Archive for Love

Thantifaxath/ Vilipend/ Sylvus/ Eyeswithoutaface @ The Hard Luck Bar, July 22 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

This review is so strange to me now. It’s one of those pieces of writing that seems to have been done by another person, as an awful lot has happened and things have become much more wonderfully complicated since I attended this show and wrote this piece. Though I had no way of knowing it at the time, it was at this show that I met my mate.

After Sylvus’ set,  I’d finished congratulating my friends on a fine show with the newest band line-up, when a young man walked up to me. I didn’t immediately notice how tall he was, because he was nervous and slouching a little, or how intense his blue eyes were behind his glasses. I did, however, notice his brightly coloured full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from under his t-shirt, and his incredible mane of curly blond hair. He hovered next to my right shoulder pointedly until I turned.

“Were you at Ossington station at 11am yesterday?”

“Uh…yes?”

“I thought I saw you.”

“Well, I was meeting a friend for a coffee there yesterday morning, so you very well may have.”

“I was on my way to work.”

“Okay. I’m, uh, Natalie?”

“I’m The Gramlich.”

“I…see.”

“…I just made this awkward. That’s okay, the metal will start soon.”

Then he proceeded to climb directly onto the stage and deliver a blistering set. Afterwards, he was forced to lay down on the stage, eyes closed for a few minutes, energy completely spent. I was suddenly the nervous one, unsure how to approach someone after they’d nearly screamed and spit and hurt themselves unconscious for an audience.

I figured out how to talk to him, though, first electronically, and then over drinks, and then in his arms. There have been ridiculous action movies and MMA fights, exploding burritos and vegan dinners, dogs in the park and cats on the bed. It’s a very strange thing to think of my life without this now. It is even stranger to read something I wrote about that night, about a very significant meeting, and marvel at my own obliviousness. Something incredible had happened and in this review, I don’t know yet. It’s quite lovely.

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Here is my review of the Thantifaxath/ Vilipend/ Sylvus/ Eyeswithoutaface show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Hard Luck Bar on July 22, 2010. You can read the original here, along with photos by the lovely and talented Phil Miller.

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Most of my social interaction these days can be summed up with the phrase “watching lovely people do very strange things.” It’s one of the things I love most about Toronto: on any given night, I can attend a strip spelling bee or a pillow fight, or go to a metal show and see some absolutely killer local bands bring on the weird.

The Hard Luck Bar has undergone a small but significant renovation since I was there last. A plywood wall has been constructed just inside the main door, ostensibly in an attempt to contain some of the noise being generated on the stage. While it does help to keep the sound under control, it also keeps all of the heat in. The Hard Luck Bar is now a warmer venue that it has even been before. The fans positioned around the stage helped a little, but just about everyone who performed at this event were clearly suffering under the lights.

The first band to brave the heat was Eyeswithoutaface, whom I’d had no exposure to prior to this show. When I asked about them, a fellow audience member described them as industrial- and sludge-influenced. Having no expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the set. Their sound was emotive and evocative, with lots of drone but nonetheless quite precise. Their music was defined by a sense of urgency and forward movement that served them well.

Sylvus played next, performing their first show in nearly a year. Their lineup underwent significant changes (they no longer have a keyboardist and have replaced their bassist). In response, they made a bold move and decided to recast their identity, build something new with their current lineup rather than attempt to modify songs that no longer suited this incarnation of the band. As a result, their material is all quite new; when I asked, they referred to their songs by number rather than title (song 3, song 4). They also performed an excellent cover of Windir‘s “The Spiritlord.” Sylvus embodies a lot of what I love about local bands: they provide the audience with the unique opportunity to see a band not as a static thing, but as a shifting organism in a constant state of being rebuilt. There’s a kind of intimacy to this type of performance that is unique. Playing for the first time after a hiatus is an act of bravery, as is trying out new songs in front of a live audience. The band members are all gregarious, generous people, actively soliciting feedback. And I have to say that I dig their mew material. Darcy Ibson’s vocals are impressive; I was particularly glad that he performed “The Spiritlord” as it demonstrated his range. Every member of the band has a striking physical and performative presence on stage, and I eagerly look forward to seeing them again.

performed in the penultimate slot, and brought a completely different kind of energy into the room. This was my first experience with ; their is not music that is easy, or comfortable, or easy to sink into. It is downright confrontational and unapologetic in its violence. Their sound is also so strangely welcoming, in that it provides the audience with a potential for catharsis, an opportunity for release. The band members seem impervious to pain and injury, especially singer Christopher Gramlich, who heaves and howls and throws himself around mercilessly. I was nearly got whipped in the face with the mic cord more than once. Of course, I loved it. Of course, I would see them again.

The final band to perform were local barons of weirdness, Thantifaxath, whom I have seen twice before: once opening for Alcest (which I really enjoyed and still think of as their best performance) and again at Duffy’s tavern (where the space was small and the rest of the programming unsuited to their aesthetic). They have a solid conceptual framework, though they are clearly still fine-tuning the details. All three band members, all of whom are exceptionally talented musicians, play in full-length cloaks. Their music is tight and walks a fine line between the alienating and the intimate, and their visual aesthetic mirrors this. One of the band members, Luke Roberts, experimented with performing in bare feet, which I interpreted as an effort to determine how featureless vs. how vulnerable they want to be in their stage presence. Their development as a band is a fascinating process to watch. Thantifaxath certainly keeps me interested, and clearly value exploration over perfection. I admire them for that.

Portal/ Krallice/ Bloody Panda @ The Mohawk (Buffalo NY), May 24 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , , on June 29, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Portal/ Krallice/ Bloody Panda show that took place at The Mohawk in Buffalo, NY on May 24, 2010. You can read the original here, and scope out some spine-tingling photos by Adam Wills.

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I always feel it is important to provide a little bit of context for my reviews. Every review that I write is profoundly coloured by the state I was in when I attended a particular show. Something as simple as how tired I am can deeply impact how willing and able I am to listen; sometimes exhaustion can be a help, sometimes a hindrance. There is nothing objective here; all I know how to do is present the most twisted, bent, personal and subjective interpretation imaginable.

In light of that, it is only responsible of me to tell you that I was possibly in the best mood on the face of the earth walking into this show. I’d spent the day before eating too much and watching horror movies with friends. The day of the show, photographer Adam Wills and I spent several hours at the beach in Port Dover, where I ate strawberry ice cream and frightened people with the preternatural whiteness of my skin (I’m not pale – I’m transparent). We listened to Virgin Black and Primordial during the two-hour drive to Buffalo. The company, the music, the weather had all been perfect, and so I walked in feeling sated, calm and centred. The feeling would not last long.

We had only a few minutes to chat with the other car-load of Toronto metalheads who’d made the trek up to Buffalo before Bloody Panda took the stage. As soon as vocalist Yoshiko Ohara began to wail, my sense of peace was shattered. At once chaotic and urgently rhythmic, her voice tore me apart with its chant-like cadence. She spent the entire show bent nearly double, perfectly straight black hair forming a curtain over her face, rendering her expressionless. This eerie distance only made the aural violence she unleashed that much worse, like the falls of a whip tipped in steel. Gerry Mak’s accompanying vocals were just as challenging; he employs Tuvan throatsinging techniques, which sound both unsettling and wonderful. The rest of the band played their hearts out, matching the two vocalists’ intensity. I was particularly impressed by drummer Lev Weinstein, who delivered a blistering performance and then played a second set (as he also drums for Krallice). By the end of Bloody Panda‘s alien and intimate performance, I felt skinned, wound-raw all over.

Krallice tend to take their time with their sound checks; I needed the few extra minutes their perfectionism allowed to wander dazedly around and try to reassemble myself. However, with the drummer and bass player both serving double duty in Krallice and Bloody Panda, it wasn’t long before I found myself once again in front of the stage, listening, rapt. Krallice poured an intense amount of energy into this performance; Colin Marston, in particular, was positively fiendish. I saw Krallice for the first time back in April, with Ludicra and Empyrean Plague, and was initially unsure how I felt about the unusual, organic way their experimental black metal moves. After spending some time listening to them, and now seeing them live a second time, there is no uncertainly left. I’m in love. They have a way of playing that makes me feel unbalanced, as though my auditory senses have been tilted somehow. I listen to their music as carefully as I listen for thunder after lightning, and still the sound surprises me.

I did my best to prepare myself for Portal. I’d seen photos of their previous live performances, and anticipated that their set would be surreal in a Dali-esque, Cabinet-of-Dr.-Caligari way. I was expecting theatricality, The Curator’s trademark grandfather clock headpiece. I could not have anticipated how fucking terrifying this band is to watch. Every one of the band members wore hoods over their heads, only one of which even had anything approaching eyeholes cut into it. They were also covered head-to-toe in heavy black suits. The Curator wore an all-black cardinal’s robe complete with headpiece, and also wore a blackout/executioner’s mask. Even his hands were covered in thick leather gloves. It was hellishly hot in the Mohawk, which made the heavily-clothed band members look even more oppressive. A few songs into their set, their masks were soaked through at at the eyes and mouth. But it was not just their visual aesthetic that was deeply frightening. The energy that Portal projected, both in their music and their sheer physical presence, was overwhelming. Every gesture that The Curator made was impossibly intense. I spent the entire set staring wildly up at the band, certain that any moment something Very Bad was going to happen. They’re masters at wielding this carefully managed sense of dread. Portal is aptly named; when they were on stage, reality felt somehow thinner than it was before.

Walking out of the venue, preparing for a long drive back to Toronto, I began to giggle hysterically, running down the sidewalk, trying to throw off some of the excess energy. I felt the giddy rush of adrenaline, as though I had just narrowly avoided being hit by a car. I did not just experience this show; I feel like I survived it, and that I am now better, and stranger, for it.

and good will toward

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 12, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Damn it. My first real, non-archiving, blog-ish post here and it’s going to be about my feelings.

It’s been an excellent week in Poetry for Natalie Zed. Wednesday night, I read at the 7th installment of the NOW HEAR THIS! Hear/Hear reading series with Angela Szczepaniak and Elisabeth De Mariaffi. The back room we inhabited at the Free Times Cafe was filled with a happy, responsive crowd. Angela and Elisabeth read beautifully; both of them produce (very different) work that is disarmingly funny and devastating by turns. All our work dovetailed together  into a performance that felt successful and coherent. I had a blast sharing the stage with them.

After the performance, we stayed for hours drinking cheap Creemore pints and talking about…vaginas, mostly. Popowich was incredibly patient while about half a dozen women volunteered complex opinions on placentas and the art of pubic hair topiary. By the end of the night, we’d made some solid, hilarious plans for future shenanigans involving retractable high heels and public bath houses.

Last night, I attended the launch of Sweet, the second volume of poetry by the incomparable Dani Couture. The event also served at the launch for Perter Darbyshire‘s newest novel, The Warhol Gang, and the latest issue of Taddle Creek. There were friends and veggie burgers, and free beer handed out by the friendliest Steamwhistle employee in the world. We were ambushed by a terrible hipster-folk band, and I threatened to fight someone much, much smarter than me on the topic of French heavy metal. There may have even been a huge animatronic bear.

And here is where the feelings come in: I love this. I love spending time with smart, hilarious, talented people who care deeply about things. I love that one of my poems may end up in a vending machine. I love waking up with a headache and band names written on my arm in sharpie. Every now and again, I have a week that reminds me exactly why I love what I do; this was one of those weeks.

A Love Story

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

My first blog entry for Metallus Maximus, an account of how I first met heavy metal. You can read the original here.

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Like any significant meeting, my introduction to metal was not planned. In the beginning, it all came about because I am not very good at being sad. I’d just moved back to Toronto after several years away, recovering after a series of Disasters. I was just beginning to cast around socially again, looking to meet people, start projects, emerge from my cocoon. So when BK, good friend and anchor of positivity in my life, mentioned that he and Dani C were going to a metal show, I invited myself along. It seemed like a diversion, something completely different to distract me; it also seemed like an excellent chance to get to know my friends better. I didn’t even know which bands were playing that night.

We got completely lost getting to the venue. None of us had ever been to the DC Music Theatre before, and the directions we got read something like: “With a prayer to the pagan gods, leave the path. Walk beneath the bridge; answer the Troll’s riddle successfully or appease him with a joint of fine mutton. Walk through the tall grass, taking care not to be led astray by pixies. When you reach the road again, go down the scariest alley you can find. Past this point, no maps can guide you. Follow the sound of blastbeats to the door.” We eventually arrived, slightly frostbitten, and had just enough time to stow our coats at the “coat check” (an ancient red velvet couch), grab some beer, and watch no fewer than six men hoist Wolven Ancestry’s drum kit onto the stage.

At first, I retained a little bit of psychological distance. I was able to consider things academically, be aware of my own enjoyment and analyze it. I was both amused and impressed by the theatricality of the experience, complete with furs and corpsepaint; I loved the high energy level, the positivity being thrown off both by the performers and by the crowd; I enjoyed the good-natured, friendly violence. The academic in me was still in charge of my brain, still studiously taking notes, allowing me to hold the experience at arms’ length.

By the time Woods of Ypres came on stage, something changed. I began to listen differently. The shift was as profound as any alchemical transformation. It started in my chest, felt as though a fist had plunged through my ribcage and seized ahold of my spinal column. Instead of listening with my brain, I began to listen with my body. I remember, dimly, recalling the Walk Whitman line, “I sing the body electric,” and thinking for the first time I might have a real inkling of what it was about. Then I simply gave myself over to the experience, let my body move and heave exactly the way it wanted. I should have been terrified by the loss of control I felt. Instead, I was overjoyed. I found myself reconnected with the strange, sorrowful chunk of meat that was my heart.

I couldn’t know, of course, that anything significant had been set in motion. It would be several months until I was attending concerts regularly; many more months would elapse before circumstances cosmically aligned and I began to write about what I was hearing. Like any love story, there has been a gradual unfolding helped along by a great deal of luck.

So here I am, beginning of my second quarter-century of life on this planet with a completely new soundtrack. I think I’m in love.