Photo by Zombitrol

Sunday, October 22nd - Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, Toronto

A cold and blustery Sunday evening in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood set the scene for what would prove to be one of the more unique musical experiences of the year. Seattle’s Bell Witch, the bass/drum duo of Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, headlined a 3-band bill at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church performing their latest one-song doom prog opus Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate.

Each band was dwarfed by the church’s mammoth golden organ, while black-clad metalheads politely filled the pews. The pews themselves were perhaps the perfect analogy for the evening, as their extremely soft-yet supportive cushions were in stark contrast to their merciless lack of back support and knee crushing brutality. It was a musical experiment in pleasure and pain that I’d happily go through again and again.

Toronto doom trio Völur were the perfect choice to open the evening. Laura Bates (violin/vocals), Lucas Gadke (bass/vocals), and Justin Ruppel (drums/percussion) set things off with a high energy set that spanned their already impressive discography. It culminated in a furious ode to the moon with Bates, arms raised high in praise, delivering a thunderously beautiful vocal performance.

The Portland-based thrashy black metal duo of Spirit Possession were perhaps the odd ones out on the bill, but this was a good thing. Sandwiched in between 2 progressive doom acts, their fast and rough basement groove added some much needed contrast to the proceedings. Vocalist/guitarist S. Peacock and drummer A. Spungin barely stopped between songs as they ripped through a 30 minute set, with a large circular red floor light serving as their only illumination.

When Bell Witch began, the crowd fell deathly silent. It felt like I was about to watch a performance art piece rather than a metal concert, and in a way I was. The main difference is that Bell Witch’s music is also somehow extremely accessible. Genuinely meditative moments of near silence guide the listener into introspective soft bridges of relaxing vocals and gentle tones. Then it somehow naturally transitions into intense heavy distortion and extreme vocals that don’t break the natural flow of the previous movement. The performance was a guided tour of The Clandestine Gate, complete with an accompanying visual presentation by Bobby Cochran of Moving Still Films, massively projected onto the aforementioned church organ. As the performance finished, the crowd waited until the very last tinge of feedback had faded away before bursting into applause. This is a band you can take your non-metal friends to see.

Bell Witch and Spirit Possession are on tour in the U.S. through November 10th. Check out the remaining dates below. Bell Witch’s latest album, Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate, is out now on Profound Lore Records.

Thank you to another/side PR.