Review by Kyle Harcott; Photos by Ted Wilson
Last spring, Kylesa was here opening for Mastodon. Sure enough, I missed that gig and had been kicking myself since – until they announced this weekend Pacific Northwest jaunt six weeks ago, one of two shows in our neck of the woods before their brief xmas break. Even better news was that the show would be held at the Media Club; packed out at 150 people, this intimate venue was going to make for a very special show. Finally, a couple of days prior, the openers were announced and I couldn’t have been happier – two of Vancouver’s finest got the honours. This was going to be a perfect show.
Haggatha’s been a much-vaunted name in the local metal scene since they formed in 2007, but this night was the first chance I’d had to actually hear them. A couple of months ago they (very) independently released their first full-length – a self-titled, vinyl-only release. I’ve yet to score a copy (the only merch on display was Kylesa’s, but Haggatha were selling the vinyl at the show), but it’s absolutely top of my must-get list now, because Haggatha is very, very good indeed. Elephantine bonecrushing riffs, played at downed-a-bottle-of-Nyquil speed; sonically akin to a freighter-class ship running itself aground, Haggatha is hulking, groaning, and unstoppable. The sound of an explosion caught in time-lapse, Haggatha may indeed, and rightfully, be my new favorite band on the Vancouver scene. Not only musically striking, watching them play is entertaining in itself – these guys play like they’ve been set on fire.
Fierce with their brand of white-knuckle-taut hardcore, Baptists brought a frenetic pace and breakneck precision in their set; a welcome, complementary juxtaposition to Haggatha’s Yogsothothian bash. Where the previous band evoked the sound of giant sequoias being felled by earthquakes, Baptists sounded more like the enraged inhabitants of the large wasp nest settled firmly in that hypothetical tree’s crown, now rent asunder by its felling, attacking blindly, stinging quickly and repeatedly. Baptists got more vicious as their set progressed, and the crowd showed their appreciation by whipping up a snarly pit in the center of the small room.
Finally, Kylesa hit the stage and were, as expected, instantly mesmerizing. The crowd, still frothing from Baptists’ frantic set, boiled over for Kylesa from the get-go when they opened with “Hollow Severer”. The band was in fine form throughout their set, which was mostly balanced between Static Tensions and Spiral Shadow. Of course, the drummers, Tyler and Carl, pounding out dual tribal rhythms like some Kali-handed monster- are especially engrossing onstage, constantly playing off of each other in higher calling to the groove. At the front of the stage, Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants seemed to keep proceedings under taut control, while Corey Bathorst is the loose cannon bassist, whirling like a dervish at stage left. At one point [“Said And Done”?], Philip picked up a pair of sticks and joined the drummers on a floor tom while Laura commandeered the song with her hypnotic leads. When the opening strains of “Don’t Look Back” reared up-as did the hair on the back of my neck, right on cue- the Media Club roared their appreciation and started the pit afresh – everybody loves The Hit™. Immediately after, Kylesa closed with “Scapegoat”, tearing the roof off in the process. It may have been a short set (maybe an hour, hour-ten?) but they packed one hell of a lot into it.
I exited the Media Club sated, knowing I’d seen what may have been the one show to see here this winter. Because while I’m hoping Vancouver will be included on Kylesa’s next West Coast headline run in the spring, I’m pretty sure they’ll never play somewhere this small when they come to town again.
To the best of my recollection, here’s the Kylesa setlist:
- Hollow Severer
- Unknown Awareness
- Running Red
- Tired Climb
- Said and Done
- Only One
- Don’t Look Back
All photos are the property of Ted Wilson and cannot be republished without the written consent of Mr. Wilson and Hellbound.ca
Come back on Monday, Dec 13th to read Kyle’s interview with Laura and Philip from Kylesa!