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Live Report: Tombs & River Black at Saint Vitus

Tombs. Photo credit: Christopher Harrington
Tombs. Photo credit: Christopher Harrington

The dark psychedelic wizards Tombs headlined a shadowy show last Saturday at the temple of Saint Vitus. The Brooklyn-based quintet (quartet on this night, actually) was joined by some gritty outfits including the spectacular River Black, who are three-thirds of the legendary genre-defying metallers, Burnt By The Sun. The night was abound in deft strokes, bleak jaunts, and inspired extensions. Each band brought a unique inner-fire that was refreshing and sincere.

Buffalo’s Longest War set things rigid with their crossover-inspired hardcore. Burly riffs, tonal rigidity, and a general openness to throwbacks ruled the group’s quick set. The band played big: in both stature and composition. The quintet’s newest record Architects of the End is a wide splash of direct invasion. It has an environmental weight to it: the dark and steel paths of Buffalo are felt throughout each plutonic impression. Live, the band moves like a tactile and sensible machine falling.

New England heavyweights Slow Death ripped it up next. Fast, and yet statuesque, the band poured out layers of righteous punk, hardcore, and Unsane-ish curled and broken riffage. The set was twofold: linear and monumental, as if the band could enact some sort of slow-motion mind envelop upon the listener. “Life is pain, pain is life,” singer Randy Larsen gurgles in “Suicide Man,” a song very much akin to the totality of the group: serious as fuck, and existentially splitting.

River Black moved in and wiped the place clean with a propulsive and scorching presentation. Direct, absolute, and dizzying, the New Jersey-based group plowed its way through the space-time continuum with axe-grind riffs, punk rock fury, and cubist motions. Featuring ex-Burnt By The Sun members John Adubato (guitar), Mike Olender (vocals), and Dave Witte (drums) — with Revocation bassist Brett Bamberger — the band is totally punishing, and also mightily colorful, able to carve patterns through the sky with bright hues and sparkling directions. Witte commands things like a genie on Mars, passionate, fierce, and so damned rigid; his connection with Olender is the stuff of punk and metal dreams. Who knows how long River Black will be around for, but if you should ever spot their name on a bill near you: get there, and get there fast.

Tombs was playing as a four-piece on this night (noise-man Fade Kanier was MIA), but the band still brought the irregular heartbeat tenfold: a pounding motion rooted in wildness and uncharted compression. Things got dark and celestial real quick as the group wasted no time searching the outer-reaches. Vocalist and guitarist Mike Hill was a spaceman in a shadowy inferno, sailing through vast layers and missions. Tombs always find an inner-monologue, that extra chapter that leaves you humming and floating right out there in the middle of the void. They’re a band that takes chances, always plays with its heart, and always twists up whatever vine they’re spindling.

Tomb’s newest record The Grand Annihilation is seriously deep, with post-punk and new wave splatters mixing wondrously with the black and grim metal the band’s cut its teeth with. Seeing an art-rock band that plays somewhat metal stuff is always the best. The best “metal” bands are the bands that don’t play “metal,” but rather, play inner-soul-vision music. Tombs always play this sort, letting you feast on the infinite natural and organic passages they sculpt and finish.

—Christopher Harrington

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