There are many reasons people seek out metal shows. People love it loud. They want it loud enough to forget what they were trying to forget about. They know that excessive head banging puts bruises on a memory and the pain is pleasure for that hour long set. But for those who want to take it to the next level of loud, shaking muscle away from bone loud, this evening at the first Unitarian Church in Philadelphia was the place to be.
Is there anything louder than a High on Fire/Priestess/Black Cobra/Bison B.C. show? No, unless you’ve had your head in a jet engine recently. Vancouver’s Bison B.C. (shhh, the B.C. is silent) were the openers, and open they did. They opened a trapdoor to purgatory with windmills of greasy hair and twin guitar riff walls. The massive amps hummed and eminent wrath was a thematic guide through the stellar sludge of songs like “These Are My Dress Clothes” and “Stress Elephant”. After barely enough time for a six sip tallboy, the gruesome twosome from Oakland known as Black Cobra came on and knocked everyone to their knees with wack blackness. Catastrophic rhythms were bludgeoned out on drums like the flaying of skin. Seismic guitar shifts split the darkness with songs like “Machine” and ‘Chronosphere”. It was monstrous, with mathematic metal pushing the floor lower and leveling the outside sky with a blanket of harsh wattage.
Montreal’s Priestess were next, plugging in without an effect in sight and proceeding to slay through their set with precision. Mikey Heppner’s melodic, rust covered wail was a welcome relief after almost two hours of guttural moans. He showed an impressive range on a high strung Gibson SG as well. The riffs bleeding from the endless tower of Richtone amps must have made the floorboards in the sanctuary pop, and dust from decades of communion was most likely re-released. After a period of limbo in which they had no label to release their latest album Prior to the Fire, Priestess have found a good home with Tee Pee Records. The set was mostly carved out of the new album and songs like “The Firebird” “The Gem” and “Ladykiller.” The set rolled on like the boys were riding a hot howling wind, blowing out infernos on the way to a smoldering horizon.
Finally, the behemoth trio known as High on Fire entered the church and burned down the liturgy before the priest could even find his robes. To put it bluntly, God has to raise his voice to be heard over the immovable wall of sound that comes from under Matt Pike’s furied fingers and gnarly growl. God has to move away from Des Kensel’s drums if he wants to properly heal the sick. High on Fire have never lost a battle, and songs like “Bastard Samarai” and “Fire Flood and Plague” from their latest release Snakes for the Divine shine like armor, muscling their way into your nervous system to set your dendrites on fire. No synapse is safe with any of these bands, and as the crowd wrung out their sweat sopped denim on the way out, sign language was the only language left to use to show appreciation after burning nodes and bleeding ears left every two out of five senses useless.