homophone artist Ghost than Perturbator, at least from a visual perspective. Musically, it only makes sense that the two electronic-based artists would invite comparison, but as I explained in the Saturday article, I prefer not to embarrass myself by pretending I know anything at all about electro-thingy music. Suffice it to say that GosT was similarly enjoyable to his counterpart, though with the increase in metal aesthetic his music felt proportionally less metal, and the light show was far more conservative than Perturbator's, but I thoroughly enjoyed the set, as did the rest of the folks in attendance - who, once again, formed up in a circle and hit the pit as if they were there to see Exodus. Glowsticks flew every which way.

PART V: "AND NOW WE GO DEAF"

I mentioned in the Saturday article that I had three priorities for this festival. Manilla Road was the first chronologically, though third in terms of importance. Boris came second in both respects, and by now, we had worked our way to the very front and center of the crowd, elbows bruising the barricade as payment for our good fortune. My view was a perfectly Halloween-appropriate mélange of orange and black - stacks and stacks of Orange amps, a pinkish-orange-hued drum kit in front of my face, and three mysterious figures in black robes stalking around the darkening stage. As Wata, Takeshi, and Atsuo quietly, deliberately attended to their setup, I was overcome with excitement; the tension mounted interminably, and I was more than ready for the waves of endless distortion we were about to experience.



Behold, some drums.


Pictured: orange, and a black shape on the left that is Wata.


At least, I thought I was ready. 0.0003 seconds into the first note, I learned that Boris is the loudest band I have ever seen. Plenty of us have experienced that moment of "Oh boy, this is going to be really, really loud," when your unsuspecting teeth begin to rattle, the vibrations of the bass overwrite all measurable traces of your pulse, and you can no longer tell if you are standing up straight because the sheer sonic energy has caused the floor to revert to a different state of matter. There's loud shows, and then there's loud metal shows, and then there's loud even for metal shows, and then there's the Disaster Area-style aggressive volume of this show. This time, I temporarily lost the ability to perceive anything that wasn't a gigantic, blurry chord of noise battering my ear drums from every conceivable direction; the vibrations were so intense that my entire body was shaking, and the sound was so heavy it seemed to snuff out all the oxygen. The drone followed my breath all the way into my lungs and crushed my esophagus and disintegrated my ribs and jellied my eyeballs. In retrospect, I can say that this was pretty brutal (in the positive sense) and I'm still in an agreeable state of shock over Boris's incredible, deaf-defying volume. At the time, I was immediately concerned for my hearing and seriously considered, for perhaps the first time ever, abandoning my spot at the very front and center to preserve my precious ears somewhere in the rear of the crowd. I settled for exchanging my ear plugs for a heavier-duty pair and deciding to give it a couple more songs. Fortunately, after the first bout of suffocating noise ended, someone behind the sound board evidently decided that this level of weapons-grade drone was untenable and turned the knob down to a level survivable for mortals. I love Boris, I do, but one of the highlights of this festival was them turning the volume down.

Boris's actual set, which I think we can all agree is the real point of this section, was fantastic. On this last tour, they had been playing their 2002 album Heavy Rocks in its entirety, and this was their announced set list for their appearance at Days of Darkness as well; the album title had appeared on festival fliers and other material. Instead, they played nearly all of their most recent album, Dear, a fact corroborated by the set list you will see me wearing shortly. I confess I'm mildly confused by the switcharoo, but I have no complaints, since Dear is a fabulous album and its emphasis on stillness, atmosphere, and drone worked perfectly for the environment of Days of Darkness and reinforced the mystical presence Boris carried onstage with them. The pale, black-robed trio was shrouded in an unceasing fog courtesy of two smoke machines, and drummer Atsuo, positioned directly in front of me, seemed positively demonic, at times making it look as though the smoke were emanating from his mouth and floating right through him. Wata treated us to the most unorthodox accordion playing I have ever heard in between gorgeous leads (second-best guitar tone of the weekend), and Takeshi, with his double-necked bass/guitar, was another Bongripper unto himself. The haunting, hypnotic morass of fuzz was unforgettable; the second Boris walked offstage, I was ready to see them again.

I did get a set list, as I mentioned, and I did wear it for the rest of the night. It was a beautifully crisp and immaculate set list, and I thought it would be a shame to tarnish it by folding it to keep in my pocket, so I simply used the still-attached duct tape to affix it to my shirt and keep it in mint condition. It worked.

PART VI: "THE PIT IS JUST GOING TO BE A BUNCH OF PEOPLE CRYING AND SINKING TO THE FLOOR IN AGONY"

For me, the next part was the main event of the whole weekend, something I had never dreamed I would witness: a resurrected Warning performing Watching From A Distance from its raw, aching start to its grey, morose finish. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I was ready to stand in my own personal hell for 50 minutes while Pat Walker guided me through the tragedies of life. Unfortunately, though I wish I could say this ultimate set went off without a hitch, that is not the case.

First, the negative. Obviously, this has nothing to do with Warning itself. Remember the guy I mentioned in the Saturday article, saying he would become relevant again? That miserable, intoxicated excuse for an [extremely disparaging pejorative] and his equally tactless friends were somehow rendered incapable of holding their tongues, and for a sizable chunk of Warning's performance, this gang of ingrates was conversing and laughing and poking around on their phones. These pustulant windbags had seized coveted positions at the very front of the crowd, right next to my friend and me, and displayed absolutely no respect for the very low-key, emotionally fraught, mood-heavy performance happening directly in front of their faces. Instead, despite the repeated entreaties of the several people around them, they upended the gravitas of Pat Walker's somber narration, going so far as to actively harass other concertgoers who were trying to lose themselves in the spirit of the set. They had all come to see Cirith Ungol, leaving no energy to appreciate any other band, and not three seconds after Pat Walker took his final bow, the war chief near me pushed to the center spot I had just vacated and started screaming "CIRITH UNGOL!!!" at the top of his lungs. Those guys suck.

In case you are unfamiliar with Warning's music and are wondering how a couple of regular pukes could interfere with a metal band onstage, I should state that Warning's brand of doom is a particularly mournful, reserved one - not exactly "quiet," as it's still metal, but not the wall of sound that could drown out a rowdy crowd like Boris or Bongripper. On top of that, Pat Walker's music is extremely personal and emotional, making any unsolicited contributions from unaccountably rude chumps all the more distracting. Let this be a Public Service Announcement: if you ever happen to see Warning, SHUT UP.

But enough of that. Fortunately, while the din next door consumed the first half of "Watching From A Distance," the album's opening/title track, it soon became quieter and much less frequent, allowing me to invest myself fully in the band and put myself in the proper place for listening to those five beautiful songs. Warning was everything I had hoped they would be, every member working perfectly with each other and loosing every last painful note flawlessly. Pat's voice was as stunningly vulnerable and human as it was in the studio - more so, even - and his distinctive guitar tone (the one that one-upped Wata's) was like an ocean of wistful reflection. The reticent mist of sobering doom was enrapturing, truly a time when the entire world outside that stage ceased to exist and Warning's soulful, labored plodding stopped the passage of time for a small eternity. When the last vestiges of "Echoes" drew to a close, Pat promised to come meet fans at the merch table, where a number of us were able to recoup the precious time we had lost at the hands of our inconsiderate neighbors. Getting the chance to tell an artist how much their work means to you is always a very meaningful experience, and when that artist is as warm, soft-spoken, and receptive as Pat Walker, it becomes even more significant. This will likely be my strongest memory of the festival for a long time to come.



I'm not crying visibly, but on the inside, I kind of am.


PART VII: "DOES HE HAVE A WIND MACHINE DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH HIM?"

I was seriously concerned that the appallingly poor conduct of Cirith Ungol's most vocal fans would interfere with my reception of the band's set; sometimes, in these situations, you can't help projecting your disgust with certain fans onto the artist themselves. I hoped this would not be the case, because, though I've only listened sparingly to Cirith Ungol, I do enjoy them and I wanted to enjoy them in person - and so I enjoyed them when they stormed the stage and tore the hell out of "I'm Alive" from their 1980 debut, Frost And Fire. Cirith Ungol, historically, are very polarizing due to the unique and grating quality of Tim Baker's voice - a unique, grating voice that I happen to appreciate, but that sinks as many boats as it floats. Perhaps it is how he has aged, perhaps it is the new context of a live setting, but I found Tim's voice much improved from the studio: still ragged, harsh, and easily distinguishable as his own, but at the same time fuller and more complementary to the rest of the band. Perhaps the rest of the band had simply caught up with his ferocity. Along with his lovely voice, it seems Tim had also brought some kind of air agitation device and placed it directly underneath his microphone stand, because something was causing his hair to billow very gracefully in a wind that affected no one else in the venue. It was very power metal. As Cirith Ungol barreled through "Join The Legion," "Blood And Iron," and "Chaos Descends" with the energy of a band half its age, spreading its peculiar blend of doom, power, thrash, and heavy metal like Sunday's answer to Manilla Road, I found myself wishing I had more money to spend on their albums and more energy to spend on their set. Alas, we had once again reached the time of night when I prefer not to be upright and shouting, and though I regret cutting out before witnessing Om, it seemed appropriate to call time after Cirith Ungol's vicious rendition of Arthur Brown's "Fire." As they fired up the guns for "Finger Of Scorn," we left.

END

Thus the second day passed, and we returned to the comfort of my home. I still regret not seeing Om and not paying more attention to Cirith Ungol, but in the end, I made out with a bevy of new albums, an immaculate Boris set list, a picture with Pat Walker, and memories of an overall wonderful experience. Reduced-rate parking, too. That was a plus. It's still a bit early yet, but I'm certainly curious to see if this little experiment will be replicated in 2018.



 



Written on 19.11.2017 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 6   Visited by: 14 users
24.11.2017 - 05:38
VIG
Esoteric Zachism
I'm very jealous you made it too this festival and I didn't. Not seeing Warning in 2017 is something I will regret for the rest of my life, for real.

That pic with Pat Walker is great, but I have to ask, why do you have what seems to be Boris's set-list duct-taped to your shirt?
Loading...
24.11.2017 - 07:27
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by VIG on 24.11.2017 at 05:38

I'm very jealous you made it too this festival and I didn't. Not seeing Warning in 2017 is something I will regret for the rest of my life, for real.

That pic with Pat Walker is great, but I have to ask, why do you have what seems to be Boris's set-list duct-taped to your shirt?

I got a set list and it was in such great condition I thought it would be a shame to fold it up and keep it in my pocket where it would get wrinkled and dirty, so I just taped it to my shirt for safekeeping.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
Loading...
24.11.2017 - 16:20
VIG
Esoteric Zachism
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 24.11.2017 at 07:27

I got a set list and it was in such great condition I thought it would be a shame to fold it up and keep it in my pocket where it would get wrinkled and dirty, so I just taped it to my shirt for safekeeping.

What was it like talking to Pat? Did you talk for a while?
Loading...
26.11.2017 - 03:15
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by VIG on 24.11.2017 at 16:20

Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 24.11.2017 at 07:27

I got a set list and it was in such great condition I thought it would be a shame to fold it up and keep it in my pocket where it would get wrinkled and dirty, so I just taped it to my shirt for safekeeping.

What was it like talking to Pat? Did you talk for a while?

I just spoke to him for a minute; I get anxious talking to people, so I elected to keep it short, but I said what I wanted to say. Both onstage and offstage he was very friendly and in a good humor; he seemed genuinely appreciative of our collective interest in his music. He's a guy who puts into his work just what he is. Actually, my prevailing impression at first was surprise at how tall he is. I'd guess 6'3" or 6'4" based on the picture - not a giant, exactly, but I'd never noticed before and I wasn't expecting it.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
Loading...
26.11.2017 - 03:21
VIG
Esoteric Zachism
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 26.11.2017 at 03:15

I just spoke to him for a minute; I get anxious talking to people, so I elected to keep it short, but I said what I wanted to say. Both onstage and offstage he was very friendly and in a good humor; he seemed genuinely appreciative of our collective interest in his music. He's a guy who puts into his work just what he is. Actually, my prevailing impression at first was surprise at how tall he is. I'd guess 6'3" or 6'4" based on the picture - not a giant, exactly, but I'd never noticed before and I wasn't expecting it.

Wow. I also get very very anxious talking to people, no matter who it is, cheers

I'm sorry to bug you with one more question, but I'm just not clear on it. Rod said in his Roadburn recap that Pat never made any direct interaction with the audience, meaning no talking between songs or anything like most live bands do. Was it the same in this case?
Loading...
26.11.2017 - 06:20
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by VIG on 26.11.2017 at 03:21

Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 26.11.2017 at 03:15

I just spoke to him for a minute; I get anxious talking to people, so I elected to keep it short, but I said what I wanted to say. Both onstage and offstage he was very friendly and in a good humor; he seemed genuinely appreciative of our collective interest in his music. He's a guy who puts into his work just what he is. Actually, my prevailing impression at first was surprise at how tall he is. I'd guess 6'3" or 6'4" based on the picture - not a giant, exactly, but I'd never noticed before and I wasn't expecting it.

Wow. I also get very very anxious talking to people, no matter who it is, cheers

I'm sorry to bug you with one more question, but I'm just not clear on it. Rod said in his Roadburn recap that Pat never made any direct interaction with the audience, meaning no talking between songs or anything like most live bands do. Was it the same in this case?

Quite the opposite. He was quiet, but he was active, both addressing and interacting with the crowd. He did say he'd always wanted to play Baltimore, so maybe he was just excited, but it seemed like he was having a good time (or as good a time as one can have while playing "Bridges").

I don't know how Roadburn is, but at this festival, the average set was 50 minutes, which is the length of Watching From A Distance, so it's possible that in a much larger and more complicated setting like that, they'd want to skip the banter and keep things rolling. At a dinky one-stage fest like this, I would imagine there's less pressure to stick to the schedule. Then again, maybe he just wasn't in the mood then or something.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
Loading...

Hits total: 576 | This month: 163