Windhand + Satan’s Satyrs @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto May 19, 2017

What better way to kickstart the weekend than at a gathering of dirty doom metal? Tonight sees US doom mongers Windhand and Satan’s Satyrs hit Toronto for an exclusive Canadian stop on their current tour. Doom’s popularity these days cannot be understated so it’s unsurprising that the classic Horseshoe Tavern is bustling with attendees.

Virginia’s Satan’s Satyrs can draw a substantial crowd on their own merit and there are certainly fans in attendance who are comparatively not fussed by the headliners. With each member sporting obligatory bellbottoms, they launch into “Full Moon and Empty Veins” from last album Don’t Deliver Us. Thick rock ‘n’ roll swagger and distorted guitars demand heads bang, a delicious way to initiate proceedings. Vocalist and bassist Claythanas provides an emphatic stage presence. He founded the band back in 2009, handling all instruments in the early days when Satan’s Satyrs were a gene-splicing experiment of moody punk, The Stooges, Venom and Blue Cheer. They have since evolved to an orthodox Hammer Horror heavy/doom outfit with a fleshed-out line up and Claythanas now strums bass for genre powerhouse Electric Wizard.

The music slithers through vintage hard rocking delights, choked with a subtlety foreboding atmosphere. Focusing on Don’t Deliver Us, the four-piece work their way through the likes of “Round the Bend” and “You Know Who” alongside older songs “Show Me Your Skull” and “Alucard”. New track “Sheebees” is offered up to the insatiable crowd, adhering closely to the style of Don’t Deliver Us. On record, the songs boast convincing ‘70s production and although this is subtracted in the live environment, the retro horror slant still applies. The members’ energy is contagious as they stand behind their metal and rock out with sincere and youthful enthusiasm often absent from live performances. Closer “Creepy Teens” arrives too soon for this engaging show but provides one final frenetic charge and leaves the venue rattling with uproar. These horror hippies deal a formidable set, worthy of a headlining performance.

There are a plethora of bands mimicking the beloved Electric Wizard and Windhand are yet another stoner doom beneficiary reaping the fruit of doom metal’s ascent to popularity in this way. “Orchard” from Soma instigates their sermon, with heavy-as-a-truck-load-of-elephants repetitive riffs and Dorthia Cottrell’s deep-toned voice. Fuzzy wave of noise soundscapes, lengthy song durations and themes conjuring the occult, the morbid and the stoned conclude crossing off virtually every doom platitude on the list. From the onset, the spectator knows what to expect and the band does not deviate from this path. This lack of mystery or suspense works against the headliners, particularly in the shadow of Satan’s Satyrs’ boisterous rhythmic frolic.

Windhand are not wandering from the beaten track but each of their songs, while closely adhering to stoner doom recipes, has a distinct tone and structure. “Woodbine” feeds the crowd headbangable grunge, “Summon the Moon” showcases Parker Chandler’s slithering bass and Ryan Wolfe’s drums intertwining, while the watery “Kingfisher” exhibits more complex arrangements than these doomsters’ usual fare. The venue is crammed when they take the stage but swathes of the audience leave as it progresses with clear views further back a challenge to obtain. Less would certainly be more where these compositions are concerned; effective riffs are parted from their pertinence when used to such repetitive lengths at the same tempos and positions these Virginians a distance from stoner musicians who do this exemplary like Sleep and Conan. When the final song of the night “Winter Sun” grinds the concert to a halt, it feels like it is definitely time to stagger home.

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