Deafheaven, Wilt, Schoolgirl, Numenorean, Shooting Guns @ Sled Island 6/25/2016

Sled Island:  My Metal Evening

My Sled Island evening was spent at the Canadian Legion where we were treated to metal of all kinds. The downstairs venue — which was dark, hot, sweaty, crowded and sticky — featured mainly drone and black metal, whereas the smaller upstairs lounge had a more varied slate. It was a sublime night for metal-heads (yes, you can count me in).

First up was Wilt, a band from Winnipeg that could indeed make you wilt with their thunderous doom drone. Bathed in red light they looked for all the world like metal messengers from hell, with lead singer Jordan Dorge the growling voice of Beelzebub himself. The songs tended to be atmospheric and drawn-out to near-epic proportions. Fans of Deafheaven would appreciate their style and musicianship.

Then there was the first upstairs act. Victoria’s Schoolgirl are strange. There’s just no two ways about it. It’s a simple trio of drummer, guitarist and singer, but there is nothing straightforward or conventional about their music. The drums spurt erratically and the guitar goes off on wild trips. In the meantime, the singer speaks and screams almost incomprehensibly. When not confronting and gesticulating at the crowd, he spent a great of time sitting, laying and writhing on the ground. As did the guitarist. Noisy, experimental and bizarre. Difficult music to digest but the spectacle was exhilarating to witness.

Back downstairs local Calgary band Numenorean took to the stage, with the lights all blue this time. In the eerie near-darkness the singer stood hunched over his mike, his long hair streaming down and covering his face. He retained this pose for quite a while as the band launched into a long droning, progressive intro. When the song got into full swing he leapt back and forth like a growling bear. It was blackgaze, but with a lot of melody and some lighter strummed guitar moments. Kind of what you’d expect from a black metal band influenced by Tolkien. The music tended to mesmerize you into a trippy trance, so that you didn’t mind so much that some of the songs dragged on a bit too long.

On the upper deck, the members of Shooting Guns looked like they arrived at the wrong gig. Decked out in rustic or small-town suburban style they seemed ready to break out into some boring dad rock. As they always say, don’t judge a book by its cover. The Saskatoon sextet blasted out some killer groove metal with a distinctly stoner psych flavour. The musicianship was top-notch indeed, but the lead guitarist wowed the most. With his lumberjack attire and his large, burly physique he cut an imposing figure. He not only impressed with his tasty licks, but also looked prepared to cut you down with his axe while doing it.

If there is such a thing as art metal then Deafheaven are the undisputed kings. In comparison to the other performers that night they were remarkably short-haired and clean-cut. However, any notion that these “college kids” weren’t the real deal was immediately dispelled as the band came out blazing with guitars chugging and vocalist George Clarke whipping himself into a screaming frenzy. Fans of their lengthy post-rock drone songs were not disappointed. It was perhaps a little surprising for those us only familiar with their ‘Sunbather’ stuff that they also have some true head-banging material in their arsenal. All in all, a perfect ending to my metal evening.