Photo by Charles Gunn

Samothrace, Atriarch, (Waning), Church
Starlite, Sacramento • May 13, 2015

I’m listening to Samothrace as I write this, trying to remember their recent show at Starlite, but all I want to do now is turn off their record and remember the fleeting moments I spent watching them perform live.

There is something to be said for music that elicits a visceral response; a response in your feet, your heart, your emotions. As I started walking to Starlite on May 13, 2015, a woman sitting at a bus stop smiled at me. When I smiled back at her, as I generally do with strangers, I realized it required effort, because I had been frowning as I walked. I associate this with the fact that I had been listening to Samothrace and Atriarch all afternoon before the show.

Sacramento locals Church opened the show. The five-piece stacked their cabs as high as Eva, the band’s cloaked frontwoman, and lit incense on an altar of animal horns and skulls at the front of the stage. The band recently released their album Unanswered Hymns on Transylvanian Tapes out of Oakland. As the smoke wafted through the packed room, they took up their bludgeoning sonic assault. The band rode on slow, trudging, down-tuned riffs and snare hits for short lifetimes, with lots of open space for the haunting clean vocals and flickers of psyched-out guitar highs. My favorite spaced-out interlude sounded like a slow-panning view of an apocalyptic-war zone; a battlefield littered with crushed skulls, a hawk picking bits of flesh off of bone. You forgot the impending terror until the calm was broken when a snare hit, signalling in the massive, pummeling riffs that I have come to appreciate from this band.

Eva’s serene and haunting vocals gave way to unholy screams as the band surged forward again into the doom. This doom resonated; I could feel the bottom of my scrotum curling and retreating inside me in fear of the massive sound. This band is loud as fuck, and you must see them.

(Waning) was up next, a band that I had recognized from shows in Sacramento for some time now. (Waning) is a psych-metal band, whose latest album, The Funeral Mountains, is out now on Buriedinhell Records. (Waning) is a solid band. If you ever went to see Dredg during the earlier ‘00s, but wished they were heavier, maybe, more metal, then this will suit your tastes quite well. I really dug their sound—plenty of electronic ambiance and riff-heavy bangers.

Atriarch kept the mood down and gloomy, but, fuck, it was awesome. The band members all appear to be well past the threshold of their 30s, but the singer is still incredibly attractive and handsome. You could tell these guys had exhausted their patience with sitting in the van, because their set was explosive, yet tight and unyielding. It was a sonic wall of sludgy metal, interspersed with long, blackened psychedelic-doom build-ups. Foreboding, dark vocals that don’t rely on the standard scream, but an eerie yell nearly drowning in delay crawled across the slow, pounding riffs. These PDX doom-metalers album, An Unending Pathway, is out now on Relapse Records.

Samothrace, on tour from Seattle, were the last band to play. The band, whose latest studio release from 2012 is on 20 Buck Spin, knows how to draw out a song with one topping out over 20 minutes. Needless to say, their set was long. Epic, doomy, sludgy metal that was atmospheric and complex, filled with tom-heavy breaks and dread-filled screams. This is a very good band, good at what they do, and well-regarded within the metal community, but after 30 minutes, I felt as though I had heard everything they were going to do and left to smoke weed in the alley.

As I walked home, it was Atriarch and Church that stood out in my mind as having really stole the show. Though they had different approaches, both displayed an affection for heavy, crushing repetition and left space for all the instruments and players to air out in spacey, pools of sonic sludge.

    Andy Garcia

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    Andy is a musician, writer and visual artist. His band So Stressed has a new record called "Please Let Me Know" out on Ghost Ramp. He has been contributing to Submerge since 2015.