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Live Report: Dark Castle At St Vitus

dark castle

Dark Castle have been damn near silent since the release of their last album, 2011’s Surrender To All Life Beyond Form, so a chance to see them at a one off show at St. Vitus seemed an interesting, if odd, chance to check in with the doomsters and see if they have anything new up their sleeveless black tees. Two New York bands who’ve recently released excellent debut albums, Somnuri and Pyrolatrous, made this as as exciting a prospect as you’ll find on paper for a Monday night in December.

Listening to Brooklyn-based Somnuri’s debut record is like taking an in-depth tour of all things post-metal. Reviews of the record bring up obvious points of comparison (Torche, Baroness, Mastodon), and while Somnuri does, in moments, sound like all those bands, the name-drop comparison falls short of properly describing the substantial foundation they laid on the record, and what they’re adding to that foundation with their live show. Their songs are challenging in the volume of information each one throws at the listener/viewer in a short span, covering wide swaths of territory and, like the record and it’s easy points of reference, add up to more than the sum of its parts. The rhythm section of drummer Phil SanGiacomo and bassist Drew Mack hold down a serious groove, turning on a dime to accommodate each song’s many movements, while singer/guitarist Justin Sherrel is free to paint in many colors, tones and voices on top. You get the feeling that they’ve only just begun, and that Somnuri’s progression from here will be one to watch closely.

Pyrolatrous use their instruments like a cudgel, creating a wall of sound that moves like a herd, leaving a dust bowl behind. Drummer Lev Weinstein is as fine as they come in extreme metal, or anywhere. When drummers turn it up to break-neck paces, often the first thing to go is velocity, but Weinstein sacrifices nothing, never bashing, but hitting every one of the five million-odd notes with intent. A great drummer alone can make a good show, but the rest of the band was not overshadowed here. The sonic duo of violently shredded harmonic guitar chords from Nicholas Palmirotto and Joe Merolla are relentless, and Palmirotto’s barking and growling over it all do that rare and beautiful thing of creating memorable songs amid blasts of precision chaos. Even a bit of malfunctioning guitar gear couldn’t detract from a stellar performance.

Following up two multi-colored, dynamic bands like Somnuri and Pyrolatrous is a tall order. Following them up as a two-piece band that hasn’t released new music or done a full tour in half a decade might be damn near impossible. On this night, Dark Castle became an unexpected odd-band-out-as-headliner that didn’t quite stack up to the openers. By comparison to the previous bands, Dark Castle sounded thin. As much as the limitations of being a two-piece can act as an expanding agent, they can also be just that: limitations. I can’t speculate what was in their heads, but their set was noticeably brief, ending before most of the crowd had a chance to settle into the room. Dark Castle was in an unenviable position up against two fantastic bands at the top of their respective games, I hope they’re just getting warmed up to make new music and come back around again to prove me dead wrong.

—John Dziuban

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