The Astoria was ready and waiting for Black Breath to roll through Vancouver on Saturday, January 16. Hailing from Bellingham, the band had never officially played a show over the border before their Northwest Perversion Tour, despite always being ever so close.
Forty minutes after doors, the event began with a general hardcore style as Amnesian made use of their power chords and open string strumming. It would have been good to see Simon Millington make a show of his finer guitar moments, but he tended to turn his back during Amnesian’s metal-fused riffs.
Auroch’s approach to their performance was glamorous for a hardcore band. They were professional, with frontman Sebastian Montesi’s animated face contorting aggressively through spastic guitar and guttural vocals. Having been placed on a few bigger bills within the Vancouver hardcore scene, I was surprised at their use of a double-kick pedal drum setup. I’m a sucker for technical, at times even dainty, guitar and the extra kick noise dominated Auroch’s sound too much for my taste.
The opening bands laid down the rumbling before Baptists’ technical grinding carried by breakneck d-beats and excellent, concentrated sludge guitar. Moustache’d vocalist Andrew Drury’s presence on stage was fueled with the energy that Baptists has become known for. As a victim of moderately frequent ankle injuries, I detected a limp and physical pain behind his sustained gaze.
In the interest of Drury’s bum leg, the low, yet raised stage was a pro for the evening, keeping the band separated from the whirling pit that formed during their set. Grinding through their pain, the solid instrumentals took over every thought in my mind. The drummer caused jaws to drop. I closed my eyes and let the furious drum and bass lines drive me through visualisations of a huge dark British Columbia rainforest like a warrior. Drury’s versatile vocals blasted me away from the work-week mental state.
Baptists and Black Breath share Southern Lord as a record label, and their sequential performances complimented each other. Black Breath’s dirty take on what it is to be a heavy band is something awesome and fairly unique. I associate them with a plethora of genres depending on the moment, but their European death metal influence is consistently clear. Their glitzy guitar solos were on point and their rolling headbanging was classic and did not stop the entire time. The punk infusions offset the European influence for a catchy performance.
There was a bit of a divide between those attending specifically for Black Breath and the local scene. The mosh pit created a semi-circle of unpopulated space about ten square metres with approximately ten guys defending the slightly unreasonable size. Those who wanted to be close were shoved around a little. The Astoria being an old building with annoying pillars and no rise, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those attending couldn’t snag a decent view — although, in the end, gritting teeth and pursuing a great viewpoint of these bands was well worth the risk of a few bruises.