Sunday Sesh: ION and Etiolated

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Last night, I dragged my flat booty out to the first live show I’ve been to in over a year. The gig: San Francisco’s black-metal-adjacent prog hogs ION and North Carolina’s favorite death/doom/kitchen sink sons Etiolated. The venue: a downtown DIY shack called Local 506. The cost: financially low, physically high (I’m old before my time). The consensus: inquire within.

A generous person might describe Local 506 as an intimate venue. A less generous person still probably wouldn’t find much to complain about, given the excellent seating around the stage and the affable bar tender slinging excellent drinks. Due to the more widely renowned Cat’s Cradle – a venue that will be hosting Deafheaven and The Sword later this summer – just a few blocks down the street in Carrboro, Local 506 tends to pick up smaller, up-and-coming acts that for some reason aren’t playing in Raleigh. That suits me just fine, because Raleigh sucks and I try to avoid making the hour trek there if I can help it. Plus, intimacy means I get to comfortably drink my beer in relative peace while just taking in the music. Win-win!

The evening commenced with The Burning Hand and The Osedax amid a seething bog of feedback. I’m honestly amazed by the aesthetic and sonic consistency of this lineup. All of the bands play very atmospheric metal steeped in varying degrees of doom. While The Burning Hand (really just one guy in a Darkthrone shirt standing with his back to the crowd) leaned heavily on the almighty riff and pedal as his mortar and pestle to prime the crowd for the transformative work to come, The Osedax intrigued and beguiled with wave after wave of post-rock influenced crescendos and rumbling low end sludge. It was the perfect sort of music for letting one’s thoughts drift into the aether in a smaller venue this size.

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Etiolated were a worthy following act, sailing atop the poignant wave of distortion set in motion by The Osedax to drop us further into the murky deep of their swirling extreme metal maelstrom. Etiolated are a difficult band to classify; though nominally death metal, their chimerical riffs seem to rear in a new and unique bestial guise in each new track they play. At times we concertgoers, like the blind men in Plato’s cave, were struck by lightning-quick strikes from a death’n’roll serpent. At others, we were crushed to pulp by the juddering stutter-step of acts like Withered. Still, that wasn’t quite the true form of the beast, as massing doom riffs reminiscent of Vanitas deconstructed plowed us over again and again. Mercifully, these shifting styles are as engaging live as they are on record, and there’s even a uniformity felt in the unrelenting rain of feedback. They never sounded like a band seeking an identity, more like a coherent vision of ruin. Keep your eyes on this band.

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It would have been difficult for a more straightforward band to take the stage after Etiolated, but ION is, thankfully, as mercurial and volatile as the others. Similarly to UNRU, their veneer is one of Cascadian-style black metal, replete with emotional tremolo riffs and hammering blasts (their drummer Adam is a real beast behind the kit, sharing vocal duties with guitarist Ryan). Dig beneath the surface, however, and you’ll find all manner of surprising artifacts in their sound. Mind-blowing solos that could have been ripped from the stellar Torrential Downpour, punky ferocity reminiscent of Vestiges, and a gloomy and unrelenting atmosphere – all wielded by the band with deft hands and open hearts. ION worked their way through cuts from their recent album A Path Unknown while I worked my way through a few drinks, both parties equally rapt by the exchange. It was a shorter set, but they were unbelievably tight and took us all on quite the journey.

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Oh yes, the consensus: Damn was this a good show. The Burning Hand was more an amusement than an actual act, but the guitarist seems like a real sweet guy who happily engaged with the crowd during the other sets. The rest of the bands all performed mightily, and the venue’s sound was excellent. I even managed to get home before 1:00 am after chatting up Adam from ION and Kevin, The Osedax’s drummer.

Now, time for more sleep.

Made it to any shows lately? Sound it out below.

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