A hoard of heavy metal aficionados delved into Dickens, Calgary last night for one of the heaviest nights in the Sled Island Music Festival program this year. The pub was packed out, largely with black-cladded fans, many well-prepared with a pair of ear plugs set and ready for head banging or grooving in mysterious ways through to the wee hours of Saturday morning. They expected that it was going to be loud and they were not let down as four bands exposed them to a periodic table full of metal. There was black metal, of the bleak atmospheric and Cascadian varieties, doom metal, and sludge metal. Did I miss any?
Wolves in the Throne Room
The headline act, Wolves in the Throne Room have a huge following and a long list of recordings going back to 2003 when they were established in Olympia, Washington, USA. Their performance start-up was a fascinating, ritualistic preparation of the stage and equipment (generally vintage valve amplifiers, by the way) with smoke generated from lit wads of dried grasses, maybe sedges, and mosses (I would guess coming from an important, perhaps sacred woodland place on the west coast, anyone know?) The aroma and smoke had a calming effect, augmented by a long and progressive minor double key recording that the band members gradually worked into with their own instruments. It was the calm before storm though as they let loose, passionately on black metal arrangements played on their own terms that reach back to landscapes that members of the Wolves strongly connect with.
Earlier in the evening, there were performances from Sigil, Oxaneer and Wilt:
Local black death metal band, Sigil was up first, playing numbers from their recording Primal Void. The vocalist (see above), whose stylish and short haircut was so distinct from any other performer in the night, found deep, eerie resonance in his vocal chords that got some appreciative imitations from the audience.
Oxaneer, another local band played sludge metal from their album Worn Out, released in 2016.
Traveling west from Winnipeg, Wilt put on a Hulk-like performance on stage, going through a set of all new material from their, yet to be titled, new album. Their current album, Moving Monoliths was released in 2015.
For more images from this and other live music and dance performances in Calgary, please visit my photography website, J. Ashley Nixon