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I get it: tackling the masses of busy Torontonians at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor Street may not be your cup of tea preceding a long day’s work. Perhaps you were one of the fortunate souls to nab tickets to the sold out SWANS show mere steps away from The Annex Wreckroom. Who knows? But if you missed out on Witch Mountain, Castle, and Mother’s Green at The Annex Wreckroom Thursday night, you overlooked a night of killer stoner doom goodness. I’m talking fuzzy, pulverizing, dark riffs seeping from the speakers to the humble audience that craved it. All this for only $10, you can’t possibly go wrong.
The Annex Wreckroom was scantly embellished with an amusing occult eyeball decoration, paper gravestones, and royal rippled streamers hung all in a line. The crowd consisted of a few dedicated faces, like pub regulars dressed in metal hoodies and leather, as well as newer faces, anxious and unaware of what was about to happen. Combine that with the cream-coloured tea light candles glowing in the bar foreground and the crimson lights that shone over the instruments dying to be violated, we were all ready to get our doom on.
Enchantress, a local psych-jam trio were originally the first of two local acts on the bill. The group sounds pretty solid on their demo, Visualize–with vocals not unlike a cross between Gordon Downie and Geddy Lee, plus echoing drums and bristly riffs–it would have been a treat to see them live. My heart goes out to Enchantress, as an unforeseen tragedy struck the group hours before the show and they cancelled as a result.
Days leading up to the show, I wondered how Mother’s Green would perform given they had almost all new members for a third time. I nodded my head to a few of their tracks from Swimming in the Sun and, more or less, I was impressed by how well they sounded live. The Brampton-based quartet played rigorous, resonating bass and percussion, along with nostalgic riffs that took you on a relaxed trip back to the nineties. The momentum ground to a halt when the group had a few awkward moments of dead air, leaving the audience to chatter amongst themselves. They recovered, though, going on to play familiar tunes such as “Observation of The Day” and “Just Another”. Both tracks exemplified the group’s dexterity and range, and if the band played more live shows, they could make something of their union of stoner and grunge.
Up next was California’s own, Castle, the power trio currently on a six-week tour, and goddamn they did not disappoint! Mat Davis’ relentless, slashing riffs amidst the haunting chants of Elizabeth Blackwell and the precise drumming by Al McCartney got show-goers moving consistently throughout their set. Having referred to Toronto as their second home, the statement rang true with their relaxed presence onstage. The interplay between husband and wife, Mat and Elizabeth, was uniquely sensuous, vivacious and intriguing. Blackwell menaced and belted out soulful lullabies during “Corpse Candles” as the trio successfully delivered thunderous, thrashy doom lines that had everyone hooked, seemingly with so little effort.
Much respect to all the bands I mentioned thus far, however, Witch Mountain hands-down did it for the crowd. “Shelter” hit us with its nuance of psychedelic, hypnotic waves. We reciprocated: enraptured and head-banging in synchronicity. The mournful, smoky vocals of Uta Plotkin, the mind-blowing rollercoaster of murky twang from Rob Wrong and snappy bass and drums were just as tight live as on their albums South of Salem and Cauldron of the Wild. A dedication of a somber nocturne addressed to Enchantress created a change of pace, taking us on a tormenting, desolate sojourn that we wanted to experience over and over again. Witch Mountain unleashed a filthy assault on our ears during “Bloodhound”, a track from their new EP which kept us yearning for more. As members of Witch Mountain prepared to step off stage, a figure in the back of the ill-lit venue called for another song. Normally, this ploy doesn’t work in these parts, but with the crowd auspicious and beckoning for another dose of doom-filled insanity, we left them with no choice. They played two more songs, taking the performance well into the witching hour.
For anyone interested in doom metal and those hellbent on saving money, this show was a godsend. While I am disappointed more local metal brethren were not present, these have become some of my new favourite bands, going from a whisper among the privileged Toronto metal scene to groups that will be on my playlists and tour radar for many months to come.
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Photos and text by Charnelle Stöhrer.