While you were at the Junos, we were taking in Halfordian pipes, dry-ice fog and Middle Eastern mantra doom in Kensington Market
ZAUM, FLYING FORTRESS and MOKOMOKAI at Coalition, Saturday, March 14. Rating: NNN
Canada can more than carry its weight in the heavy rock/metal category, as Shooting Guns, Biblical and Skull Fist were proving at JUNOfest in Hamilton on Saturday night. Meanwhile back in Toronto, relatively new bands (some made up of scene veterans) were throwing their horns into the ring at Coalition in Kensington Market.
Mokomokai boasts a singer, John Ellis, with that rare set of pipes that can scale traditional heavy metal heights à la Dio and then clench the end of a line with a thrillingly nightmarish Halfordian screech. He can rock a chain mail shirt, too. Must be something in the water in Peterborough, also home to Sebastian Bach, who is perfect at both of those things.
While the power trio held the interest of the small crowd, only final song/single Poison Whiptail from last year’s split 7-inch with Public Animal seriously got us going.
Flying Fortress draw their two members from recently resurrected Goat Horn out of Pembroke, and they could benefit from nailing down a more unified sonic vision. The two-piece inject interesting blasts of general noise into all of their songs – and between songs, which is a great way to avoid awkward silence.
But aside from the through-line of distorted bass and thunderous drums, each song charts a different course: crusty punk, sludgy groove metal, surprising bouncy pop. The poppier aspects are the most incongruous, though it’s cool to see a metal band be so open-minded.
The long wait for headliners Zaum from Moncton was eventually explained when the curtains opened to reveal carefully placed Zaum candles all over Coalition’s stage and a dry ice machine they kept on high for the duration of the set. Atmosphere – both sonic and scenic – is fundamental to Zaum.
Not to be confused with the mid-90s electronica project from Tool’s drummer, Zaum call their music “Middle Eastern mantra doom,” which pretty much nails it. Songs are super-heavy, lengthy and hypnotic, growing spellbinding when sitar and synth weaves through the aural backdrop and when singer/guitarist Kyle Alexander McDonald’s reverby vocals move into chanting territory.
McDonald and drummer/lighting manipulator Christopher Lewis played in near-darkness behind the fog, MacDonald’s hands guided along his fretboard by only small blue and red lights
positioned near the bridge. The repetitive doom dirges were given shape by Lewis’s intermittently slamming drums and heavy hooks that occasionally took the completely un-interactive performance toward beautiful heights.
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