Great Scott in Allston, MA is a personal favorite venue of mine in the Boston area. Right by the T, tons of nearby restaurants for a quick dinner, easy street parking unless it happens to be snowing, and of course, the intimate venue. Tonight helped solidify my feelings on the venue as Black Elm, Vattnet Viskar, and The Atlas Moth brought their best even in the middle of the week. Given the late start time (9PM), I was able to toss back a giant bowl of Japanese Ramen noodles before entering Great Scott for what promised to be a great show.
Black Elm, by Meg Loyal Photography
Black Elm kicked off the night dishing out some groovy hardcore. The band received a successful response from the crowd that showed up “early” to catch the openers. Regardless if they were up front, at the bar getting a beer, or purchasing merch, everyone applauded their approval at the end of each song and at the close of the set.
Vattnet Viskar, by Meg Loyal Photography
Vattnet Viskar was the band I was most excited to see as I have not seen them in almost five years and with their new material being played live. The New Hampshire foursome brought their special blend of atmospheric black metal and post-metal to the Allston crowd in full force. For fans of the latest album, Settler, the majority of the set was of new material. Such songs included: ‘Dawnlands’ , ‘Yearn’ , ‘Impact’ , and closer, ‘Coldwar’. The sheer energy on stage for each song from these guys was truly inspiring. A lot of heavy bands today just do not seem to understand the importance of giving the audience a show. Hell more than a show, an experience. Vattnet Viskar provided quite the experience at Great Scott on this evening so I ensured a t-shirt and a patch was purchased.
The Atlas Moth, by Meg Loyal Photography
Finally it was time for the headliners, The Atlas Moth, to provide their own breed of post-metal to the eager fans. Complete with green lasers and mesmerizing light show, the Chicago natives put on quite a show that certainly ended the night on a high note. The set list was a solid mix of new and old for the group as the Allston crowd received three tracks from AnAche for the Distance and two from The Old Believer. Off of those albums we heard tracks such as: ‘Holes in the Desert’ , ‘Perpetual Generations’ , ‘The Sea Beyond’ , and closing out the night, ‘Blood Will Tell’. Additionally, ‘The 6th Passenger is Death’ and ‘Hope for Atlantis’ were also tossed into the mix. One of the highlights of the night was when DavidKush called on a vote for either a cover song or a new song. The crowd was almost unanimous in voting for a cover. David and the rest of The Atlas Moth busted out a memorable rendition of Failure‘s ‘Golden’. There was truly something for everyone during the band’s set!
The Atlas Moth, by Meg Loyal Photography
Even though the overall turnout for the show was not one of the strongest I have witnessed at Great Scott, these three bands came together and put on a great show. I am certainly looking forward to catching Black Elm once again, potentially on a bill with some better fitting bands for them, as well as Vattnet Viskar and The Atlas Moth. And for those nearby to the Boston area and have not had a chance to attend a show at Great Scott, I highly encourage you take the Green Line B train up to the Harvard Ave stop and give them a try.
We have interviewed Stavros Giannopoulos many times over the years in his career so far and we often talk of our mutual love of Pink Floyd. Particularly we both dig their weirder, instrumental work from earlier in their career as much as the hits. His band has even covered The Floyd several times. With this in mind, we put him on the spot and asked him if he could write a song with either Syd Barrett, David Gilmour or Roger Waters… whom would he choose?
“That is the hardest question I have ever heard! What a loaded question! I don’t think I could talk to Syd Barrett at all (laughs). I think I’m going to go with Roger Waters. I feel like he contributed a lot of awesome stuff to Pink Floyd, and he often gets painted the asshole! I definitely feel he wasn’t the person holding back the full-on Pink Floyd reunion, and that they never got back together all those years. I think that was David Gilmour. With present knowledge included and of course with Rick (Wright) passing away, they aren’t coming back. They can’t come back without him. So David Gilmour is probably an asshole, even though he rules! (laughs) You know I’ve seen Gilmour and I’ve seen Roger Waters solo live, and they both rule! So it’s kind of like when your parents get divorced and now you get two Christmases! David has played with Roger, and Nick Mason has played drums with Roger a few times too. So I’m going to go with Roger, especially if we are going back in the heyday, when we know for certain Roger wasn’t a complete cocksucker at the time.”
The new issue of Ghost Cult’s digital magazine is out now! Ghost Cult #19 features an in-depth interview with The Atlas Moth’sStavros Giannopoulos. The June release of The Old Believer (Profound Lore) was a previous Album of the Month for us. Other features include Arch Enemy, Anathema, EyeHateGod, Killer Be Killed, Tombs, Whitechapel, Cradle of Filth, Prong and Lionize. We also have special features such as Metal Book Reviews, a recap of Maynard James Keenan’s (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer) Birthday Celebration, Unsigned bands, album reviews and more. As we do every issue we present concert reviews from around the world from the likes of Neurosis and Ghost B.C., as well as metal festival reviews like Maryland Deathfest, Scion A/V Rockfest and the inaugural Temples Festival. Read it on our site and download it for your smartphone or tablet.
As we expected, The Atlas Moth’s new album The Old Believer (Profound Lore) is as much a study in rough hewn crushing heaviness, as it is in delicate somber patience. One of the best releases this year so far, fans should expect it to top many year-end, best-of lists. When Chief Editor Keith (Keefy) Chachkes caught up with Chicago’s Svengali of riffs and screams, Stavros Giannoplous was on tour opening for The Ocean and Scale The Summit, we conducted our interview in the crowded, smoke-filled little green room, while The Ocean jammed about 20 feet away on stage. Our conversation ebbed and flowed freely, like the water pipe that was passed around, as we discussed the new album, the pressure that comes with critical acclaim, and how one of the most prolific guys in the metal scene creates art on his own terms.
There were clear advantages for the band being out on the road in the months before their new album dropped. With no fanfare on this night, were treated to three new songs from The Old Believer, and everyone in the crowd had their mouths agape when it was over. Having already heard the rest of the new album shortly thereafter, we began by asking Stavros to contrast his new opus with their last album An Ache for the Distance (also Profound Lore):
“It’s really all over the place. I’d like to think it’s a pretty logical next step. We don’t try to write a certain type of song or anything. We just make a lot of fucked up noise, like we always do, and it just comes out like it does. The leap from the first record to Ache was really huge, this is more like a regular step as opposed to a gigantic step to me. It’s a definite progression from the last one, but you know it’s kind of hard to explain. It varies throughout the entire fucking record. No two songs sound the same on it, so that is very cool.”
An Ache for the Distance was such a critical success and certainly one of the best albums of 2011. We wondered how much pressure Stavros and the band placed on themselves to top it, and if it interfered with the creative process:
“Yeah. I feel it musically and artistically, like as far as layout goes. The layout last time just seemed like a perfect storm. Everything kind of came together and it just happened. It was great! People still ask me about it and it came out great. I still look at it and I totally feel like I accomplished everything I set out to with it. It doesn’t matter if anyone agrees with me or not. It means a lot to me. Everything about this new one was so hectic. So the people who really enjoyed An Ache for the Distance really connected to it. So it’s kind of hard to ask them to care again and become emotionally connected to a new piece of music. I know myself, I am probably my harshest critic. But at the end of the day you can’t worry about the pressure. It’s going to come out how it comes out.”
The Atlas Moth, by Meg Loyal Photography
In addition to work on The Old Believer, Stavros has been involved in now defunct black metal supergroup Twilight, Chrome Waves, several other bands and art projects on a continuous basis for several years now. We surmised that he must be a fairly prolific guy artistically, and that perhaps makes new music all the time. He weighed in on this theory:
“I don’t know about all the time, but I play a lot of guitar at home alone. Sometimes things happen, and somethings things don’t. And I’m a very big believer that if I don’t remember something I wrote, it probably wasn’t that good. I’m kind of freewheeling with things. And now I really write a lot off of what other people are playing. It’s become a real strength for me. It’s more realistic for me than…I just don’t sit around and say I’m gonna write a song today between 8 and 10, you know? That would never work for me. Sometimes it comes and that’s great, and sometimes it doesn’t and I let it go.”
As a band that has logged many moons on tours in opening slots, choosing a set list at this point in their career must be a challenge. Especially when you factor in the three new tracks tonight that made up more than half of their set on this night:
“That is a really great question. We did a week of headlining dates by ourselves before the tour, and we ended up missing half of them, because our van fucking blew up. We were in Seattle and we had a good mix of old and new songs. Then I thought we had 25 minutes for this current tour, but then we found out that we had 40 minutes! So we were trying to put more (songs) in there. I wish we’d had more time, because now with three records of material, it’s kind of tough. We barely play anything off of A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky (Candlelight) anymore, and even less since Ache came out. Even just picking between Ache and this new one has been really hard as shit. I am really looking forward to playing an hour-long set again when we headline.”
The Atlas Moth, by Meg Loyal Photography
Since Boston was the last night of the tour, Stavros was feeling reflective on the past few months on the road: “It’s been really rad! I feel like I have been gone forever. But also I feel like it’s over already and it really hit me today. I mean, we still have three more shows with The Ocean in Canada. Overall, it is kind of fucking weird. Between Silver Snakes, Scale the Summit and The Ocean’s fans, we are like the tie that binds everything together. It’s been an awesome tour! It was good to play for all these guys fans. It’s kind of like we are playing for that same Gojira crowd again, which is really the last national tour we did. So it’s nice to come back here and tour the entire country to full rooms before our album comes out, and get warmed up before our release. It’s been really cool.”
This has been a mighty year already for quality heavy and experimental music. When Boris puts out new music, it is a major happening across the fan base of many genres of music. Praise from critics is always nice, and Ghost Cult gave Boris a 9/10 for their new album. But when you hear more people talking up Noise (Sargent House) than many other big-ticket band releases this year save for a few, you know something cool is happening. Adding to that mix, The Atlas Moth, riding high off of their June album The Old Believer (Profound Lore), you have two of the most dynamic and interesting bands right now on the same tour. Then top it off with some avant-doom madness from Subrosa, and you have a can’t miss show top to bottom. While having three bands of a certain mystique and quality (especially Boris) brings out the super fans, it was a weird mix of indie hipsters, death metal beardos, bro dudes (hey it’s Boston) and even a few vest wearing dudes and chicks all together in a weird soup of humans on a Tuesday night in Beantown. Every metal show is basically an interesting social experiment!
Subrosa was up first and I was a little stunned at the hefty early crowd, already entranced by the first notes. Playing their deft, drone-y sludge, they hit you hard and deliberately. It’s hard not to be transfixed on the performance of front woman/axe slinger Rebecca Vernon. Her soul shaking vocals and skillful playing just smokes fierceness. Violinists Kim Pack and Sarah Pendelton pack in the drama with their intense, layered parts. I have spent reviews complaining about the the weird room that The Paradise is, and how it doesn’t do bands any favors sonically. Some of the highs from the strings were eaten up by the depth of the room, which is a shame since on record they are towering. Kim’s vocals were also a highlight tonight. The set leaned heavily on No Help for the Mighty Ones and More Constant Than The Gods (both on Profound Lore), and between the two, I favor the earlier album. Despite that, the bands’ best song on the night was ‘The Usher’ from More Constant…, and featured Dave Kush from TAM on guest vocals. Still, it was impossible at the end of their set not to feel tipsy from the strength and creativity of this band. I need to see Subrosa play a headline set, just once in my life. Just once.
Over the years I have learned how to spot greatness in bands, sometimes before they even know it. Usually, I am usually right about these things and The Atlas Moth is going to be a band that years from now, we point to this moment when they took off. They hit the stage tonight with a purpose and the poise of a veteran band that they have become. I have seen others shoot their collective load too fast when opening for Boris (because Boris is Boris), but not these guys. They just went up like any other show and eased into their set with ‘Jet Black Passenger’. The now mostly full room was just feeling it big time! Or it could have been some of the superb herb I sensed going around nearby me. Bathed in a wash of blues and reds (cool to watch from the crowd, crap for photographers), front man Stavros Giannopoulos and Kush on the conjoined vocals of shrieking despair and smoothness just melted the entire room. The entire band was just crushing tonight, as they jammed mostly new material from The Old Believer. The now modern classic of ‘Holes In The Desert’ was also welcomed to my ears on this night, and its a track that I hope never leaves the set. Kim from Subrosa came out and lent her playing to ‘The Sea Beyond’, which also was a treat. When the entire band gets to singing, screaming together as it does, it can be quite moving. Andrew Ragin, who produced the new album, also chimes in with synths, guitars and vocals is a powerhouse live. He is a difference maker. The secret weapon of the band is Dan Lasek on the drums. He has really upped the ante in terms of power and groove since he joined. Not since the mighty ISIS played some of their final shows in this very building a few years ago has post-metal been so well executed here. Bring on the headline tours boys!
Finally it was time for Boris. Some of the beardos had left after the penultimate act and there were some drunken bros who were loud as fuck the rest of the night, which pissed me off to no end. Moving right a long, Boris hit the stage with a boom, launching right into ‘Melody’ from Noise. Professional;, perfectly played, and most of all fun; Boris knows how to start an album or a party with uptempo, melodic bliss inducing rock. Takehashi Ohtani rocks the double-neck guitar/bass and moves flawlessly between either neck depending on what the parts require. Vocally he is a wizard: able to morph his voice to whatever the style of the songs call for. Atzuo Mizuno behind the kit is a powerhouse, as both a drummer and a performer. His vocals are also excellent and when he and Takehashi sing together, it is magical. Plowing right into ‘Vanilla’, another new song, the crowd let out a loud cheer. It was almost like a sporting event atmosphere in the room with many “oohs” and “ahhs” all night long. The opposite of her cohorts, Wata on guitar is quite restrained in her performances physically, but she is a beast on the axe. Her stoicism is only matched equally by her mastery of riffs, the occasional lead part, and feedback of course.
Although the band leaned heavily on the just released Noise, they mixed it up well with Pink and Amplifier Worship also represented too. The set list was constructed expertly as you would expect from this band. Raging rock and metal, introspective mellowness, followed again by waves of crashing melodies and other weirdness. Mid-set cuts such as ‘Ghost of Romance’, ‘Heavy Rain’ and ‘Cosmos’ just send you on an emotional rocket ship to space and back . Speaking of space, Boris has never been afraid of the space rock, but really labels can barely describe what this band does. They are reference points for those who need a paint by numbers experience. It’s much better than to let go and feel the show, rather than make mental notes such as “pop song, drone song, instrumental, thrash number”. Or maybe that is just me.
Closing out the night with panache, they chilled out with the somber ‘Angel’, then rocked with ‘Quicksilver’. After a drawn out feedback and noise rave-up, a friend of the bands’ came on stage and there was a sudden wedding proposal! The things you see at a show, man. Then the band returned and played ‘Vomitself’ and bid us all a good night!
Boris Set List:
Melody Vanilla Pink Statement Ghost of Romance Heavy Rain Taiyo no Baka Cosmos Angel Quicksilver
Since the birth of post-metal in the 90s, a lot of bands have tried to put their own spin on the genre. Some bands have crafted their own way, taking a germ of inspiration and really making some amazing art with it. Others have had a lot to live up to in order to prove themselves worthy, often falling short of the mark. Artists at the forefront of heavy music such as Neurosis and ISIS (RIP) constantly raising and redefining the bar, always outshined the rest of the field. After many releases in a scant few years, we have come upon the third full-length album from Chicago’s The Atlas Moth, and are stunned to at last find a worthy successor to those a fore mentioned greats. The stakes were high enough following enough 2011s AnAche For The Distance (Profound Lore), and this band delivered to the fullest.
The Old Believer (Profound Lore) is massive record, if not a slightly less brutal companion to the last album. What An Ache had in bludgeoning will and power, The Old Believer is more refined and expansive release. They lost none of the heaviness and entrancing motifs this band has been known for. Mantra like guitar lines, stretch layer upon layer without trampling on themselves. Shiver-inducing droning guitar parts fill you with despair and longing, depending on the song, snaking their way into your brain like good Kaya. Other elements, such as the harsh/melodic vocals, and many synth lines act as earworms, and are all nods to to the influence of ISIS. These are all done in a style that can only said to be pure “Moth-music”. We are hearing a band that has never been more confident sounding; tight and loose all at once.
‘Jet Black Passenger’ opens the proceeding with an ominous feed-backing guitar before a waterfall of guitar riffs and dreamy beats just knocks you out. Stavros Giannopoulos (Twilight, Chrome Waves) and David Kush share the vocal and guitar spotlight, much more equally in the past. While Stavros is unquestionably the leader of his band, there is room for everyone to shine; indicative of this track and the album as a whole. The harsh/melodic vocal mix is the right amount of suspense and horror. The driving beats of drummer Dan Lasek carries a nautical ebb and flow that will have you nodding along. The track is nothing short of ecstasy, and I wished it would never end.
‘Collider’ definitely has a bit of that sub-conscious, circadian circuitry working for it. Equal parts Deftones and Failure in flavor, the ever-present soloing lead lines and the baddass groove drop the hammer on your ears. Also the harrowing, blackened shriek of Stavros is again present here and he has perfected this sound on this album. He also stands up quite well as a subtle melodic singer when he wants to. This is one of the best songs on the album, and it stays with you long after the final notes cease. ‘The Sea Beyond’ again slams with a powerful pace, but this where the band has dialed it up considerably. Hitting upon the right blend of light and shade, never sacrificing the cool melodies or poignant lyrics for roughness. One of the things that makes this possible is the deft production values brought to the table by the bands’ own Andrew Ragin (keyboards/guitars) who has found the magic formula to make all of these parts blend smoothly.
The first inkling I had that this album was going to be more special than before was when I heard ‘Halcyon Blvd’ live when the band opened up for Scale The Summit and The Ocean this spring. ‘Halcyon Blvd’ is catchy, Gothic, dark and spooky. Almost like a TAM version of a ballad, the beautiful verses lull you to a calm before asking what size blouse you wear, then bashing your skull in with a frying pan. Since we know the band is heavily into progressive rock, there is no surprise when the guitars switch up a la Pink Floyd and King Crimson with lead playing in verses in a non-traditional context. There is so much epic guitar work going on here, I’d love to see the tabs transcribed at some point. ‘Sacred Vine’ is another chill-inducing track.
‘The Old Believer’ has a god-like guitar tone and heaviness to it, quite fitting for the title cut. ‘City of Light’ is another atmospheric jam with more great synth work from Ragin. Rainy-day music with doleful lyrics and killer singing. ‘Wynona’ again brings us back with the sea-faring rhythms, and more haunting lines to ponder. Some parts reach for the heavy Neurosis stratosphere and make it there, without being repetitive about it. The song also features some slick drum skills from Lasek too. Although TAM seems to write in mostly in one tempo which I will refer to forevermore as the “zombie shamble tempo”, the songs are so compelling you never feel bored. ‘Hesperian’ also has a similar feel, but goes through several cool dynamic and key changes. Alen Klein’s smooth bass lines attest to the slow burn factor, with a nice rounded tone. ‘Blood Will Tell’ closes out the affair with a track both catchy and heavy in a manner I haven’t really heard since Type O Negative was around. Fitting of a final stanza, this upbeat track has a hopeful feeling when heard against the mournful backdrop of the other songs. The urgent beat coupled with the gang vocals from Gojira sound humongous. There are other choice guest appearances on the album too, such as fellow Chicagoan Marcus Eliopulos (Stabbing Westward), and Subrosa violinists Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton.
Befitting of a release of this stature, it has an amazing album cover with special treated material. When you dip the the cover in water it changes colors, revealing more art and reverts to normal when dried. This band on the rise won’t just be opening up for legends for too much longer, rather they are minting their own status in the scene. A must have purchase and a possible contender for album of the year.
With winter’s frozen spirit finally broken we got out on drizzly, but not too awful Sunday night to see some of sludge and prog’s finest bands at The Sinclair for the last night of this trek. Before the show we hung out at a local dive/diner Charlie’s Kitchen, where we sipped beers with buds, and our contest winner, who won two free tickets to the show, Mike Vargus, courtesy of Prosthetic Records. Thanks guys! Good times!
With the popularity of prog, especially local to Boston with Berklee School of Music right nearby, it was a confluence of music nerds, “girlfriend metal” types, hipsters, crusties, vest wearing mofos, and our usual army of Boston metal types in the house. It’s funny to me sometimes how clique-ish groups of people are at metal shows these days, in many way reminding me of the early 90s again. Silver Snakes from L.A. hit that stage first and sounded tight, but were a little uneven musically at the start. I think it was their set list because they got stronger as they played on. They play an energetic mix of post-hardcore and alt-metal that you can definitely get into. They had their fans in the house, so that helped.
The Atlas Moth came next, and when we last saw our mid-western sludge heroes, they blew our brains out opening for Gojira and Devin Townsend last year. In the meantime they have been hard at work recording their highly anticipated new album, The Old Believer (Profound Lore), due this June. The Atlas Moth has always been a humble bunch, willing to open for anyone, stick to their guns and slog it out on the road in vans for a long time. Judging by tonight’s performance, including three new songs, I think their days as an opening band are numbered. Doing what they do best, a slow-burn and churn of layered riffs and waves of sounds, and just bludgeoning the crowd sonically with songs like ‘Coffin Varnish’ and ‘Holes In the Desert’. The interplay of the band, especially Stavros Giannopoulos and Dave Kush who alternate guitars and vocals, just kills. Of the new numbers in the set, ‘Halcyon Boulevard’ was a real face peeler, and you could tell the band has advanced their sound once again. I was impressed with the quality of the volume tonight too, since sometimes the band is so loud, it hurts. Basically never trust a fart at The Atlas Moth show! You might regret it.
The Ocean was next and I was beyond excited to see them.. The co-headlining tour has afforded this musically adventurous troupe the ability to add a little more production value to their show now, which is great. Awash in blue lights and with a cool video screen full of quirky images synchronized to their set, the band put on a great show. Playing Pelagial (Metal Blade) in its entirety was a magical experience to witness. Granted, it was my personal favorite album of the year for 2013, so I have probably spun it more times than anyone except Robin Staps’ mom, but this heady masterpiece of an album was meant to be enjoyed complete, not unlike Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd, or even more recently Crack The Skye by Mastodon. The band is very purposeful in their performance and definitely feel the heavy emotions of the music they play. Vocalist Loic Rossetti definitely plays to the crowd, although atypical of many singers, he spends most of his time lurking toward the back of the stage, except when singing. It was a masterful performance and as far as I could tell the music was played to perfection. I ended up missing the last quarter of their performance to do some interviews I had to conduct back stage, but I did catch the unexpected highlight of the night. Stavros from The Atlas Moth came out to do a lead vocal turn towards the end of the set. It was a pretty killer and the crowd was a little stunned. Some folks filed out after The Ocean, which is always a little disappointing.
Last up, Scale the Summit were due to hit the stage. With a little sparser set up that The Ocean, STS is a band I respect a great deal. Some instrumental prog bands and even some of your post metal bands like Rosetta and Pelican) try too hard to “put on a show” rather than just let the music do the talking. They set up quick with the lights up and started to play without so much as a word to start things off. Like their co-headliners, Scale the Summit made great use of the video screen behind them. I had seen the band as an opener, but never for a headlining set and certainly not on as big. Each man played their instrument to perfection as they had the audience entranced with their music. Well, most of the audience. I definitely saw a few put upon girlfriends and spouses who were dragged out tonight, likely against their wills. Meanwhile the band, fairly oblivious to the audience for them most part, played with a lot of passion and not really machine-like perfection, but with a lot of soul. STS is heavy, but a different kind of heavy. They definitely leaned on The Collective and The Migration for the set list, but there were few complaints. It was a very enjoyable show and the again, staying true to what the band is about: simplicity in style, and outstanding musicianship. After the show the band hung out and signed autographs and took pictures with fans, which was really cool too. We caught up with Chris Letchford to thank him for the show, and talk about their upcoming prog cruise show opening for Yes.