Doom metal reigned supreme at Greenwich Village’s Le Poisson Rouge on a Wednesday night. Headlining Swedish doom legends Candlemass sold out the show with support from Primitive Man, Mortiferum, and others.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel had been on my radar for a while. My shoegaze-connoisseur’s eye recognized the name of the 1992 song by Lilys, but otherwise, I had little idea what to expect from the band. It’s good I checked my expectations at the door because Elizabeth Colour Wheel would have smashed them all. Their chaotic interweaving of crunchy tones and tormented screams commanded attention, especially when vocalist Lane Shi Otayonii disappeared into the crowd: the seemingly disembodied shrieking that begged for exorcism made one forget the vocalist had a corporeal form at all until they reemerged writhing in the center of the floor. This visual, as well as auditory experience, made a great opener for the night.
With their name alone suggesting the confrontation of bleakness, Body Void’s sound was like a gaping hole of torture. If ripping off a bandaid and pouring salt in the wound had a sound, this would be it; but the wound is existence, as their lyrics confirm. With songwriting that coincides with turbulent sociopolitical times in America, the band’s diabolic riffs and vile screams were validating. Body Void made staring into the void and it screaming back somehow comforting.
Delivering an uptempo interlude to the doomy, gloomy night was Jarhead Fertilizer, a grindcore/powerviolence four-piece from Maryland. They brought a familiar, East Coast brutality with thrashing drums and bone-crushing riffs. Their grindy speed brought to mind Full of Hell, with heavy death roots reminiscent of Suffocation. Their to-the-point, violent jams were a welcome injection of energy.
It’s not hard to imagine a doom metal band thriving in rainy Washington, where Mortiferum hails from. The band’s talent lies in painting vivid, decaying pictures with music and their putrid sound lived up to the name of their new album “Preserved in Torment”. The slow but scathing track “Seraphic Extinction” stood out to me as classic doom, the twisting melodies conjuring images of the eponymous dying angels.
The night was not yet over when Denver’s death/sludge trio Primitive Man’s droning heaviness ensued, feeling weighty enough to bring down the house. The patient tension-building of the sound was like being slowly wrapped in darkness until finally suffocating by crashing guitars, blastbeats, and guttural cries. The terrifying doom-spiral of Primitive Man was arresting and a fitting gateway to the final band of the night.
It was a privilege to witness Candlemass perform in NYC. The band has only graced the city a handful of times since their 1984 inception. They have had decades to carve out and refine their signature sound, cementing themselves as vanguards of their genre. This performance was a testament to their legacy as masters of doom.
Upon first arriving at the venue earlier that night, I was curious why they chose LPR, but once “The Well of Soul” started to play and Johan Längqvist’s vibratic voice echoed through the crypt-like basement, it all made sense. There is something intriguing about Candlemass, that no matter how despairing the lyrics, Längqvist’s voice was like a light in the dark, carried by potent guitar work and steady drums. Add to that the energy of camaraderie between the members on stage; they were having just as much fun as the audience.
After a vibrant setlist spanning their long career, including the beloved “Bewitched,” they performed a four song encore. The final two songs were the epic “Astorolus,” with tribal drum beats and suspenseful guitar that evolved into a wicked solo, and the momentous “Solitude,” the solemnity of which united the crowd for the final bow of Candlemass.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY REBECCA PAIGE