Windhand and Pilgrim
@ The Black Heart, Camden UK
6th November, 2013
Review by Caitlin Smith
The Black Heart may be known for being one of the smallest venues in London, so it’s not surprising when so many unhappy fans could be seen making the long march back down the stairs to the bar, disappointment written across their faces as the sign “Sold Out” is placed above the ticket table. For the forward thinking fans however, the double doors opening to the venue promise of seeing some of the US’s most exciting exports. Heading down, I was able to squeeze my way in to review, unfortunately photographer-less on this occasion.
First band to hit the stage are American doom metal band PILGRIM [3/5]. Forming in 2010 in Rhode Island, New York, these guys have already landed themselves a major signing with Metal Blade Records. This duo are taking it right back to the roots, drawing on BLACK SABBATH, SAINT VITUS, REVEREND BIZARRE and PENTAGRAM and mixing that up with tales of spells, sorcery and wizards.
Turning up with a surprise guest member on bass, Braddock may look a little at odds with the usual doom metal look, arriving tall, toned and shirtless, but once the music started none of that mattered. PILGRIM have two gears: slow and stop. They trudge along through songs, and although at points it can become a little repetitive, they maintain a hypnotic groove that weaves a spell on the audience, holding them in a trance throughout each song. This band has a long way to go, but any doom fan can tell that this band are dripping in potential and I will be keeping a firm eye on this band in future.
WINDHAND [4/5] were competing for the definition of a rough day when guitarist Asechiah Bogdan was rushed to hospital that morning with a blood clot in the hand. Having been told he was to rest in hospital, the band found themselves one guitarist down for the night. I have a certain amount of respect for a band that decide to play anyway. With news stories of pop stars dropping out of shows because of stomachaches or headaches, a band that still has the bravery to take to the stage one member down really does earn my respect.
Having released their third studio album Soma just a month earlier, and a split with COUGH in July it’s been a productive year for the band. Formed in 2008, the band really has gone from strength to strength and there is no stopping them now. With the departure of their previous bassist earlier this year, Parker Chandler of COUGH stepped up to help out and seems to have settled into a permanent place in the band completing the lineup. Whether it is the new line up, or the band becoming more mature, but their latest album is better than ever, and this seems to be reflected in the turn up that evening.
The room is tightly packed, and from the moment the door is opened, any latecomer to the set had a struggle to push through into the venue. The usual stellar sound of the Black Heart was off form that night, and as a result WINDHAND’s sound really suffered. The usual haunting vocals of Dorthia Cottrell are drowned out by the sheer mass of noise pouring from the amps, loosing some of the ethereal quality that really sells this band. Cottrell spent most of the time with her back to the audience, but that’s what this music is all about, disconnection. This is audio acid for the clinically depressed. Blasting out hazy repetitive riff, it’s stoner doom at its finest, and maybe its appropriate that even the amp appeared to be smoking! Despite all the difficulties, both the band and the amp made it through alive. Perhaps the sound wasn’t the best and the band were completely disconnected but I can’t bring myself to criticize a band who pushed through a performance plagued with trouble from the start and still came out fighting.
The night really shows how London’s doom scene could not be healthier at the moment, and for all the critics of British extreme metal fans, there’s nothing more heartening to see a room packed full of people. Their time here may have been riddled with issues but with such a good turnout, these bands surely can’t stay away for too much longer.