SLEEP + A STORM OF LIGHT + CONAN – Oslo – Betong
So, how do you set up a doom & stoner concert in the least doom-friendly setting thinkable, namely springtime in Oslo, Norway? Well, first you find a bomb-proof cellar as a venue and then you bring in the heavy-weights + some newcomers with skills.
Sleep (US) is inseparable from the conception of the Doom & Stoner genre. Their album Dopesmoker from the early 1990’s is rapidly reaching the status as a classic urban myth in metal circles. The 60 min + epic about delta nine – tetrahydrocannabinol (or "weed" if you prefer) was released in 1992 by Earache in a period of metal history where things started to spin out of control. Death metal had broken into mainstream culture – and suddenly money started to circulate in the sewers of extreme music. A totally spaced-out tale about Weedians marching through the desert to deliver unprecedented amounts weed to Jerusalem is then not the easiest record to market in this context.
In the end, the Dopesmoker album ended up being repressed, reissued, copied and bootlegged in a number of variations over the years to come. The logistics of the album aside, it has achieved the undisputable title as the most spliffed out, weed-worshipping, stoner-chant album of all time.
A decent review of the reissue of the album can be found here (http://beardrock.com/reviews/sleep)
The signature is unmistakable: The deep and organic tones arranged and distorted into a maelstrom of smooth riffing and blues-ish solos, all steadily paced by delicate drumming. The vocals chant rituals and wisdom that only can be fully grasped when consuming your own body weight in weed in one continuous session. Many regard Dopesmoker as the very soul of stoner metal that haunts just about every band and album in the genre.
The support bands this evening was the Conan (UK) and A Storm Of Light (US), both bands able to create the proper atmosphere and pathos for this occasion.
UK doom masters Conan are moving up fast in the metal music scene. 2012 have so far been a massive win for these guys. Their latest album Mannos (Burning World Records) hammers down six heavyweight doom songs that prove beyond doubt that the doom genre still is definitely alive. The first pressing is already sold-out. The reviews of the album in webzines of all over the Internet conclude that Mannos is by far the real deal, and that it serves up true heavier-than-thy-moms-ass doom-metal. Even the hipsterians at Pitchfork give their thumbs up for this one. To top that off, Conan was handpicked to play this year’s Roadburn Festival 2012, a show that stirred quite buzz.
Conan has armed themselves with mountains of doom & sonic tremble. They are, as we speak, fighting their way towards the surface of the metal scene. So, my expectations were way up there before this concert. The light slowly faded and the band took the stage.
Its clear from the very first life signs from the bass of Phil Coumbe that Conan intended to dig deep. The whole building started to shiver. The band is tuned down as low as the depths of the Atlantic Sea, and every whack on the bass made your eyelids flap like a Colibri and tears running horizontally from your eyes. Gitarist Jon Davis filled in with an extra layer of doomed sound with his carefully constructed equipment. With everything combined, Conan provided an impenetrable fog of audio waves. Here, the drummer Paul O’Neill took the crucial job of providing structure and movement to the songs. The steady pace of the ride cymbal made their presence, ticking away like the deathclock counting your remaining hours alive, and the drum breaks made the songs escalate step by step. The crowds started to slowly headbang, like dead people on vacation from their graves, all swaying to the near-static flow of this apocalyptic landscape. The vocals cut through with sparse lyrics, combining the clean battle cries of Jon Davies, occasionally supported the more aggressive growls and true-cvlt headbanging of bassist Phil Coumbe.
Conan played for approximately 40 mins, and the setlist combined songs from the last two albums, Mannos and Horseback Battle Hammer (2010):
Hamk as Weapon
Battle of the Swamp
I actually considered to attach my earplugs with glue to hold them in place to stop my brain from pouring from my ears – but it did not prevent me from concluding that the praise of this band is fully deserved.
In short, my conclusion is that this band rules and fully deserve their recent buzz in the metal scene. Conan provides a monumental heaviness and an almighty grip on the crushing sound that lies at the heart of the doom genre – and they manage to create dynamics amidst the long and sweeping down-tuned chords. They are one of the most interesting bands in the metal scene today, and are rapidly gathering recognition for their relentless doom approach.
Just a short notice: The South of Heaven booking guys managed to add Conan as an addition to the Sleep/A Storm Of Light package. As I see it, this adds to their standing as an important and relevant force in the Oslo metal concert scene. The combination was no less than perfect.
A Storm Of Light (US) takes on a slightly more up-tempo and whipping approach than Conan. They’re a four-piece and on this concert consisting of Josh Graham (guitars/vocals), Domenic Seita (bass), Andrea Black (Guitar), and BJ Graves (drums). Metal-scholars will recognize some of the names from a number of other bands like Neurosis, Howl, and Battle of Mice. The current tour promotes the latest album As The Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (Profound Lore, 2012). They’re slightly less slugded-up than Neurosis, and a tad more heavy than your-average-post-rock outfit. The stage backdrop carries the video projections of all sort of sinister stuff like war, famine, bombs devastating the jungle, old women looking gloomy, and other stuff than either ends or starts.
A Storm Of Light built the momentum riff by riff, and is far more accessible than their fellow bands on this evening, in a good way. The whipping riffing and collective chugs nicely contrasts to the clean and melodic vocals.
The setlist was compiled based on the latest album, and contained:
The band comes of as dedicated to playing and presents the songs with in a decisive manner. Well worth seeing.
The merch stand was fairly well equipped. All bands had brought t-shirts, patches, and some music. The Conan merch stand suffered from the sudden success of the band and had a rather scarce supply to offer. Really cool prints, but the size XXL is somewhat too big. Only A Storm of Light had some vinyls, and the majority of people stopping by were clearly disappointed not to find any Sleep vinyl available.
Next up: Sleep. This band conjures the soul of Black Sabbath that died after their first five albums, and they provide the prototype for any future stoned doom act to follow. The fact that they bring their stoner weedology to a pan-European tour is great, and Odyssey Booking (BEL) will probably be let into metal heaven in their next life because of their effort to make this happen. Nice work, guys!
The lights dimmed down a bit, and the backdrop started showing some kind of documentary with a guy talking about something concerning the planet Earth. I did not quite catch the contents, but it seemed very important, in a 1970-ies way.
Anyways, at 23:00, Matt Pike (guitar), Al Cisneros (Bass/vocals), and Jason Roedus (drums) walked on to the stage.. The floor was stacked with people full of anticipation, beer, and occasionally a whiff of spliff. The saturated green stage lighting poured down as Mr Hakius awoke the primordial fuzz-guitar sound. His feet tapped a secret code onto the pedal-set on the floor, and that warm and smooth guitar sound started flowing. From the very start, people responded. Hakius strolled back and forth while gaining energy in both volume and riffs, and as the drums kicked in, people started crowd-surfing. A strange sight, given the sedative aura of the Dopesmoker-songs.
The performance had this jam-feel to it, as the every song from these guys do, and I struggled I bit to decode the set list, but I think this is perhaps what they played:
Halfway through the Sleep set, it strikes me that this is a peculiar sight: An almost packed cellar of metalheads banging their heads to a band playing tunes from an album barely released. The Dopemsoker album definitely carries significance in the metal universe and beyond, attracting a wide range of people – not just stoners or die-hard metal heads. People with rather neutral and inconspicuous appearances attended, and looked as happy as they could be.
Half-way through the set, Al Cisneros announced from the stage that weed would be accepted currency in the merch stand, and that if someone would help the band out, which would be great. The scene that followed was a strange sight: People politely standing in line to hand over weed to some guy in the merch stand, then negotiate the worth in term of various merch – t-shirts or a just a patch? Sticker AND a patch?
Only at a Sleep concert, I reckon.
Transportation logistics made me leave at 00:30, then the band was far into some intricate guitar solo/bass structure. Reports suggest that they played until the guards tapped them on the shoulders and pointed at their wristwatches.
The Sleep/A Storm Of Light/Conan concert was a winning combination, metalwise. The gig brought the historical champions as well as the doom-folks that renews and revitalizes this neighbourhood of metal music. The chance to see Sleep is awesome, and to get Conan and A Storm Of Light at the same stage is a high-end offer. Great stuff.
A kick-ass concert, and another win for the South of Heaven concert concept in Oslo.