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All photos and words by Aaron Sharpsteen

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As the lights went down and Oathbreaker took the stage in the darkness on March 30, they had a question to answer: could they capture the purity of emotional turmoil that their latest album, Rheia, displayed so prominently? It only took about 2 minutes to answer that question, after starting the set with album opener “10:56” and blasting straight into “Second Son of R,” it was clear that the highs and lows of the album would not be lost in the live setting. Relying heavily on material from the album, the band was tight, brutal, and terrifying in the faster segments, with drummer Wim Coppers’ (and his insistence on one-foot blasting) surging the band forward while vocalist Caro Tanghe screamed through a wall of hair. The slower passages were no less impressive, and the stark yet tasteful transitions dropped the audience from frantic, head-banging heights into lightless valleys with nothing but ambient compositions and Tanghe’s singing voice, ethereal but powerful.

Compared to Oathbreaker’s masterclass in composition, Denver’s Khemmis were almost cave-men, a grunting attack of twin flying-V guitars and traditional doom. Every year seems to have a collection of over-hyped albums, and Hunted

Jaye Jayle rounded out the touring bands and the weird juxtaposition of it all with dark, brooding, Americana tinged psych. Most of the instruments on the stage could have been about the same age as the musicians themselves, 30-40 years old, capable of producing a warm, lived-in sound while slowly being guided towards the darkness. My only complaint, which was also the complaint of lead singer and Young Widows member Evan Patterson, was the short set-time.

Portland’s own Ireshrine opened the proceedings with a clinic in how to be an opening band. Playing probably one of their bigger shows, they spewed a straightforward black metal-post metal mix with intensity and focus, but most importantly, did not over-stay their welcome. They exited the stage after a tight 15-20.

It would be unfair to recap this show without giving a shout-out to the sound engineer for Ash Street. At 7pm, all four bands were still being backlined, which could have implied a long evening of time-sapping gear changes and line checks. Amazingly, none of the transitions between bands took longer than 10-15 minutes, even with line checks, and the sound for the evening was decent, given the variety of bands and genres over the night. Game recognizes game.
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Ireshrine

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Jay Jayle

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Khemmis

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Oathbreaker

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