I had a feeling that this ROAR gig would be a particularly interesting one since I hadn’t experienced the kind of music two of the bands, Past Haunts and STRAGE, play live before. Past Haunts were performing live for the first time. I had seen Wildernessking numerous times prior to this performance, and was looking forward to another great set. STRAGE were on tour from Durban, and despite having heard their album The Fire In Hell beforehand, I wasn’t sure how the songs would come out live.
I was very interested to hear what opening act Past Haunts would sound like, since they describe their influences using a variety of subgenres, namely hardcore, post-rock, sludge and shoegaze. The guitarist added to his great sound with some reverb and a screech thrown in. He also contributed growled vocals, in contrast to the lead singer’s clean (and sometimes almost spoken) vocals. I enjoyed the power and emotion in the lead singer’s voice and the vocal harmonies between guitarist and singer were well done. A number of people probably recognised the drummer, Scott Miller, since he drums for industrial metal band Axxon as well. His drum work was intricate without compromising on power. The band did very well for their debut performance, and looked like they were genuinely glad to be playing for an audience.
Wildernessking opened with an almost entirely instrumental new song, setting the scene for their set. Two other new songs were performed – “The Devil Within” and “Lurker”. The former is about the drug tik (as vocalist-bassist Keenan Oakes explained), with a mournful lead guitar line, and the latter song had a rather sinister atmosphere. These two songs are great additions to Wildernessking’s set. One of the set highlights for me was “Infinity”, one of my favourite tracks off their album The Writing Of Gods in the Sand. To me, Wildernessking embody the main reasons why black metal is one of my top metal subgenres – an ability to create a near-tangible atmosphere, and an ability to transport me somewhere else via the music.
STRAGE are unlike any band I’ve ever seen live in the metal/alternative scene. Musically, they share characteristics with post-metal/sludge band, The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me. STRAGE play an instrumental mix of post-metal, sludge and doom metal. Their set began with a delicately picked guitar riff and they then unleashed the aural equivalent of what I imagine being near the bottom of a deep ocean must feel like. More delicate riffs brought me back to the surface for air and near the end of the set, I sank right back down under the heavy guitar, bass and drums. I was impressed by how the band created such a crushing sound with only three members. Also impressive was the band’s ability to build atmosphere through repeated sounds without the music sounding like it had overstayed its welcome.
Musically, all three bands complimented each other well. This gig had a great atmosphere; it was one of three bands who are passionate about their music coming together to perform for people who appreciated what each band was doing.